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!

Author: Connie Wilson Page 1 of 155

Biographical Information

Connie (Corcoran) Wilson graduated from the University of Iowa and earned a Master’s degree from Western Illinois University, with additional study at Northern Illinois, the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Chicago. She taught writing at six Iowa/Illinois colleges and wrote for five newspapers and 7 blogs. Her stories and interviews have appeared online and in print and her work has won prizes from “Whim’s Place Flash Fiction," “Writer’s Digest” (Screenplay), E-Lit award for 3 works, Illinois Women's Press Association Silver Feather awards, Pinnacle award (NABE) and recommendations for the Bram Stoker award. She is the author of 4 nonfiction published books, 4 short story collections, 1 novel and there are 2 novels ready for publication (the trilogy beginning with "The Color of Evil.") She reviewed film and books for the Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa) for 12 years and wrote humor columns and conducted interviews for the (Moline, Illinois) Daily Dispatch.

Biden Sees the Writing on the Wall; Passes Torch to a New Generation

Joe Biden on the Fourth of July

President of the United States Joe Biden in Independence, Iowa, on the 4th of July.

Among other measures, Joe Biden pushed through a $1.7 trillion Covid-19 relief package; a $1 trillion program to rebuild the nation’s roads, highways, airports and other infrastructure; and major investments to combat climate change, lower prescription drug costs for seniors, treat veterans exposed to toxic burn pits and build up the nation’s semiconductor industry.

He also signed legislation meant to protect same-sex marriage in case the Supreme Court ever reversed its decision legalizing it. He has unfailingly supported a woman’s right to decide her own reproductive fate, despite his strong Catholic faith, and helped students buried under college debt to dig their way out of that bottomless pit. And his selection of Kamala Harris as his running mate opened the door to a female candidate for the future, and one with an ethnic heritage that shows genuine inclusiveness.

Biden is a religious man who routinely attended his Catholic church (whereas DJT was on the Lolita Express 7 times) and has been an honorable—if gaffe-prone—candidate since the70s. My heart goes out to the Biden family, whom I have met numerous times, and I thank Joe Biden for falling on his sword to save us from a would-be dictator whose own mental fitness for office (or anything else) is unclear.

I remember how stunned I was when LBJ stepped down the day after I was married in 1968, never telling anyone but his family in advance.  One of the reasons for LBJ’s decision was that most of the men in his family had died of heart disease at about the age he was then. It is also true that he did not live long after he stepped down. The Vietnam War was LBJ’s nemesis, as the border and Gaza were Joe’s.

Biden and me in 2008

Joe Biden and me, 2008 campaign.

This is the second time that a President who did great things for his country has, once again, made the hardest choice of all.  Joe Biden has done the selfless thing, although I’m sure it was extremely difficult. Joe Biden is a man of good character, not a convicted felon, and he has always known how to behave as our nation’s representative. I have no doubt that whomever the Democrats select will carry on the tradition of making the United States proud of its representative.

I hope that the stress this period of time must have put on President Biden will abate so that he can heal physically. I would also mention that this is not unlike taking the keys away from your grandfather; it is not an easy thing for either side.  Joe Biden promised us that he was going to pass the torch to a new generation, and now he has.

It was the Biden campaign that set up the June 27th debate with Trump that ended his lengthy and honorable career, so “blaming” donors or former supporters or others must always pivot to that fact, which is undeniable.

Gabby Gifford and husband Mark Kelly

Gabby Gifford and husband (and former astronaut) Mark Kelly (D, AZ).

Of the names being bandied about to run with Kamala Harris I think that Mark Kelly of Arizona will be a major one mentioned. Beshears of Kentucky, Shapiro of Pennsylvania, the Governor of Maryland, all are worthy, but Kelly has a national profile as a former astronaut and his wife (Gabby Giffords) was the target of an assassination attempt that was considerably more successful than the attack on DJT, which left him with a mark the size of a penny.

“It wasn’t about the donors, it was about Joe Biden’s patriotism,” (Van Jones, Senior Political Correspondent). “This is a moment in time to honor someone who, for 50 years, put his country first. He always put his country first.”

“Twisters” Is Worthy Sequel to 1996 Original Tornado Film

“Twisters,” the sequel to the 1996 film “Twister” opened today, yet another featuring Austin, Texas native Glen Powell in a film that opened at around $32 million after spending $200 million (budgeted at $150 million) on the follow-up to that iconic film. It was an enjoyable example of escapist entertainment for summer, 2024, opening not long after the second sequel to “A Quiet Place: Day One”, which also falls into that category. This will become a big summer crowd favorite.

The second “Twister” inspired me to revisit the original Bill Paxton/Helen Hunt vehicle  to compare them. Both films give credit to Michael Crichton, who created the characters, although the “story” this time is said to be from Joseph Kosinski who scripted “Top Gun: Maverick” working with Mark L. Smith.  Steven Spielberg executive-produced the new “Twisters” and “Minari” director Lee Isaac Chang directed.

For those who have been living under a rock since 1996 when the original “Twister” premiered in May, it starred Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt, ably assisted by Philip Seymour Hoffman, Cary Elwes (“Princess Bride”), Alan Ruck (“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” and “Succession”), Jami Gertz and Lois Smith.

So, how are the two movies about chasing tornadoes and trying to “tame” them alike—or different?

THE OPENING SCENES

The original film opens with the devastating death of Helen Hunt’s father, who is sucked from their cellar by an EF5 tornado while trying to hold the door to the cellar shut against the storm. She is just a small child. We had a storm cellar door just like the one in the original “Twister.” I could relate—especially since I, too, lived through a tornado in my small Iowa hometown (Independence, Iowa) when only 2 years old. If you’re a regular blog follower, you will notice that my last post was about an EF1 tornado that we just lived through on Monday, July 16th, which left us without power for 4 days. In the tornado that I lived through at age 2, the roof of nearby St. John’s Church was ripped off and deposited in our back yard, where my dad built a playhouse for me from the lumber (which we called “the Hooky,” for reasons I cannot explain.) The EF5 tornado in the original “Twister”was filmed near Ames, Iowa. Because her father dies in the first film’s tornado, Helen Hunt’s character of Dr. Jo Harding spends her life trying to find a way to neutralize tornadoes. The film shares that the designations EF1 through EF5 are categorized not on wind speeds, but on the extent of the devastation that occurs as a result.

The new sequel “Twisters” also opens with the harrowing death of those close to Daisy Edgar-Jones (“Where the Crawdads Sing,” “Normal People”), including her boyfriend and other members of the storm chaser team. Kate is testing her latest theory for taming tornadoes in an attempt to win grant money. It’s a project which she seems to have been working on since a science fair in Middle School.

DAISY EDGAR-JONES

Glen Powell in Twisters (2024)
Glen Powell, Harry Hadden-Paton, Brandon Perea, and Sasha Lane in Twisters (2024)
Daisy Edgar-Jones in Twisters (2024)
Glen Powell, Anthony Ramos, and Daisy Edgar-Jones in Twisters (2024)

I  did not know much about Ms. Edgar-Jones.  I have learned that she is actually British, which is at least a testament to her ability to adopt a believable American accent. However, she didn’t have the grit of Helen Hunt; this part calls for grit. It is also difficult to believe that the very slight girl wouldn’t have been one of the first storm chasers to have been sucked up by the tornado while running for cover, but nevermind about that. She’s okay, but it’s Glen Powell I came to see.

GLEN POWELL

Starring opposite Daisy Edgar-Jones (Kate Cooper) as rowdy storm chaser Tyler Owens is the ubiquitous Glen Powell, who was also recently the lead in Richard Linklater’s “Hit Man,” which the New York Times named the Best Movie of the Year (so far) back when I attended its premiere in Austin, Texas in May. Powell is this generation’s answer to Tom Cruise, but taller. His scruffy group of storm chasers are described as “Hillbillies with a YouTube channel” and he dubs himself a “tornado wrangler.” He sells shirts with his picture on them that say, “This is not my first tornado.” (Mine, either.)

