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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Any trends or popular fads may be described, whether it would be something like the hula hoop or the pet rock or simply new slang.

“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.

 

 

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!

Seth Meyer, Ribfest and the Gold Coast Art Show in Chicago (June 14-16, 2024)

lead singer of Hello Weekend

Hello Weekend at Ribfest on June 15, 2024.

hello weekend chicago highlights youtube

The cover band “Hello Weekend” consists of six members:  Christina Bagby and Connie Baltzell on vocals, Chris Brown on guitar, Scott Steele on bass, Ivan Dunki on drums and Bob the Bunny (who did not seem to be evident this night at Chicago’s Ribfest.) This line-up list was from a September 17, 2014 in The Daily Egyptian that serves Southern Illinois University, so the line-up may well be different 10 years later. (I definitely did not see someone who fit the description Bob the Bunny wearing a mask.)

There was a lot of discussion about the sexual identity of the lead singer. I maintain that the lead singer is female, but, at the point when the singer took off the long blonde wig to reveal a bald head, the discussion increased, with votes pro and con. Whoever sang lead, he/she was very good and very powerful. The Lady Gaga material seemed to be his/her favorite, which gave my companion some evidence for his point of view that the lead singer was simply a cross-dresser. Regardless of Christina’s true gender, she was one hell of a singer and we enjoyed the Chicago performance at RibFest, which followed a performance by an Irish folk band earlier at a different stage.

folk band performing at Chicago's Ribfest on June 15, 2024

Irish folk band also performing at Ribfest on a different stage on June 15, 2024.

The weekend began with the Seth Meyer performance at the Vic on Friday night, which was going to be filmed for a network special the next night. Much of the material had to do with Meyer’s three children, ages 8, 6 and 2. His description of his two-year-old daughter meeting President Biden was very funny and all of his material was fresh and fun. His lead-in was a comedian from Dubuque, Iowa, who likened his appearance as the lead-in to being the lead-in act for Pearl Jam when he would attend their concerts in his youth. He told a truthful story about his time as a ticket seller at a movie theater in Dubuque (which no longer exists). It seems that his entrepreneurial spirit caused him to charge ticket-goers for adult prices while ringing them in as children and pocketing the difference in the ticket prices. This ultimately led to corporate stepping in and closing the theater, firing all the employees, including Brooks, the comedian.

Tomorrow will be the Gold Coast Art Show within walking distance in Grant Park.

lead singer of Hello Weekend in Chicago

Lead singer of Hello Weekend at Ribfest on June 15, 2024.

Ribfest, June 15, 2024

Ribfest in Chicago on June 15, 2024

Connie Wilson at the Vic Theater in Chicago following Seth Meyer's comedy performance.

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

Scott Steele, bass guitarist for Hello Weekend

Scott Steele, bass guitar for Hello Weekend, at Ribfest.

Chicago in June: “Six” and Georgia O’Keeffe

"Six" the musical

“Six,” the musical, in Chicago

Chicago beckoned and, more specifically, the musical “Six” and the Georgia O’Keefe exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago.

I thoroughly enjoyed “Six,” the musical, which filled me in on the six wives of Henry VIII. I’m going to have to look up more about these six women, but the cheeky presentation with fantastic costumes, great songs and wonderful singing was all I had hoped it would be. One of my favorite exchanges came when one wife says, “What is more painful than a broken heart?” And Anne Boleyn sidles up to her and answers, “A severed head.” Two of Henry’s ex-es were de-capitated, as you may remember, but this Cliff’s Notes version of history focuses more on clever singing, costuming and dancing and less on a prose historical recitation of Henry’s marital woes. Since pictures within the auditorium (the Nederlander, formerly the Oriental Theater) are strictly forbidden, the picture of the playbook cover and the crowd outside will have to suffice.

After the play—which ended up costing me dearly, especially for parking at $67.50 for 24 hours, when I only needed 2 hours—I walked across the street to Macy’s and enjoyed their chicken pot pie in the Walnut Room while doing a bit of shopping.

Chicago

Chicago

Chicago

"Six" crowd before the play

Outside the Nederlander Theater before the matinee showing of “Six” on June 5, 2024.

The next trip was on foot to the Art Institute of Chicago, which I have been a member of since about 2003. Thursday afternoons are free after 5 p.m., but I needed to re-up my membership, anyway, and strolled through the Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit.

I have to admit that all I knew about Georgia O’Keeffe was that she was a female artist associated with painting close-up pictures of flowers and the American Southwest. I knew  little about her other than that, so I sat at a table and read a children’s book about her life, which began in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, on November 15, 1887. O’Keefe is considered the “Mother of American Modernism” and died on March 6, 1986 at the age of 98.

