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

Category: Texas Page 1 of 10

The Eagles with Steely Dan in Austin at the Moody Center on Feb. 3, 2024

“The Iron Claw” Revisits Pro Wrestling’s Von Erich Family

Since  (Scott) Beck & (Bryan) Woods selected “The Iron Claw” to open their new Davenport (Iowa) theater, and it is doing well at the box office, while Jeremy Allen White is really gaining steam as a leading man, I went to see “The Iron Claw” here in Texas. Texas is definitely Von Erich territory, site of the Dallas Sportatorium where much of the wrestling matches of yesteryear took place. (“Please note: There will be spoilers.)

“The Iron Claw” recounts the mostly “true story of the inseparable Von Erich brothers, who made history in the intensely competitive world of professional wrestling in the early 1980s. Through tragedy and triumph, under the shadow of their domineering father and coach, the brothers seek larger-than-life immortality on the biggest stage in sports.” “The Iron Claw” is the mostly true story of a wrestling family whose real surname was Adkinsson. Their stage name in the wrestling world was Von Erich. Jack Barton Adkisson wrestled under the name Fritz Von Erich and then encouraged his sons, Kerry, Kevin, David and Michael, to follow him into the ring. (*Son Chris also wrestled, but less successfully than his brothers, and is not depicted in this film, for reasons that don’t seem to make sense.)

CAST

Written and directed by Sean Durkin (“Martha Marcy May Marlene” and TV’s “Dead Ringers”), “The Iron Claw” stars Zac Efron (“High School Musical 3:  Senior Year”); Jeremy Allen White, who first came to my attention as the character Lip (Philip) in the television series “Shameless;” and Maura Tierney of “The Affair.”  Holt McAllany (“Mindhunter,” “Fight Club”) was the standout for me, and when you check out his credits, that is not surprising. Lily James as Pam, Kevin’s wife, is also very good, and Bill Mercer as Michael J. Harney is also good in his part.

However, I came to see Jeremy Allen White, and for more than an hour, I thought I’d walked into the wrong movie.

Jeremy Allen White is hot, right now, as the star of the television series “The Bear.” He walked off with the Golden Globe and the Critics Choice awards in the past week. You really get the feeling that Jeremy is slated for great things dramatically. This film, unfortunately, doesn’t give him that much to do. He doesn’t have the physicality of Zac Efron, but, considering the lengths to which Zac Efron went, maybe that is a good thing. Jeremy admitted on the late night talk shows that he was a novice to the wrestling world. (He gave much credit to Chavo Guerrero, who both instructed the non-wrestlers in the cast and portrayed the character The Iron Sheikh.)

The two other brothers we see portrayed onscreen are David Von Erich (Harris Dickinson of “Beach Rats”) and Michael Von Erich (Stanley Simons, “Angelfish”).

FACTS NOT IN EVIDENCE

According to Wikipedia, Fritz and wife Doris had six sons: Jack Barton Jr. (September 21, 1952 – March 7, 1959), Kevin (born May 15, 1957), David (July 22, 1958 – February 10, 1984), Kerry (February 3, 1960 – February 18, 1993), Mike (March 2, 1964 – April 12, 1987) and Chris (September 30, 1969 – September 12, 1991). Of Adkisson’s six sons, Kevin was the only one still living by the time Adkisson died in 1997.

The couple later separated and Doris divorced her husband on July 21, 1992 after 42 years of marriage.” The movie didn’t make any mention of the exact manner in which the couple’s first child, Jack Jr., died, but Wikipedia says that it was an accidental electrocution and drowning when the child was just 7 years old. The movie also did not mention the youngest child, Chris, and the couple’s divorce after 42 years of marriage was also glossed over. (Adkisson died of lung and brain cancer just 5 years after the divorce.)

PLOT

Kevin Von Erich, the only surviving Von Erich brother.

The movie references the fact that the family is cursed.

As the plot unfolds, it seems to be more a case of the overbearing father’s parenting techniques than of a curse.  Kevin’s wife, Pamela says there is a belief in good or bad luck and then there is the belief that we make our own luck. It seems that the constant emphasis on being the best and being strong and winning drove three of his sons to kill themselves. The script repeatedly articulates this thought:“If we were the toughest,  the strongest, the most successful, nothing could ever hurt us.” That turns out to be bad advice, and the underlying message seems to be that men should be allowed to have a vulnerable, sensitive side.