Powell is a handsome young man who played one of the volleyball crew on the beach in Tom Cruise’s “Top Gun: Maverick.” He has a mega-watt smile and a muscled torso that Tom Cruise would have killed for back when he was a mere 36 years old, (Powell’s age now). Cruise might also have liked some of Powell’s six foot height, since he’s only five feet seven inches. I am a Glen Powell fan. (I know: join the club).

I was present for his induction into the Texas Hall of Fame, where he thanked his first grade teacher, his fifth grade teacher and his high school counselor and gathered many family members (who tend to turn up in his movies). They all assembled for a group photo onstage at the end of the ceremony at Austin’s Paramount Theater. This young man is going to be a big star—if he isn’t one already. He’s been working towards films like this since the age of 13 or 14 and was first cast by Robert Rodriguez, who introduced him on the night of the induction. Even before that, young Glen was learning to write scripts in high school from Austin experts and, in fact, co-wrote the script for “Hit Man.” Although he acknowledged that one of his tornado stories made it into the script, this script by others is generally “meh.” I will say that the prophetic words “I’ve got you” during a race to safety were uttered just as everyone dies, which seemed apropos.

DISAPPOINTING

Glen Powell onstage at the Paramount Theater in Austin, Texas, at the screening of his new film “Hit Man” on May 15th, 2024.

One of the obvious storylines in each “Twister” iteration is the romance between the leads. In fact, in the original “Twister,” Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt are actually a married couple on the verge of divorce. Paxton’s stint in therapy has led him to a romance with Jamie Gertz, who is portrayed as a scaredy-cat. Gertz is  not a good fit for the adventurous Bill Harding of “Twister” and Bill must, somehow, find his way back to Helen Hunt. (Spoiler alert: Paxton and Hunt reconcile and  share a kiss at film’s end. Unfortunately for the audience, in the new “Twisters” there is not even a hug or a kiss at any point in the new film. Was this bad decision made because the studio envisioned audiences filled with small children? It makes no sense. You take two handsome people like Glen Powell and Daisy Ridley-Jones and build a romantic scenario, yet they never get to lock lips. Big disappointment. I would recommend “Hit Man” if you’d like to see a Glen Powell movie with a much better romance.)

Also disappointing, the MIA flying cow. Doesn’t everyone love the flying cow of the original film? Not present or accounted for in this one.

Also disappointing was the failure to make a statement about global warming and climate change, which is causing us to have more storms of every kind. If a film with the title “Twisters” is not an opportunity to decry our lack of progress on curbing the horrible weather that global weather is causing, what film would be better?

There were 10 tornadoes sighted here in the Iowa/Illinois Quad Cities this past Monday. One of them left us without power for four days, and that was just an EF1. Everyone preparing to vote for a president should make themselves aware that one side wants to “Drill, baby, drill,” which means more pollution from gas-burning vehicles and more damage to the atmosphere, and the other side has vowed to try to do something about global warming—although it appears every day that we’ve gone too far to turn back and restore normal temperatures and  return to the days of relatively storm-free devastation. The best we might be able to do is stop where we are now, which was 105 heat index last Monday in East Moline, Illinois, which is normally about 80 degrees this time of year.

We’re seeing more storms and they are more severe, and that extends to tornadoes, hurricanes, cyclones, floods and all other devastating acts of nature. Wouldn’t it have been a good idea to at least give a nod to this problem that is destroying our planet? Apparently Hollywood didn’t think so, probably because we have a party that has no intention of trying to change the trajectory of climate damage. Right now, that party is not in the lead. Wouldn’t do to tick off the Republicans, the PTB may have reasoned. After all, the MAGA hordes go to the movies, too, and—while you’re at it—take out any of that smoochy stuff so it’s good clean fun for the whole family.

Big oil wants to keep drilling and keep turning out plastic products that are polluting our rivers and our bodies; that seems just hunky dory with the GOP. Wise up and think about whether you’d like to live through the devastation pictured onscreen, which recently killed 5 people and injured 35 others in Greenfield, Iowa. So, disappointingly, there was not a single nod to one of the largest crises of our time—climate change—which the Republican party seems oblivious to and has no plans to counteract.

It’s nice that the fictional heroines of each film find ways to prevent tornadoes from succeeding in killing us all, but that is fiction, at the moment. The rest of climate damage—like warming seas that are killing our coral—is ignored to focus on things that blow up and trucks driven by crazed stormchasers. And don’t get me started on forest fires and Paradise, California.

MUSIC

The music in both the original film and the remake was outstanding. In the original, we were given artists like Shania Twain and Stevie Nicks, plus the original Broadway ballad “Oklahoma.” In this remake it’s much heavier in to country music, with Miranda Lambert singing “Ain’t in Kansas Any More” and Luke Combs singing “Ain’t No Love in Oklahoma,” among many others.

CINEMATOGRAPHY

I have to give the edge to cinematographer Dan Mindel. There are some perfectly beautiful scenes involving Daisy and fields. The opening shot was beautiful. The city model where Kate has been researching her technique for disarming storms is a step up from the barn in the original film, which the duo exit just in time to observe it being totally destroyed. The storms and explosions are very cinematic.

However, the unpleasant to watch jerkiness of the camerawork causes me to say that it’s a draw between new and old films. I especially enjoyed the destruction of a lot of International Harvester red equipment in the 1996 original “Twister” because my husband worked for Deere for many years. A Deere tractor is highlighted in an early scene and, since IH is gone, no red farm equipment is destroyed in this one.

THEATER SCENES

In the original film a drive-in is blown away by a tornado. The film that is showing is “The Shining.”

In the sequel the small town of (Fort) El Reno, Oklahoma is being destroyed by a tornado when the do-gooders Kate and Tyler, joined by the newly converted Javi (who has a massive crush on Kate) rushes into town to save the townsfolk by herding them into a theater that is showing “Frankenstein.” I have to say that the use of “Frankenstein” was a  better choice than “The Shining,” given the pyrotechnics going on onscreen when the entire wall is blown away.

There is also a noteworthy scene where Kate herds the potential victims into an empty swimming pool to save them from the storm’s fury.

FORT EL RENO

A bit of drama was provided, for me, by the use of Fort El Reno, Oklahoma as one of the cities that is struck by the storm. When I drove from Chicago to Santa Monica on Route 66 gathering “Ghostly Tales of Route 66,” Fort El Reno was a major stop, with its fort and its stories of hauntings. Rommel’s men from WWII were taken back to Fort El Reno and imprisoned there. It’s a very small town with a lot of history and seeing its water tower fall and pin our hero was cinematically riveting. It took me back to my evening joining the Ghost Tour that was put on especially for me. Every year the Fort El Reno bookstore ordered multiple copies of that particular volume of “Ghostly Tales of Route 66,” published by Quixote Press and still available on Amazon in both paperback and e-book versions. (Get the e-book version; it’s is a better bang for your buck).

BIG SUMMER PICTURE

This is going to be a big summer picture. The tornado visual effects are fantastic, but the special effects in the 1996 “Twister” weren’t too shabby, either. Watching things either combust or blow up and be reduced to rubble can get repetitive, but it’s well done.

I’ll be watching Glenn Powell’s career as it skyrockets, as it surely will. After experiencing what he and Richard Linklater wrote in collaboration for “Hit Man,” I hope he writes a lot more of his scripts, as this one was somewhat pedantic with lines like “You don’t face your fears. You ride ‘em.” I’m a fan of Powell’s script (with Linklater) as superior to this one, but Powell will be offered a lot of good material going forward, and I hope to see him knock it out of the park.

Do yourself a favor, however. Re-visit the original “Twister” so you can see the parallels, where they exist, and how well the original film with its top-notch cast still holds up. Too bad that Bill Paxton, who tried for years to  create a sequel, didn’t get the job done before he was taken from us at the age of  61 on February 26, 2017.

EF1 Tornado Overshadows RNC Convention for Me (7/19/2024)

 

tree that fell in storm

The offending tree.