One fact that was not in the small children’s book was that her painting Jimson Weed/White Flower #1 was purchased for $44,405,000 in 1932. This was a record amount for a painting by a female American painter. Someone really liked her close-up pictures of flowers. Those close-ups of flowers created controversy when Okeeffe’s husband (Alfred Stieglitz), who was a world class photographer, published some racy photos of O’Keeffe, thereby fueling the suggestion that the floral pictures she painted actually represented female genitalia (she denied this.)

A salient fact in exhibiting O’Keeffe’s work in Chicago is that, after graduating from high school in Madison, Wisconsin, with time also spent in Williamsburg, Virginia where her family had moved in 1902, she studied in Chicago at the School of the Art Institute until 1920. (Georgia was the second of 7 children and had 3 sisters—Ida, Anita and Claudia— and 3 brothers.)

Georgia O'Keeffe painting of NYC

George O’Keeffe painting of NYC skyscrapers

Georgia’s career got off to a faster start when Alfred Stieglitz, who owned an art gallery, decided to champion her work and put on an exhibit of her work. That exhibit took place in 1917, although the children’s biography I was reading suggested that they did not, initially, hit it off personally. By 1924 that had changed, as Alfred, who was married, dumped his wife to marry Georgia on December 11th of 1924. They would live on the 30th floor of a hotel in New York City and Georgia would paint many pictures of the East River that was visible from their apartment and, also, would put her impressions of the New York City skyscraper environment on canvas.

However, in 1929 she began spending time in New Mexico, going back and forth to New York City, while Alfred took up with a younger model. He was old at the time and the couple did not divorce, with Alfred dying in 1946. Alfred was deeply jealous of Georgia during their marriage; his own field was photography, which he felt should be just as important in the art world as painting. Although the couple stuck it out and did not divorce, Alfred is often described as “abusive.”

Georgia O'Keeffe SW painting

Georgia O’Keeffe Southwest painting

Following Alfred’s death Georgia moved to New Mexico permanently in 1949, staying there for 40 years and spending time at what was called Ghost Ranch in Abiquia. She ended up, ultimately, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her most famous works, therefore, center on the American Southwest but this exhibit contains many pictures of New York and New York City, a sub-set of her output.

Georgia and Alfred did not divorce and she did stay with him till the end of his life, but, like so many other widows, she lived to the ripe old age of 98, having been widowed at age 59. So, for 39 years Georgia was making art that you can see on exhibit now at the Chicago Art Institute.

 

“Georgia O’Keeffe: ‘My New Yorks’” — the subtitle borrowing a phrase the artist coined for these urban works — offers the first major look at this subset of her abundant output. It opens June 2 and runs through Sept. 22nd.

Georgia O'Keeffe skull painting

Georgia O’Keeffe skull painting

Spectators at the Chicago Art Institute.

Spectators at the Chicago Art Institute on June 6, 2024.

Spectators at the Chicago Art Institute on June 6, 2024.

Spectators at the Chicago Art Institute Georgia O’Keeffe exhibit on June 6, 2024.

Georgia O'Keeffe painting at the Chicago Art Institute on June 6, 2024.

Georgia O’Keeffe painting at the Chicago Art Institute on June 6, 2024.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Georgia O'Keeffe painting of the East River from the 30th floor of her New York City apartment.

Georgia O’Keeffe painting of the East River from the 30th floor of her New York City apartment.

 

 

 

 

This painting represents the view of New York City’s East River from the 30th floor of the hotel where Georgia and Alfred Stieglitz lived.

 

 

 

 

FAMOUS GEORGIA O’KEEFFE QUOTES:

“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life—and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I wanted to do.” “To create one’s world in any of the arts takes courage.” “You get whatever accomplishment you are willing to declare.”

“Interest is the most important thing in life; happiness is temporary, but interest is continuous.” •

“To create one’s own world, in any of the arts, takes courage.” • “Singing has always seemed to me the most perfect means of expression. It is so spontaneous. And after singing, I think the violin.”

Glen Powell Inducted into Texas Hall of Fame (5/15/2024)

Glen Powell

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

Hollywood heartthrob and Austin (Texas) native Glen Powell was inducted into the Texas Hall of Fame at the Paramount Theater in downtown Austin (Texas) on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. Powell’s newest film, directed by Austin director Richard Linklater, “Hit Man” screened after his remarks to the assembled audience.

The Netflix extravaganza was by random drawing from those who were members of the Austin Film Society and there were assigned seats throughout the venue. While I would normally have attempted to apply for Press Credentials, our original plans were to leave town on Monday, but things changed for us and, when I learned I would be in town after all, I applied and was selected for the screening.