There were some things in the film that were murky. For instance, did Daddy Fritz embezzle money, either from his hard-working sons or from the promoters who underwrote his wrestling emporium? Why did writer/director Sean Durkin decide to leave the youngest son, Chris—who also committed suicide at 21—out of the movie? Yes, I read that he thought 3 sons who killed themselves was just one too many, but Chris, the baby, had the most cause, as he didn’t have the physical gifts of his older brothers and was struggling to fit in. That would seem to have been a good plot point, as the four brothers who were better known were generally gifted athletes. In fact, Kerry (Jeremy Allen White) is only shown joining the family business after Jimmy Carter took the U.S. out of the 1982 Olympics and, therefore, destroyed Kerry’s hopes of going to the Olympics as a discus competitor.

For that matter, why didn’t he give Doris, portrayed by seasoned veteran Maura Tierney (“The Affair”) more dramatic eulogy scenes at any of the funerals for her sons? Maura Tierney could have hit that ball out of the park. Instead, she has a very pedestrian part that could have been so much more. Opportunity lost.

Was son Kerry’s motorcycle accident no more than that? The way it is portrayed in the film, it looks like that might also have been a suicidal gesture. And brother David’s (Harris Dickinson) insistence that he is “okay” when he is vomiting blood also seemed self-destructive and suicidal. (He dies in Japan from a ruptured intestine.)

I was surprised that Jeremy Allen White didn’t appear in the film until roughly an hour into the 2 hour 12 minute movie. Jeremy Allen White is white-hot right now, coming off his Golden Globe, Critics Choice and Emmy wins for his lead role in “The Bear.”

The actor who impressed me the most was not any of those who got top billing, but Holt McCallany who played the boys’ father. He was awesome. While everyone was impressed by how ripped Zac Efron appeared as Kevin Von Erich, at only 5’ 8” he looked too animalistic for my tastes. The other actors portraying the Von Erich brothers appeared more “normal” in appearance.

I also thought the “meeting in heaven” was odd. It’s nice to have a happy ending, but the failure to portray one dead brother (Chris) at all just made it seem weird, to me.

I was never much of a pro wrestling fan, but I enjoyed the film. Also a small shout-out to Aaron Dean Eisenberg, who portrayed Ric Flair with—-well, flair. He was a hoot.

Looking for the Perfect Canine for Christmas? These Dogs May—or May Not—Be Your Choice

Thanksgiving, 2023, is officially in the books.

We spent it at the movies (“Napoleon”) but before I write that review for the film that opened wide on November 22nd, a little levity looking forward to the most commercial holiday of the season might be appropriate. And these dogs might be your choice for a forever friend. (Or not).

German Shepherd

German Shepherd dog

In scanning the November 21st issue of the “Austin American Statesman” for potential topics, I was first attracted to this headline:  “Husband Asks Spouse to Annoy His Parents to Motivate Them to Leave.”

That sounded promising, but, in my usual manner, I continued scanning the various articles and read this one, which had a much-less-amusing title:  “Shelter Places Dogs Cut From TSA Training.”

It sounded like an informative straight-ahead news story, and I like dogs as well as the next man—err, woman—so I read on.

Apparently, there is a special animal shelter  at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland that is used to house dogs rejected for government service, like the canines used to sniff out drugs by the TSA.

The purpose of the article seemed to be to find “forever homes” for these furry rejects for government service. The article even contained an e-mail address that applicants could use:  [email protected]. The article went on to say that multiple visits to San Antonio might be required to meet the animal and make sure the prospective new owners would be a good fit for the animal(s).  It was further advised that the prospective owners should arrive at the training center on adoption day with a leash, a collar, and appropriately-sized shipping crate. (Nothing like being prepared and explicit, I always say.)

So, what sorts of animals might we be competing to own?

Let’s just run through a few of the rejected animals awaiting our applications in San Antonio.

Black Labrador Retriever

Toby

First, there is Toby. Toby is a 10-year-old Labrador Retriever (the very dog I owned as a child). Toby was rejected for service because of situational anxiety causing him to suck in more air than necessary which made him become bloated. Like all the other animals on the list, Toby was described as highly active, untrained, and not housebroken, but, (said the article) “with proper training and care they can be a great addition to families.”

Second on the list was Lydka, a 3-year-old German Shepherd who actually made it into service as a bomb-sniffing dog. Unfortunately, Lydka was easily distracted by noise and people and didn’t do well under pressure. She was fired for her performance on the job  and requires a more stress-free environment.

Third on the list was Tommy, a 3-year-old English Springer Spaniel, who was dismissed because he developed an upper airway obstruction.

Jack, a 2-year-old German Shepherd, never even made it into training because of suspected kidney disease.