An EF1 tornado swept through our East Moline court on Monday night at 7:37 p.m. It took out a large tree, which, in turn, took out all of the power. A picture of the 6 trucks that showed up to try to restore power would have been nice, but when I went outside to get one I stayed outside in the 105 heat index too long and ended up passing out on the neighbor’s driveway, (much like my story about the Gold Coast Art Fair.)

This will teach me to start talking while standing around in the blazing sun on any concrete surface! My slump down the side of a red truck with a flat tire that is parked in their driveway (not really a “fall”) was brief and surprising, especially for neighbor Norma, with whom I had obviously spent too long chatting in the sun.

All’s well that ends well, since my “fall” was  me feeling dizzy for a few seconds and slumping to the driveway without incident. I can accurately report that the most damage was to my bony arthritic knees when I regained my feet.  I had to put pressure on my bum left knee AND my “good” right knee to get to my feet quickly so I would not die of embarrassment. (*Note: I regained my feet without any assistance in each case, but I definitely needed to cool down. Our house was a hot box, which means that we ended up in a local motel where I spent the evening in the hot tub soaking my now very sore arthritic knees while surrounded by very young girls on some kind of party.)

The young girls  were sharing stories about how ill-behaved the students in some local high schools have become. One girl—who looked about 14—turned out to be a teacher in Perry, Iowa. She said she would never go above teaching students in 5th grade after being told by her companion that 2 high school students were tasered in the hallways of a local school, their alma mater. Guess I’ll quit telling people who are unemployed but have degrees to re-train as teachers, since it sounds considerably more confrontational in today’s schools than in years of yore. (And I’ve seen some pretty dramatic cat-fights between Silvis Junior High School girls, which easily would give you a black eye if you got in too close while trying to break it up! )

Electricians working on the power for our court on 7/18/2024.

One truck broke and another had to be sent. Soon, six were there. Then the tree people managed to pull all of the wires out of the house 2 doors down while cutting up the large tree.

So, we came back to our house after checking out of Stony Creek Hotel and I have been catching up on the lengthy RNC convention on television. The only part of the RNC I was able to take in before the power failed involved a lot of unknown Black legislators who were also veterans. None were people any of us had heard of, but the message was very definitely an attempt to appeal to young Black males. I know, from chatting with the young Black jocks who run L.A. Fitness in Austin that they were keen on Trump, because he has inaccurately  portrayed himself as “strong” and “macho,” even though, to me, he looks like I could take him one-on-one (and I am ridiculously weak and frail.)

Having missed most of the lead-up to Donald J. Trump’s big appearance on this last night of the convention I ended up listening to Stephen Colbert dissect some of the weirder aspects of the night. Aside from Tucker Carlson’s remarks, apparently Congressman Matt Gaetz had some work done on his face. Colbert’s remarks regarding Gaetz’s new look were:

  • Gaetz looks like a flame-broiled Donnie Osmond .
  • Gaetz looks like a wax drag queen from Whoville.
  • Gaetz looks like he is appearing in a business school production of “Cats.”
  • This is what it would look like if the Joker worked at Sephora.
  • This is what it would look like if Pennywise went to law school.
  • Gaetz looks like his plastic surgeon went to med school on a riverboa t.

 

So, what did I notice about small amount of the RNC that I saw, other than a deranged, red-faced guy chanting and sweating in the crowd? Well, I noticed that Barron Trump was nowhere to be seen (and you’d see this tall lad easily) and Melanie Trump appeared but did not speak, which apparently broke a tradition that had gone on for something like 32 years.

First, I noticed that, just like he tried to engineer a photo op on the steps of the White House when he returned from being treated for Covid. This time, Trump had a mock-up of a firefighter’s outfit set up to represent the firefighter who died at his rally. At 9:45 p.m. in Milwaukee, DJT strolled over and kissed the helmet of firefighter Cory Compertore, referring to the poor guy as “our friend Cory.”  He also mentioned the two others who were wounded, David Cutch and James Copenhaver. This is known as milking the moment.

Trump inciting Jan. 6 riot.

Trumpth on Jan. 6

Trump also made several remarks about the crowd’s behavior after the shooting attempt, saying this at 9:45 p.m. in Milwaukee. Trump claimed that the crowd (which he vastly over-estimated at “tens of thousands”) automatically stood up looking for the sniper and pointing at him. “Most thought I was dead. They thought it was a shot to the head. This beautiful crowd didn’t want to leave me. You could see that love written all over their faces. Bullets were flying all over us, and yet I felt serene. Bullets were flying right over them.” I wasn’t there; I think all of us have seen the video of the crowd, who were obviously shocked and frozen and ducking in most instances (as well they should have been.)

Trump went on in his historically longest acceptance speech in history (93 minutes) and recounted how, “The sniper with one bullet took the assassin’s life. “I’m not supposed to be here tonight.” Also part of Trump’s normal meandering remarks: “The crowd roared with pride for our country like no crowd I have ever heard before.” (Also unable to be determined from the replay.) Trump referenced the crowd as “A giant audience of patriots” and referred to the Butler (PA)  rally as “a fateful evening.”

Insurrection

January 6th.

To quote one thing that DJT said on the last night of the RNC with which I actually agree: “This election should be about the issues facing our country and how to make America safe and free again.”

This is true. So, where was the discussion of the issues that really matter? I mainly heard “the border” (over and over again), a lot of anti-immigrant rhetoric alleging that immigrants are taking the jobs of Black people, and  remarks that don’t bode well for anyone who is not a straight heterosexual American.

Following on the heels of Trump’s own remark about how the election should be about issues, Stephen Colbert had Senator Bernie Sanders as a guest on his Thursday night show. Here are some of Bernie’s comments regarding what we had all just seen, prefaced by his off-the-cuff remark, “Two o’clock in the morning. Who’s listening?” Hopefully thoughtful voters who recognize that the speeches up to that point had been all style and no substance. (The Screaming Mimi fiancee of Don, Jr., was at it again, screaming at the crowd. Hard to believe she was once married to Governor Newsom of California.)

Bernie was alarmed at how little the real problems of the world were addressed. One that he stressed, which certainly concerns me after hearing chants of “Drill, baby, drill” and realizing that nothing will be done to alleviate climate change if Republicans take control of government: Climate change has cost more than $25 billion dollars so far this year, with the most expensive season yet to come. There is worry that FEMA may run out of money before the end of the summer. Said Bernie: “If we don’t get our act together, the planet we are going to be leaving our kids and our grandfathers is going to be increasingly unhabitable… Think about the future of this planet if we don’t get our act together. Just on the basis of that fact alone nobody should be voting for Trump.” Do you enjoy going almost a week without power? I did not. Insurance has soared 20% from 2021 to 2023 because of the natural disasters everywhere and insurance companies are abandoning some states, if the risk is growing quickly in certain areas.  Do you worry about attending any event where, thanks to Trump’s flouting of the normal rules of polite society, we are no longer safe? Are you a gun enthusiast who wants everyone to have automatic weapons? Then don’t attend concerts, parades, rallies, or any other gathering where someone with one a weapon could shoot at you, as they did at Donald J. Trump. The rest of us who are not gun enthusiasts would like some reasonable restraint on things like bump stocks and AR15s.

Insurrection of Jan. 6th.

Insurrection of Jan. 6th.

Bernie went on to say, “Anyone who has any illusion that the GOP will do anything to benefit the working man is sorely mistaken.” Concerning Elon Musk giving money to Trump,  “Thank Musk for making this issue so obvious. What we have in America now is a corrupt political system. We live in a semi-democracy. We have the right to vote, but a billionaire has the right to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to further their aims because the billionaires know that they’ll get tax breaks. ..To Biden’s credit, he knows that we have to overturn this disastrous  Supreme Court decision Citizens’ United that allowed large corporations to give big amounts of money to control the political process.