Lots of directions were sent to us, including where to park for free parking. I, of course, could not find the right parking area, and ended up paying $51 for parking. But the movie (and the free popcorn and pop that was provided) were well worth that price of admission. Much like tickets to movies in Chicago for members of the corresponding Chicago film society, you have to show up early to claim them, and that meant 5:45 p.m. I thought I’d dine at the nearby Roaring Fork restaurant in downtown Austin, my favorite restaurant in the city, but that was not to be, as we were herded in and basically spent the time waiting around for the induction of Powell, which was to precede the showing of his new film at 7:30 p.m.

Hit Man Ticket.

Hit Man Ticket.

I was given a seat quite near the front of the stage, which was great. My only problem was that all the photographers working kept standing in front of me, but I still managed to get the shots you’ll see here.

Powell was introduced by local Austin director Robert Rodriguez, who shared that he had been the first to cast Powell in a film when he was 14 years old. (Powell is now 35). The film was “Spy Kids 3D: Game Over” and young Powell worked alongside Antonio Banderas, Carla Gugino, Holland Taylor, Ricardo Montalban, Sylvester Stallone, Salma Hayek, Mike Judge, Cheech Marin, Salma Hayek and Alan Cumming. Rodriguez wrote and directed the film and it started Powell on a film career that has included such films as “Top Gun: Maverick (2022), “Anyone But You,” “The Dark Night Rises” (2012), “Hidden Figures,” “Devotion” and—coming soon—“Twisters.”

When we entered the theater, there were white cowboy hats on some seats, which were assigned to Powell family members. At the end of the entire evening, many of the friends and family that Powell called out during his brief speech joined him onstage for photos.

Powell family members gather at the end of the evening for photos.

Richard Linklater and Glen Powell

Richard Linklater and Glen Powell on May 15, 2024, at the screening of his new Netflix film “Hit Man.”

Powell seems to be a genuinely good guy, who thanked four of his teachers, present for the film and the ceremony. Peggy Langford, Powell’s kindergarten teacher earned a shout-out. Fifth grade teacher Julia Allen earned kudos, with the additional comment that she taught him about working for what you want and delayed gratification. “Thank you for that lesson,” he said. “It’s really paid off. Coach Wood instilled in Powell the importance of “showing up” and a counselor (whose surname I will probably butcher), Michelle Caterez helped young Powell “work the system” when he continued to try to continue acting. “Thank you for continuing to game the system” he said, with a smile. Tenth grade Creative Writing teacher Dr. Shack let Powell attempt to learn screenwriting while still in high school, and introduced him to Director Richard Linklater, as well as Linklater’s long-time editor, Sandra Adair, who was the editor for this night’s film. It’s pretty impressive when someone famous hands out kudos to the teachers who helped them along the way, (says the teacher who taught from 1969 until 2005).

The most touching moment came when Powell thanked his always-supportive parents, who were always there for him. “It’s incredible to have wonderful parents,” he said, “truly incredible.” (Brief pause) He described how his parents were present for every one of his 26 performances in “The Sound of Music” as a young boy. He also said that his kindergarten teacher had told his parents to encourage his interest in performing.

Richard Linklater.

Writer Director Richard Linklater in Austin on March 15th.

He threw in mentions of Aunts Honey and Taffy, sisters Lauren and Leslie, and his father, the original Glen Powell.

I’ve attended other inductions into the Texas Hall of Fame (and photographed same). This one was more personal and more meaningful, as it highlighted a rising star who has already achieved his goal but will undoubtedly continue on an upward trajectory.

Director Robert Rodriguez and Glen Powell.

Powell with Robert Rodriguez, his first director.

Retta in Hit Man.

Retta at the Paramount.

Connie Wilson

Enjoying the evening. which was truly memorable. My new found friend (in line) was in the Mezzanine.

Glen Powell

Glen Powell

 

Adria Arjona

Adria Arjona, co-star of “Hit Man” onstage at the Paramount Theater in Austin, Texas on May 15, 2024.

 

Glen Powell & Richard Linklater Hit It Big with “Hit Man” on May 15, 2024

Austin’s own Richard Linklater and Netflix showed his latest film, “Hit Man,” to a packed audience on Wednesday, May 15th at the Paramount Theater in downtown Austin. Prior to the showing of the comedy/film noir, its lead and co-writer, Glen Powell, was inducted into the Texas Hall of Fame, established in 2001 by Linklater to honor those Texans who excel in the film world.

The film was a delight and will start streaming on Netflix in the very near future. It will also be showing at the Alamo Drafthouse Chain in Austin (release date June 7, 2024).  The 1 hour 55 minute film is well worth your time. It is based on a true story, as is often the case with Linklater’s films, but poetic license has been taken with the plot. There really was a Gary Johnson, however, who was profiled by Skip Hollandsworth in “Texas Monthly” magazine. Gary Johnson was a college professor and tech guy turned mole for the New Orleans police department (70 arrests). Linklater, who knew the man and had access to records of Johnson’s police work, described him as “the chillest dude ever.”