English Springer Spaniel

Tommy

Most of the dogs have not been exposed to any animals other than other dogs and are not comfortable around small children. To be considered for selection as the adoptive owner, the prospective owner must have a fenced-in yard and no plans to move within 6 months of the adoption. Any other pets already in the home must be up to date on vaccination and preventative care. Of course, the prospective owner must also promise to provide appropriate medical care, exercise, training and companionship.

So, if you are available to adopt a non-housebroken, highly active, possibly sick canine that flunked out of TSA (or other) school, feel free to contact the San Antonio-Lackland Joint Base. Sounds like the perfect Christmas pet, doesn’t it?

Family Fest 2023 in Austin, Texas Is In the Books

My son (Scott) and his wife (Jessica) and their girls (14-year-old twins Ava and Elise) just concluded another successful Family Fest at their home in Austin, Texas.

People normally fly in from St. Louis, Denver, the Quad Cities, Boston, Nashville and our numbers have been as high as 30, although this year there were some defections in the ranks and we topped out at 14.

Of that number, eleven slept at his house and three of us commuted back and forth from the Hills of Bear Creek (Mench aaca) 3.3 miles away.

On Sunday, most of the group floated for 3 and ½ hours down a river in inner tubes. I think it was the Calumne River, but don’t quote me on that.

Son Scott grilled many things: sausage, ribs, brisket. Jessica made many delicious side dishes and I contributed a Texas sheet cake and deviled eggs. On Labor Day we had a birthday cake for the 2-year-old, Winnie Eddy.

Craig, Connie, Stacey, Megan (blue suit kids).

The Ken Paxton impeachment trial is ongoing, creating a major political scandal in the Longhorn state. The “New York Times” was covering it on an hourly basis.

There was a shoot-out in nearby Buda today and the temperature here is predicted to top 100 degrees for the foreseeable future.

Most days and nights, we staked out the pool, playing water volleyball, bags, and other games. Only one board game was used, Baby boomers versus Millennials, which was way too easy.

A birthday cake was secured for Winnie Eddy, the youngest member of the group, who had recently turned two.

Wrigley, the dog, had a good time and neighbors Bill Kohl and Satch and Brandi Nanda and daughter Kira stopped by, along with the Beans from next door, who came with Jackson, Penny and Milly in tow. (Penny was very excited about the idea of a baby in the house.)

 

 

 

Scott at outdoor bar in Buda, Texas.

A good time was had by all.

Texas Woman Attacked by Snake and Hawk While Mowing Lawn

Charlie Brown

According to “This Week” magazine, a Texas woman was attacked by a hawk and a snake at the same time, while mowing her lawn.

Peggy Jones was on a riding lawn mower when it is likely that a passing hawk dropped a four-foot long snake on her, which coiled around her arm.

The hawk returned to retrieve its meal, attacking four times and leaving talon marks on Mrs. Jones.

The bird ultimately flew off with the snake, leaving Ms. Jones, covered in blood, to rush to the nearest emergency room.

When she told the emergency room doctor her story, he asked if she was on drugs.

Peggy Jones:  “It was a very bizarre, harrowing experience.”

Cubs Win Against Cardinals on July 21, 2023

We are in Chicago and journeyed to Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs battle the St. Louis Cardinals today (July 21, 2023).

We took an Uber to the game ($40), which was probably in deference to the elder members of the group. (That would definitely be me and my spouse.) When we were going to return, the price was $60 so we took the ell, which turned out to be a free trip when the machine wouldn’t take my son’s credit card. The subway guru told all six of us to go on through.

The party included son Scott and wife Jessica and my twin granddaughters, Ava and Elise, age 14. Among other things, we’re celebrating my birthday on 7/23.

We were originally slated to have a seventh participant, but issues such as removal of a skin cancer and the delivery of plants derailed that idea.

Because we shopped for merchandise on the way into the park the bleachers were filling, but we successfully found a spot in the left field bleachers.

Mind you: I am not a big baseball fan.

When I returned from 3 months in Europe (People-to-People exchange student in 1967) my now husband—who had missed me, [as I had missed him], thought the first thing I would want to do upon my arrival in Chicago would be to attend a double header Cubs baseball game.

It was one of the longest days of my life.

The interesting thing, to me, was that everyone around me was speaking English. I had not experienced that in three months. I told my son not to get me a ticket for today’s game, but my daughter couldn’t join us; I hated to have him waste $80 x 2 for two unused tickets. We all suggested that he sell them, but they were on his phone, which seemed to be a hurdle. (How do you pass off a ticket that is on your phone to another person’s phone? Don’t ask me. I don’t know how to get them onto my phone in the first place.)