In continuing his remarks after a commercial break, Bernie Sanders told Democrats to “stop the bickering.” Of Biden he said, “I am aware that he has been the strongest, most progressive president in my lifetime.” Bernie mentioned the picket line, prescription drugs, rebuilding the country’s crumbling infrastructure, debt relief for students, and recently his  100-day agenda. “You’ve got half of the people on Social Security trying to make it on $30,000 a year or less and you’ve got Republicans talking about cutting Social Security,” said Bernie Sanders. He then praised Biden’s attempts to initiate a rent hike revision. He commented that banks are buying up housing all over the place and that Biden is in favor of building millions of affordable houses. Bernie specifically mentioned housing in Las Vegas, but houses are bought up in Austin, as well.

Donald Trump.

Donald Trump

In regards to the proposal to institute a code of conduct and ethics for the Supreme Court, he agrees. “If you’re an elderly person today you can’t afford medical care, dental or vision care.” Bernie pointed out that Biden has managed to get the cost of insulin down and that he proposes that Social Security pick up dental and vision care, while the Republicans want to cut Social Security in some way.

Bernie  said, “Our medical system is broken. A quarter of the people who get cancer end up going broken and losing their homes because of the expense. Biden is in favor of eliminating all medical debt. “That’s the right thing to do.” I’m not sure how, exactly, this could be instituted, but it is worth noting that NONE of the things that Trump has proposed and said would happen nearly immediately were promised in a logical way that makes one think there is any real concrete plan to achieve same. I would say the same critical thing about Bernie’s off-the-cuff remark. Many of us remember how hard it was to get the Affordable Care Act passed and how relentlessly the GOP has worked to try to eliminate it ever since. I don’t think that the idea is a bad idea, when expressed by either party, but talk is cheap and this plan would not be.

Bernie Sanders

Senator Bernie Sanders

Bernie spoke of the elderly in this richest country on Earth and decried 60% of people living paycheck to paycheck. “People are hurting and they are looking to Washington and they are not getting much of a response. We need a nonviolent political revolution in getting billionaires out of politics. Our job right now is to defeat Trump. We need to transform the Democratic party so that ordinary people can come in and drive a new agenda so that we get income equality. We’re not going to have housing and college unaffordable. Our job is to make government work for everybody and not just the billionaire class.”  On another positive front, Sanders mentioned the successful fights against homophobia, sexism and racism that have come a long way. He did not mention how many steps backwards we will take if Trump and company, with Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon as advisors, regain power, but any DJT administration will almost certainly be kinder to the rich and do little for the poor. Plus, a woman’s right to control her own reproductive system will be seriously compromised as, indeed, it already has been by the reversal of Roe v. Wade.

I would add that the GOP programs sound like a giant step backward in being a welcoming country with promise for all that has always defined us.  Project 2025 from the Heritage Foundation, widely considered to be the platform that Trump will be adopting if elected, does many things; most of them are horrible for veterans (cutting benefits, etc,) and very anti-immigrant. It moves in the direction of forcing Christianity into the public schools, which has always been one of our Constitutional foundations, separation of church and state. Louisiana has already gone so far as to insist that the Ten Commandments be displayed in schools, which the founding fathers would probably not approve of at all.

Bernie Sanders

Senator Bernie Sanders

We all saw the big chart about border crossings that Trump says saved his life when he did not turn completely to view it. It was about border crossings being lower back in the Trump era when the Trump administration was separating small children from their parents and not keeping good records of where the youngsters ended up. It was totally inhumane in so many ways. Where was the chart about the climate crisis, which experts say we can only avert by cutting down on carbon emissions? (And this must be a world-wide effort.) As the experts have said, if we all hit the guidelines that were adopted long ago the best we could do would be to stop the weather anomalies where they are now. Our weather cannot return to “the way it was.” It can, however, get much much worse. We had 10 tornadoes in our area just 4 days ago. In August of 2020 we had the first “derecho” of my entire nearly 80 years on the planet. I am seriously lobbying for the purchase of a generator after the week we just spent without lights or air conditioning.

Tucker Carlson showed up at the RNC and said, “I do think the entire point of the escalator ride has been to remind us of one fact.” That fact should be that Donald J. Trump was the worst president in history, inherited a good Obama economy (which he rode to relative prosperity), and totally bungled the Covid crisis.  He is going to make all of the valid charges against himself disappear and probably pardon everyone he incited to storm the Capitol and threaten his vice president and other elected lawmakers. His flouting of decorum (refused to attend a ceremony at Normandy) and rude remarks (military personnel are “losers” and “suckers,” a remark he made within earshot of Four-Star General Kelly) are the absolute worst example of someone we want representing our nation abroad.

Donald J. Trump

Donald J. Trump

Biden & Trump

Presidents Biden & Trump

Please, people. Substance over style. Let’s get it together and avoid this con-man like the plague that he presided over. Our nation will not be the same if we don’t and—unlike the crowd that wants to leave Ukraine in the lurch, abandon NATO, and let the planet burn without attempting to solve the very real problem of climate change that DJT has decried for years–. we must think rationally about what DJT really represents and what kind of man he has demonstrated himself to be.

Instead of doing a sexist smear job on our current Vice President, (which was about as fair as insisting that Hilary Clinton was running a sex ring out of a pizza parlor), let’s really think about the “platforms” that currently face us under the two main political powers. A Screaming Mimi telling us to “fight” and shouting slogans is not a platform. Last time out, Trump had NO platform. This time he is expected to follow the Project 2025 manifesto, especially since 31 of the 38 people who put this 900 page document together worked under him in the Trump administration. Get a copy and think long and hard about what Project 2025 says before you vote.

“Fly Me To The Moon” Is An Enjoyable Rom-Com Romp

In the spirit of this blog’s name (Weekly Wilson) I have a stream-of-consciousness review of tonight’s film, “Fly Me to the Moon,” which opened tonight at the newly-revamped VIP14 theater (previously Regal 8) in Moline, Illinois. It’s 6 days since my last post.

Readers will remember that I was mourning the loss of the only theater on the Illinois side of the Quad Cities and memorializing the closing of the Icon Theater in the South Loop of Chicago.

Fly Me to the Moon (2024)

Fly me to the Moon

Scarlett Johansson’s executive-produced outing as the P.R. woman tasked with filming a “fake” moon launch is an Apple project, which was filmed on locations in Georgia and Savannah, as well as in Florida at Cape Canaveral. The production was actually able to capture a real launch when filming at the Kennedy Space Center.

THE GOOD

VIP14 in Moline, Illinois

VIP14 in Moline, Illinois.

Director Greg Berlanti, working from a script by Rose Gilroy (and Keenan Flynn and Bill Kirstein), has concocted a rom-com with comedic elements. Jim Rash, portraying the fictional director Lance Vespertine, is terrific. Woody Harrelson is the White House operative who enlists Johansson to make the Apollo 11 mission to the moon popular, Moe Berkus. Ray Romano portrays Henry Smalls, who is working with Channing Tatum portraying Launch Director Cole Davis.

Moe Berkus lays out the task to Scarlett Johansson’s character of Kelly Jones (who later says her real name is Winnie): she must film a fake landing on the moon, which will be broadcast as the real deal. When she shows up at NASA, she tells Channing Tatum’s character of Cole Davis: “Americans are long over their expensive love affair with space and I’m here to remind them why they fell in love in the first place.” We are reminded that during its first 29 missions, NASA had only a 48% success rate. The efforts to convince key Senators to support the space program financially is well portrayed, since the battle for funding is never-ending.

Channing Tatum, who portrays Cole Davis, is not happy about lying to the American public. Woody shuts him down quickly, saying, “She’s made you (NASA) the Belle of the Ball. Just slip on your tutu and do some dancing.” The film recaps some of the clever ways that public relations tie-ins are utilized, such as the use of Omega watches or Tang tie-ins. As is the case right now with our upcoming presidential race, “This isn’t just a race for the moon. It’s a race to see which ideology governs.”

THE BAD

VIP14 theater in Moline, Illinois.

VIP14 in Moline, Illinois.