Richard Linklater and Glen Powell on May 15, 2024, at the screening of his new Netflix film “Hit Man.”

The synopsis on IMDB describes the plot this way:  “A professor moonlighting as a hit man of sorts for his city police department, descends into dangerous, dubious territory when he finds himself attracted to a woman who enlists his services.”  I was reminded of “BlacKkKlansman,” where the real-life exploits of Ron Stallworth as a Black man joining the Ku Klux Klan were explored. The difference in tone between the two films, however, is vast. That’s good news for the audience.

This “Hit Man” (not to be confused with the Michael Fassbender recent release)  is a screwball comedy/film noir with an original plot and excellent acting by Powell, co-star Adria Arjona (“Father of the Bride”) and Retta (“Good Girls”). The screenplay, co-written by Linklater and Powell, was hammered out during phone calls during Covid (“we were never in the same room”), and the film premiered at the Italian film festival in September, during the writers’ strike, causing Linklater to appear pretty much solo to his expressed chagrin.

Since the title character, Gary Johnson, is a college professor, moonlighting as a pretend hit-man, we get some uncharacteristic depth of thought about life and “the eternal mystery of human consciousness and behavior.” Powell’s character says, “I had a knack for being the person they needed me to be” of his hit man persona and adds, “I had somehow found my stage.”

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

The talented (and good-looking) Powell, seen in the comedy “Anyone But You” as well as “Top Gun: Maverick” (2022), has been aiming at a Hollywood career since age 14, when he appeared in “Spy Kids 3D: Game Over.” His remarks prior to the film reveal an Austin native who loves Texas and loves making movies. (“The most fun job on the planet.”)

More about his touching remarks about family (he choked up at one point) and significant teachers (he called out four of them in the audience by name) after discussing this truly interesting look at the life of a bogus hit man.  Powell says “All pie is good pie” a lot, in the encounters that we see onscreen, and I’ll add, “All plot twists here are good twists” building on that.

THE SCRIPT

The screenwriting duo (Linklater and Powell) apparently had a great time writing the script during Covid and the cast contributed by improvising some of the best lines that remain in the film. Co-star Sanjay Rao (Phil) said his favorite line (of Retta’s) that made it into  the final film was her remark that she would “rip out my IUD for Ron,” the cool guy persona that Gary Johnson adopted for his encounters with would-be customers. (That line brought a big laugh from the crowd).

It is not often that we get a philosophical discussion of the difference between cat people and dog people in an otherwise comic film. “Dogs are too needy. They’re like people. We beg for more…embarrass ourselves for the scraps of others.” Another line that amused was the remark that if a man is sitting alone, reading “Catcher in the Rye,” “historically speaking, that is never a good sign.”

The depth of the discussion(s) of change and role playing, the Id versus the Ego, and morality, as such, is unusual for a comedy that we might call “lightweight.” It IS lightweight, in the sense that this expert ensemble has turned a complex plot with loads of frothy humor into an exploration of so many deeper issues., one being change.

A few lines to illustrate:

“Your reality will change over time in ways that you cannot even imagine.”

“Seize the identity you want for yourself. Life is short. You gotta’ live on your own terms.”

And, in a line reminiscent of Tom Cruise in Risky Business, “Sometimes, you just gotta’ make a move.” (Sidelight: Cruise, who headlined “Top Gun: Maverick” (2022), where we see Powell playing beach volleyball, paid for Powell to take flying lessons, so Powell is now a registered pilot.)

THE SEX SCENES

Editor Sandra Adair (who visited Powell’s classroom when he was in high school), after editing one of the film’s truly hot sex scenes said, “I thought the screen was going to melt in the editing room!” (Side note: the film’s 35-year-old leading man supposedly broke up with his model girlfriend in 2023.)

Adria Arjona, co-star of “Hit Man” onstage at the Paramount Theater in Austin, Texas on May 15, 2024.

There are so many good sex scenes that it’s hard to point to which ones are the best. There’s the dancing sene in a nightclub called Virgo. There’s the tub scene. There’s the role play when Aria’s character, Madison “Maddy” Figueros, dresses up as a flight attendant to play seductress. The chemistry onscreen is hot, hot, hot. After the movie, during the Q&A, Adria Arjana said, “You have seen a lot of me tonight.”

The IMDB website gives the release date as June 7th. It’s a very good movie. It’s original, and you’ll enjoy it on so many levels. The cell phone scene alone is worth the price of admission.

Don’t miss this Hit Man. And remember when discussing the plot’s resolution: “There are no absolutes, oral or epistemological, in life.”

(*Induction into the Texas Hall of Fame remarks to follow; stay tuned).

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