As another critic has expressed, he became less interested in the actual moon launch and more interested in the budding romance between the main characters.

The other flaw, which may not matter if you’re streaming it at home, is that, at 2 hours and 12 minutes (plus previews) this seemed like an overly long movie. At the point where we are landing on the moon, I was ready to be done. It was opening night for this theater’s new management and I did not pace my pop-drinking as I would have done for “Barbie” or “Oppenheimer.” (My bad).

This one should be a hit when it streams. It was fun to see Johansson’s real-life husband, Colin Jost (of SNL), portraying Senator Cook of South Carolina, articulating the line about a Killer Lunar Laser Eliminator.

 

 

Celebrating A Birthday On A Balmy July 6 Night in Downtown Davenport, Iowa

Judy DeJonghe

Happy Birthday, Judy! 49 again?

Shouldn’t we all celebrate our birthdays with old friends?

Of course we should, and we did.

Dinner at Monarch (which is hard to find, but has lobster roll) and cocktails at Up, which is on top of the downtown Davenport hotel (Current).

And lots of funny stories from many years of friendship and fond memories.

Judy looks 20 years younger than she is. Picture proves it. A good time was had by all.

Getting from the restaurant to the top of the downtown Davenport Current

Current Hotel, downtown Davenport.

hotel was quite the adventure, as the river crested on Saturday and much of  River Drive was impassable (under water). We  had a really circuitous route to get home for sure.

I’ve taken some photos of our friends Bob and Judy and of the rooftop.

Craig Wilson, Bob DeJonghe, Judy DeJonghe.

Three classmates from the Alleman class of ’63: Craig Wilson, Bob and Judy (DeJonghe).

And then there’s the black Angus statue inside the hotel.

Crowd at "Up" in downtown Davenport.

The group on July 6, 2024.

"Up" on top of the Current Hotel

The place filled up later on.

Don’t ask.

Craig Wilson, Connie Wilson, Judy DeJonghe, Bob DeJonghe

Four old friends.

Evening atop the Current Hotel at "Up"

Towards evening on a beautiful night,

Connie Wilson

Admiring the view of the Mississippi.

Icon Theater in Chicago’s South Loop To Close on June 30th, 2024

 

Icon Theater at 1011 S. Delano Court.

“Icon” Theater in Chicago going under. Be warned.

Since we were in Chicago for the Rolling Stones on June 27 (Thursday), and went to the Sundance showing of the Luther Vandross documentary on Friday (June 28), today (Saturday, June 29th) we went to the Icon Theater located near us at 1011 Delano Court in the South Loop.

We bought our tickets on Fandango and there was no mention of the sale of the Icon to AMC. In fact, there were still tickets being sold, despite the fact that the staff—(very few of them)—working tonight said that the theater as the Icon was closing the next day at 6 p.m. Later, I read that Fandango would simply say that a future booking was “sold out” and another patron who had bought tickets for July 27th had his money refunded with no explanation.

One patron wrote:  “I had tickets for a July 27th showing of Deadpool, and I can’t make it so I went to the box office to get a refund. Lady at the register tells me, ‘Good thing you came because theater was just sold and Sunday, June 30, is the last day we’re open.’ I am devastated as I love going to the movies there. She did say that AMC had bought them, but she was unsure when they’ll open back up. If you have tickets go get your refunds.” AMC bought the Kerasotes Theaters in 2010; Kerasotes were the owners of the ShowPlace Theaters. AMC bought all but 4 Kerasotes Theaters and it was rumored that the Icon was one of the four that they did NOT buy.

So, what’s going on Icon Theater in Chicago? And why don’t they let their customers know? No confirmation that they have been bought by AMC or anyone else, but here’s something that came to my attention as I researched this:

“A movie theater in St. Louis Park (Minneapolis) is seeing a change of operations beginning of next month. Marcus Theatres announced Thursday that it will take over the Showplace ICON Theatre & Kitchen after the doors close on Sunday. The theatre will reopen to customers on July 8 as the Marcus West End Cinema.”

It was clear that things were not “right” at the Icon Theater in Chicago. We had planned to order food in the VIP section. Although we haven’t been here since wintering from Thanksgiving 2023 on in Texas, there used to be a variety of dine-in food options that were delivered to your seat. I seem to remember dining in for the last Tom Cruise outing of “Maverick.”

My spouse had been snacking throughout the afternoon and announced that he wasn’t really that hungry, so he was going to forgo ordering an entrée and just have popcorn. I had also picked up a box of Milk Duds at the grocery store, with the intention of sharing them at the movies. It’s a good thing, because—although I got my steak tacos and a Diet Coke ($24), he never did get any popcorn or any soft drink. And he tried so long that he missed the first 5 minutes of the movie.

We went upstairs and learned that the ONLY food items available for order were tacos or nachos. I asked why and got a mumbled excuse about “inventory” that made no sense. I ordered the tacos. My husband went back downstairs in search of popcorn and a soft drink.

There were two kiosks that you had to use to get popcorn. One was broken. No popcorn. No soft drink, either, when he returned to me in the VIP lounge, where I had ordered the tacos, but did not know the seats that the staff would bring them to, because that information was on my husband’s phone and he was downstairs trying to get popcorn, unsuccessfully.

The women’s bathroom on the VIP level has two rest room stalls. One was inoperative in a way that screamed “CALL A PLUMBER!”

Underground parking at the Icon Theater in Chicago's South Loop.

Underground parking at the Icon Theater in Chicago. 1011 South Delano Court.

This is a huge theater with a massive amount of parking (we were charged $11, despite the fact that it says you get 2 free hours of parking if you are at a movie. We arrived at 5 minutes of 8 and left at 5 minutes of 10, but it still cost $11 to park, which, in Chicago, is cheap—except that means that we got NO “2 hours free parking.”

Chicago’s parking situation has been deplorable ever since Mayor Richard Daley sold all of the parking in the city of Chicago. Fourteen years ago the City Council, at the urging of then-Mayor Richard M. Daley, sold the city’s street parking meter system to the private company Chicago Parking Meters LLC for $1.15 billion. I may have mentioned paying $67.50 to park my car (overnight) when I went to see the play “Six.”

The upper level of the theater was almost totally deserted. I counted fewer than 10 people.

Others have said that they were told that they were closing the very next day (Sunday, June 30th). I asked one of the waitresses in the VIP area whether she still had a job with the theater. She said, “They haven’t told us, but they said we can apply for unemployment. I’m worried because that runs out after a while.” The entire “closed without warning” idea reminded of what happened with the Signature restaurant on the 95th floor of the Hancock Building, which closed so quickly and without 30 days notice that the employees are currently suing.

So, is it true that the AMC bought the ICON chain? Unlikely since they were struggling when the pandemic hit, because they had just invested a large amount in upgrading their theaters, which was a bad coincidence.

If anyone knows, tell the rest of the Chicago neighborhood, because some of us would have liked to know in advance. (This is now the second theater I have attended on its last day of operation, the first one being the Regal Theater in Moline, Illinois, where we saw Russell Crowe’s movie “Unhinged.”

Icon Theater in the South Loop on June 29, 2024, one day before its closing.

Icon Theater at 1011 South Delano Ct. in Chicago’s South Loop. (Closed on June 30th and becoming what?)

“Unhinged,” about a truck driver with road rage, was the first movie to enter wide theatrical release in the USA after the closure of most theaters due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Between the March 13th, 2020 releases of Bloodshot (2020), The Hunt (2020), and I Still Believe (2020) and the August 21st expansion of this film into 1,823 North American theaters, there was a gap of over five months with no new wide theatrical releases at all. No wonder that it killed the Moline Regal Theater.

I wonder about the cause of the Icon’s demise in Chicago? On previous visits it appeared that management was trying hard to automate everything from ticket sales to the concession stand. It wasn’t a good theater-going experience for the customer. It appeared that they were trying to scale back to a skeleton crew, much like the Steak ‘N Shake chain seems to be trying to throw the entire weight of ordering, serving and paying onto machines.

It’s a Brave New World. Tonight’s Icon experience explains why so many people are opting to watch their movies at home via streaming.

 

Sundance Institute X Chicago 2024 Opens at Logan Center in Chicago on June 28, 2024

Logan Center for the Arts on the campus of the University of Chicago co-hosted the first event with Sundance to be hosted at a city other than Park City, Utah on Friday, June 28, 2024. It began with the showing of the Sundance documentary “Luther: Never Too Much” at the Logan Center for the Arts. No less a celebrity than the Mayor of Chicago, Brandon Johnson, was present. Also in attendance was Eugene Hernandez, the Director of the Sundance Film Festival since 2022 and the Director of “Luther: Never Too Much,” Dawn Porter.

The City of Chicago and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) and Choose Chicago, in partnership with the nonprofit Sundance Institute kicked off the highly anticipated Sundance Institute X Chicago 2024 – the first of its kind event in the United States –  with a welcome reception with City officials, Sundance creatives, and the greater Chicago film community.

Mayor Brandon Johnson at the Logan Center for the Arts on Friday, June 28, 2024.

The landmark three day event, June 28 – 30, showcases Midwest premiere screenings of four films drawn from the Sundance Film Festival’s lineup in January, along with a robust series of panel discussions, master classes, and community programming.

Sundance, originally the brainchild of Robert Redford, began in Salt Lake City, Utah in 1978. In 1981, the festival moved to Park City, Utah, and changed the dates from September to January. The move from late summer to midwinter was done by the executive director Susan Barrell with the cooperation of Hollywood director Sydney Pollack, who suggested that running a film festival in a ski resort during winter would draw more attention from Hollywood. It was called the US Film and Video Festival. [Pollack is now deceased and perhaps visiting snowy Utah in the middle of winter is, too.]

The 44th Sundance Film Festival went virtual for the first time in 2021. In 2020, the year the pandemic struck, the estimated value of Sundance to Utah was said to be $167 million. The festival returned to in-person showings in 2023. I covered 8 films streamed to me from Sundance in 2024.

Currently, Sundance is considering moving to another city in 2027. (Perhaps someone should have mentioned to Sydney Pollack that more people might want to go to a warm weather locale in the middle of winter, perhaps, than those who might want to ski. The growth of SXSW in Austin, Texas, held in March, which I have reviewed since 2017,  is further evidence of the popularity of a less wintery climate in winter-time.

Cities that have expressed interest in hosting Sundance if it moves include Boulder,[35] Atlanta, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Chicago, Buffalo, and Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The Logan Center pre-screening celebration from 6:30 to 7:30 PM on June 28, featured music, art, cocktails, and photo opportunities. Chicago artist Obi “Obisoulstar” Uwakwe  showcased his art installation, Electriqsoul Hideout Satellite Studio, celebrating Black and Indigenous artists from Chicago and beyond. Enjoy a special performance by D-Composed, a Chicago-based Black chamber music collective highlighting the creativity of Black composers. The celebration was free for all ticket holders

Then came the enjoyable documentary about the life and career achievements of Luther Vandross. (Review to follow).

Photo is of me during the Opening Night reception, with photo opportunities on the Red Carpet.

 

Luther: Never Too Much chronicles the story of a vocal virtuoso. Using a wealth of rarely seen archives, Vandross tells his own story with assistance from his closest friends and musical collaborators including Mariah Carey, Dionne Warwick, Valerie Simpson and Roberta Flack. The film relives the many stunning moments of Vandross’ Grammy® award-winning musical career, while exploring his personal life, health struggles, and a lifelong battle to earn the respect his music deserved. (Review to follow).

 

 

The Rolling Stones Play Soldier Field on June 27, 2024

Soldier Field

The Rolling Stones play Soldier Field on June 27, 2024.

The Rolling Stones played at Soldier Field (across the street from me) tonight, Thursday, June 27th.

We were 3 rows from the top of the stadium until the $16 beer my spouse had consumed drove us to lower levels to seek a rest room.

I was quite happy to move from the top section, because a man (who had to go at least 300 pounds) was sitting ON me. I can’t remember a time that was worse, except for the play “Tommy” when a very large lady sat on me,,,and it wasn’t even her seat!. There was also the air trip back from Europe when a very large crippled man sat ON me. I am not small, myself—(although I’m 50 lbs. lighter than in the past)—but I seem to be a magnet for extremely heavy people to come sit ON me, literally.

But I digress.

The last time we saw the Rolling Stones at Soldier Field nobody stood up and blocked the view of other people. That was not the case this time, which I think was because the audience seemed to be composed, that last time, of oldsters like us, but a lot of younger fans were there this night, who danced throughout. Unfortunately, two of the non-stop dancers were standing right in front of us. One of them had no sense of rhythm and reminded of the Elaine episode on “Seinfeld.”

Keith Richard, Ronnie Wood and Mick Jagger at the Chicago show in 2024.

Mick. Ronnie & Mick.

The Stones opened with “Start Me Up” and the first four songs were among their top hits.

Things slowed down a bit after that, with songs that either were newer or were not as well-known.

Near the end, while singing “Just a Shot Away”, a very impressive female singer was highlighted and sang with Mick on the stage that leads into the audience. Chanel Haynes was terrific! She immediately reminded me of the documentary about Mick’s previous Black female back-up singer. Both of these women have voices that are so powerful that they literally can blow the roof off the place! Amazing!

Near the end of the concert we made an early trip to the rest rooms and, following that, chose to watch the finale songs from seats that were not sold, for reasons that we did not understand. The entire section was vacant, and all of the seats were quite close to the stage, (although off to the left.) We sat in the front row near the stage for “I Can’t Get No Satisfaction” and “Jumping Jack Flash” and  other big hits.

The entire show was very enjoyable, except for the two girls that blocked our view of the stage most of the time..

Mick Jagger, Ronnie Wood, and Keith Richards onstage in Chicago on June 27, 2024.

This was the view from the seats NOT sold near the left side of the stage.

The weather was cooperative, cooling to the sixties and seventies.  It was so much cooler that I had to dig out a very old coat that I leave here for emergencies.

After we made it to our section (435) we had to climb 35 rows to seats 9 and 10. Since I generally was not able to walk at all at this time in 2022 and parts of 2023, I felt very happy that I was able to not only walk to the stadium, but also to climb multiple stairs to our seats and then down to the rest room areas on the ground floor. We didn’t spend long at the concession stand, where shirts were going for $50.

I’ve seen the Rolling Stones every tour since 1982, which is 32 straight years, but they have actually been touring for 62 years and this was their 40th show in Chicago. They bemoaned the possible destruction of Soldier Field (to be replaced with a newer stadium, ostensibly). I don’t think I’ve seen Keith Richards smile as much at any concert in those 32 years.

The other thing that made an impression on me was the new Black drummer, Steve Jordan, who replaced Charlie Watts. Very impressive that this band is still going strong after all these years, going back to my college years. I still remember hearing “Hey, You, Get Offa My Cloud!” as I walked through the student union on campus at the University of Iowa as a freshman, a song that they played tonight with a Reggae influence. I’ve been listening to the Rolling Stones ever since and—after the Beatles broke up (saw them in 1965 at the San Francisco Cow Palace)—I switched to following the Stones “live” when they tour.

Mick Jagger and his new Black back-up singer.

Mick Jagger and his Black back-up singer onstage in Chicago.

I still think their best tour was “Steel Wheels,” which I saw in Ames, but I remember the Voodoo Lounge, Bridges to Babylon, No Security and the very first one at the University of Northern Iowa Uni-Dome, when Mick and the boys dressed in American football outfits and he used a cherry-picker to float above the crowd. The worst show of theirs was the one that was held in Austin at a place (Circuit C? in 2022 that is normally used for road races. It was a disaster because of the venue. People could not make it to the place and turned around and went home. That was the last time before this one. One of the most memorable was when my daughter took me to the Indianapolis 500 race track for my 75th birthday celebration. It was held near the Fourth of July in 2020 and fireworks burst overhead as it ended.

I always wonder if I’m seeing the Stones on their final tour. How can Mick Jagger continue to perform at this level when he was born in 1943 (July 26) and is 81 years old next month? If only Joe Biden looked as fit and capable as Mick did this night. Instead, our president looked very frail. Jagger referred to the debate as “Viagarapalooze,” We were missing the debate between Biden and Trump this night and, after we saw it on tape afterwards, I am glad. It was so sad for such a good man, who seemed to have no voice at all this night to be attacked by DJT. I’m glad I was not there “live.”

Mick Jagger in the wings.

Mick leaves the stage.

The field at Soldier Field on June 27, 2024.

The stage. It resembled the stage used at the Indianapolis Speedway.

The band onstage near the end of their June 27, 2024 concert at Soldier Field in Chicgao.

Stage up close.

Mick Jagger and his Black female back-up singer.

Mick and the female Back-Up Singer with the dynamite voice (Chanel Haynes)  leave the stage.

Mick Jagger and his female Black back-up singer.

Mick Jagger and Chanel Haynes,

Mick Jagger and his female Black back-up singer take a bow.

Taking a bow with Chanel Haynes singer.

“The Bikeriders” At Theaters On June 21, 2024

“The Bikeriders” screened as the closing film of the 59th Chicago International Film Festival on October 22, 2024, at the Music Box Theater with a presentation of the Artistic Career Achievement Award to Writer/Director Jeff Nichols. The film was inspired by the 1967 iconic photographs and tape recordings of photographer Danny Lyon. Writer/Director Nichols gave great praise and credit to Lyon, saying, “He really was supportive, but without being prescriptive.”

PLOT

Cast of "The Bikeriders"

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 17: (L-R) Jodie Comer, Austin Butler, writer/director Jeff Nichols and Norman Reedus at the Los Angeles Premiere of Focus Features’ “The Bikeriders” at TCL Chinese Theatre on June 17, 2024 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Getty Images for Focus Features)

“The Bikeriders” recounts the evolution of a Midwestern motorcycle club, called the Vandals in the film. (The Outlaws, originally). The photos drove the film. The interior of one bar was actually reconstructed from Danny Lyon’s photo.

The cast is top-notch, featuring Austin Butler, Oscar-nominated for “Elvis” as Benny and Jodie Comer (“Killing Eve,” “The Last Duel”) as Kathy. Tom Hardy (“Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Revenant”) is Johnny, the leader of the motorcycle club, which originally existed for the members to race their choppers.

Jeff Nichols

Jeff Nichols at the screening of “The Bikeriders” on October 22, 2023 in Chicago. (Photo by Connie Wilson).

As Nichols (“Take Shelter,” 2011; “Mud,” 2012; “Loving,” 2016) told Jack Giroux 5 years ago, “And what I’m talking about making a movie about is its transition from this golden age of where it was less criminal and it was more just a place for outsiders to gather, but then how that kind of morphed and turned into somewhat more of a criminal organization.” He described the film as “A complete portrait of a subculture; maybe none of these guys needed to feel like outsiders, but they did.”

The cast is stellar, also featuring Michael Shannon—a close friend of Director Nichols who has made five films  with him—Bas Zipco. The breakout star of the “West Side Story” remake Mike Faist appeared as the photographer Danny Lyon.  Of Faist, Nichols said, “We were lucky to have him. I think he’s gonna’ have a great career.” Norman Reedus, from “The Walking Dead,” portrays Funny Sonny, and Boyd Holbrook (“Logan”) is Cal.

BACKGROUND

Nichols shared that the projectionist at the Music Box Theater in Chicago where the film screened was Danny Lyon’s daughter Rebecca. He also told the audience that he had only  learned last week that the characters Benny and Kathy, in real life, had a son who was present for this screening.

Jodie Comer and Austin Butler

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 17: Jodie Comer (L) and Austin Butler at the Los Angeles Premiere of Focus Features’ “The Bikeriders” at TCL Chinese Theatre on June 17, 2024 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Getty Images for Focus Features)

Jodie Comer’s character of Kathy is the central character telling the story of the rise and fall of the motorcycle group from 1965 to 1973. Saying “I used to be respectable” she details how the club went from a place where motorcycle enthusiasts could get together and talk about their choppers to something more sinister.

Comer has been mentioned for a potential Oscar nod; the struggle between Kathy and Johnny for Benny’s allegiance is a central conflict in the film. Describing some of the crazy things that Austin Butler’s character of Benny does, she says, “It can’t be love. It must just be stupidity.” Describing her time riding with Benny, she says of the Vandals, “The whole point of these guys is they can’t follow the rules, but as soon as they formed, they started making up rules.”

Jeff Nichols

Jeff Nichols in Chicago at the closing night of the 59th Chicago International Film Festival on October 22, 2023. (Photo by Connie Wilson).

Jeff Nichols has a way of exploring the inner rage of a character, as with Michael Shannon’s star turn in “Take Shelter.”  (Shannon told me in 2017, when I asked him on the Red Carpet for “The Shape of Water,” that “Take Shelter” was his favorite role.) In the case of Austin Butler’s character, Benny, we are told “That kid’s f**ing crazy.”

He is also extremely handsome (Nichols says even more so, in person) and comes across as iconic in the book. Nichols said, “I didn’t know Austin Butler even existed when I wrote this. ‘Elvis’ hadn’t come out yet. There is calculus beyond me just thinking he’s pretty.” (laughter from the crowd). Nichols secured Norman Reedus (“The Walking Dead”) after meeting him while serving on a jury at Cannes and is friends with Tom Hardy’s manager, Jack Whigham, who is the younger brother of actor Shea Whigham (“Take Shelter,” “Waco,” “Boardwalk Empire”).

At the beginning of the evening, commenting on his nervousness, he remarked, “I know this is Mike’s town,” referencing his close friendship with Chicago native Michael Shannon (to audience approval.)

MICHAEL SHANNON

Michael Shannon

Michael Shannon on October 13, 2023 at the 59th Chicago International Film Festival.

 

Shannon, who heard Nichols talk about making a movie from “The Bikeriders” for years, once said, “You’ve been talking about that damn idea for so long. You’re never gonna make that s***.”

Nichols acknowledged that he had, indeed, been trying to make this film for a long time and described it as his “most ambitious” project. Five years ago he told interviewer Jack Giroux (Oct. 19, 2018), “There are just a lot of things that intimidate me about it, but I truly hope one day I’ll get my s*** together and do it.”

VERDICT

Well, he has, and “The Bikeriders” is very good. References to 1953’s Marlon Brando picture “The Wild One” to 1969’s “Easy Rider” to television’s “Sons of Anarchy” aside, this is an-depth look at the characters in a Midwestern motorcycle club. It is a 116-minute study of the outsiders who started the club.

Although Chicago is prominently featured, the actual shoot took place in Cincinnati, Ohio, in October of 2022, completing filming in December of 2022. It premiered at the 50th Telluride Film Festival on August 23rd.

It’s a totally compelling character study from Jeff Nichols, who has given us such great films as “Take Shelter,” “Mud,” “Loving,” and “Midnight Special.” A great addition to the motorcycle films that have gone before,  fictionalized somewhat, but founded on real-life research, which makes it even more relevant and enjoyable.

Cher at "The Bikeriders" premiere

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 17: Cher at the Los Angeles Premiere of Focus Features’ “The Bikeriders” at TCL Chinese Theatre on June 17, 2024 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Getty Images for Focus Features)

The Bikeriders Poster

The Bikeriders

Jodie Comer

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 17: Jodie Comer at the Los Angeles Premiere of Focus Features’ “The Bikeriders” at TCL Chinese Theatre on June 17, 2024 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Getty Images for Focus Features)

Austin Butler

HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 17: Austin Butler at the Los Angeles Premiere of Focus Features’ “The Bikeriders” at TCL Chinese Theatre on June 17, 2024 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Getty Images for Focus Features)

Gold Coast Art Show, 2024, Is A Hot One!

Mark Ferguson & Connie Wilson

Mark Ferguson of Asymmetrical Jewelry and me, at the Gold Coast Art Show on Sunday, June 16, 2024.

Today was Sunday, June 16, 2024,  the last day of the 2024 Gold Coast Art Fair in Chicago. I only learned that it was going on this weekend when we drove by Grant Park on our way to see Seth Meyer’s stand-up show at the Vic. I immediately began saying I wanted to go. The Gold Coast Art Show is always wonderful—for me. For my spouse? Not so much. He isn’t really in to strolling past  250 booths and debating the merits of various purchases I  make. Plus, he thought the Cubs were playing (although it turned out that, for mysterious reasons) the Cubs were playing the Cardinals only on Roku. (W-H-A-A-T?)

My husband urged me to go “early.” As anyone who knows me knows, “early” for me is any time before noon. However, I promised to be readying myself no later than the time I get up to play Hand-and-Foot Canasta in Austin, Texas. That is 9 a.m., so I was up “early” and getting ready to walk to the park. I was very tired, because I am a Night Owl of the First Magnitude and being able to fall asleep earlier than 2 a.m. is often difficult. Keep in mind that I write, and—[in my defense]—I write at night. So, promising to get “up and at ’em” by 10-ish was early, for me. It would not have been my first choice of times to attend. But, aware that we faced a 3 and 1/2 hour drive home to the Illinois Quad Cities, I agreed that I would attempt to hit Grant Park at 10-ish.

 

66th Gold Coast Art Show in Chicago, June 16, 2024

My impatient husband offered to drive me down to the Park, which was very nice of him. In years of yore I routinely walked to the Art Institute and back, but that was before one full year of cancer treatment, which blew out my left knee and put me in a wheelchair or hobbling with a cane from September of 2022 until March of 2023. (Thanks to the Oak Brook Joint Pain Clinic for the 32 m. of anti-inflammatory injections and 6 ml of Durolane, which helped restore me…sort of.)

Asymmetrical Jewelry necklace

Another of Mark’s Asymmetrical pieces. ([email protected]).

The adjuvant therapy pills (specifically, Anastrozole) have not been “berry, berry good” to me. Let’s not forget that—thanks to Mom and heredity,— I was diagnosed with Type II diabetes in 2017 and have to doctor for that, too. Minor ailments (fibromyalgia, asthma, osteoarthritis) I shall set aside for the moment. Either of the major ailments would make me vulnerable to extreme heat, And I honestly think that the excessive heat was primarily responsible for chatting with Mark about how he and his hosts went to the Red-Headed Piano Bar and a blues club the preceding night. At one point, in our car on the long drive home, the thermometer said 97 degrees. Yikes!

I remember in high school, when I (unwisely) I played intramural basketball (I’m so old that the game was 6 on 6) and—right before I would become so fatigued that I’d pass out—I’d turn beet red, except for the area right next to my nose, which would be stark white. Below is a picture taken less than 24 hours earlier, at the Seth Meyer show at the Vic Theater, for contrast. I do not appear to be beet red and disheveled in that one, do I?

AT SETH MEYERS on JUNE 14, 2024

Connie Wilson with BEE GONE book at the June 14th Seth Meyer stand-up show

Waiting at the Vic Theater in Chicago to give Seth Meyer a copy of BEE GONE after his June 14, 2024 show.

I direct your attention to the picture atop this page. Who knows what was going on with my blood sugar? I didn’t take the time to eat anything prior to being delivered to Jackson intersection (a fairly long way from the entrance. I should have gotten off at Madison). You can compare the picture from Friday night when I look fairly happy and healthy with the sweaty, overheated shopper who, after about 30 booths, became dizzy as hell and nearly passed out. Okay. Maybe I DID pass out (briefly), but I was seated at the time. I believe that Mark is too kind and honest to make up the nodding off that he says occurred right after I commandeered his chair for my own purposes. (Ahem).

I had purchased many items by that point, and I was aware that the temperature was REALLY REALLY HOT. I attempted to buy something cold at a small booth nearby that had a bunch of beverages for sale in cans, but the beverages all were warm and had alcohol in them, which is pretty much verboten. Plus, the only one I would have liked (Sangria) was warm. Warm sangria in a can for $10 did not sound appealing. So, yes, I was not very well hydrated, I was tired, and BOY, was I HOT!

GOLD COAST PURCHASES

My kind husband and I sought Madison futilely on our way down, because I had read online that it was the entrance. Of course, I had also read online that admission was $5, which may have been true if you bought tickets in advance. That left me out. Admission was $15. At least I managed to find an entrance from the Jackson intersection and I proceeded to quickly determine that (a) there were a lot of paintings (b) many of them cost $1,800 and up and (c) Boy! It was hot in the sun! (I haven’t felt that hot since I tried to bicycle to Willow Springs on a similarly hot day many moons ago and collapsed in someone’s front yard. Those people weren’t nearly as kind to me as Mark. As I recall, the lady of the house yelled, “Don’t go near her. You don’t know where she’s been!” The husband had to come and pick up me and my bicycle and ferry us home. (Is there a pattern here?))

Necklace from Asymmetrical Jewelry

Necklace from Asymmetrical. ([email protected])

By the time I had bought several pairs of earrings for various birthdays and my own use, I began to feel dizzy.

I was only about 1/3 or 1/4 of the way through my planned circuit of all 200+ booths, but I honestly thought I might pass out. I had just found a booth operated by a lovely British gentleman, Mark Ferguson of Manchester, England, who can be contacted at [email protected]. I saw that Mark had an empty chair (for himself, of course) behind the counter of his booth. Since I felt as though I might collapse at any moment, I asked if I could temporarily occupy Mark’s chair.

HEAT HITS HOME!

He was so great about my near collapse at his booth!  THANK YOU, MARK! Not only did he get me some water (and a fan, which he borrowed!) he swears that I passed out as soon as I sat down in HIS chair. This may be true. I would not know, as I was (apparently) unconscious. Just what every jeweler hopes for: a customer who stops by, takes their chair, and then passes out in it!

Now came the security person, wanting to know if I wanted to be taken to a hospital.

Uhhhhh…that would be a resounding NO,

Mark Ferguson of Suzanne & Mark Ferguson Asymmetrical Jewelry

Mark Ferguson (of Suzanne & Mark Ferguson Asymmetrical Jewelry) at his booth on Sunday, June 16, 2024.

But I did think that calling my husband (of 56 years) might be a good idea and, between Mark and a very nice lady who gave my husband directions about how to find Madison entrance (which we never did find initially) I was spared the necessity of walking a couple of football fields back to the Jackson intersection that we had originally agreed I would phone him from for pick-up.

MANY THANKS to Mark Ferguson (and Suzanne) of Manchester, England. If you see some things that speak to you in these photos, you can probably contact them at [email protected]. I had already bought three pair of earrings before unceremoniously commandeering Mark’s chair,  so I can attest that his “asymmetrical” idea of not having to “pair” earrings is a godsend. My daughter will be the beneficiary of the earrings that I got before I collapsed and left poor Mark to deal with me. He even escorted me to my spouse’s car. (Husband Craig did find the Madison entrance after the nice lady told him how to get there.)

I haven’t been so embarrassed since I missed a step at the Chicago International Film Festival, fell, and hit my head (and my bad knee). That didn’t lead to the hospital, either, but it did cause me to go have X-rays of the bum left knee when I made it back to the Quad Cities. That knee is going to be bad for the rest of time, I fear.

Here are some additional photos of Mark and Suzanne’s reasonably-priced and creative jewelry items, including some Cubs earrings (I bought 2 pair) and others. Not sure what the delivery options are, but, if you see something you can’t live without, the Fergusons have relatives in the Chicago area and perhaps you can contact them at [email protected] and make arrangements for mail delivery.

Earrings from Asymmetrical Jewelry

Asymmetrical Jewelry ([email protected])

Thanks, again, Mark!

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