The weather was perfect—breezy, warm but not hot, just perfect. Plus, all of us had dressed for the occasion. The Cubs hit two home runs and took an early lead (4 to 1), but nearly blew it in the 8th and 9th innings. (And, yes, I made it through the entire 9 innings, and I want that on my record.)

The problem, for me, was that bleachers don’t have a “back” to lean against. I never had back problems until I took Anastrozole for 7 months, post cancer surgery. Or, at least, I didn’t know I had arthritis in my spine or whatever ailment it was that caused truly horrible back aches (and insomnia). The Anastrozole did a real number on my left knee and—out of the blue—my back would hurt so badly (right where you bend at the waist) that I searched through my left-over Oxycontin (root canal left-over) looking for some sort of pain reliever that worked. Unfortunately, you can’t take Oxycontin with a benzodiazepan, so no dice. Nothing ever did work. The other side effects included mood swings, dry skin, teariness, vision problems and vivid violent nightmares. So THAT was fun—(not).

Nothing helped. Ultimately, I had to discontinue taking Anastrozole or any other aromatase inhibitor. My left knee (injured in a biking accident in 1997 and in an Iowa City MOST knee study for 25 years) blew out on 9/15/2022. When I reported that to my Moline oncologist that the combination of old age and a previous knee injury, coupled with Anastrozole, had caused my left knee to quit working while I was simply walking along a Chicago street (“Cancer: the gift that keeps on taking.”) my Moline oncologist denied that there could be any connection between my back pain and/or my knee blowing out  and said, in writing through the patient portal, “The only side effect from taking Anastrozole is a little stiffness in your hands, and it goes away when you quit taking it.” And if you believe that, I have a bridge for sale.

All my communication with the oncologist between February 8th and August 8th were through the patient portal and what I have come to call his “minions.” He never saw me himself in that 6 months, which has always seemed derelict. Yes, I was scheduled for appointments, but he was never there. The minions—at least 3 different ones—were interchangeably assigned.

I’m not sure the oncologist would have seen me on August 8th if my surgeon had not called him up and said, “You need to see this patient.” . It is probably a good idea to see your cancer-stricken patient personally more than once every half year. And perhaps it would have been a good idea to have ordered an oncotype for me from the very beginning, since that determines the patient’s  treatment path but also will provide some peace-of-mind regarding the possibility of a recurrence in the future. Why wasn’t it ordered? A different doctor in the system suggested, “He doesn’t like to be dinged by Medicare.” Which, if you are the patient, is not very reassuring.

My surgeon on August 7th suggested a Ki67 test, which would have determined the aggressiveness of the tumor and might perhaps given me some peace of mind. I asked the oncologist about it repeatedly through the patient portal. No dice.

And the oncotype, which my Texas oncologist said would have meant three bouts of chemotherapy for me had I been his patient, took 17 months to secure. The “minions” (all female… nurses, Physicians’ Assistants, etc.) were the only individuals who ever met with me from February 8th until August 8th and nobody seemed willing to order either an oncotype (considered Standard of Care since 2013) or a Ki-67. In fact, my Illinois oncologist—who had dodged me successfully for half a year—[while I had been asking about the Ki-67 test recommended by my surgeon for, literally, months through the patient portal]— said, “I won’t order that for you; you’ll have to get somebody else.”

So, I did. And I’d recommend to other future Unity Point (Moline, Illinois) patients that they remember that today’s mantra for medical care seems to be YOYO (“You’re On Your Own”). I certainly felt that way as I asked, time and time again, about ordering a Ki-67 and, time and time again, I was told by the minions, “That is a question you should take up with the doctor at your next appointment.”

Except that it didn’t seem very likely that I’d ever see the oncologist, in person, again.

And the minions did not listen well to anything you might share with them, such as the fact that I would not be in the Midwest for the April 6th appointment they claimed I had made (when they called me in Texas to “remind” me of the non-appointment.) What about “I won’t be back in the Midwest until at least May is difficult to understand? And why did it take until May to do a bone scan, when I began taking Anastrozole in February? And why did Medicare deny the claim for that bone scan for literally months, when I had not had one since 2019? Someone  should have taken a look at my weakening bones (osteopaenia verging on osteoporosis) before my previously injured left knee quit on September 15, 2023.

There is an entire study of medicine (AIMSS, since the sixties) devoted to aromatase inhibitor drugs and their effect on bones and muscles (especially if the joint has been damaged previously.) My oncologist—-finally learning of all of my side effects over half a year in—  said, “Don’t take it then.” Then he walked out, leaving me to try to figure out what the next logical step should be for prevention of a recurrence of breast cancer (the purpose of Anastrozole.)

Since I was never ordered an oncotype when I began bringing it up (Dec.. 2021), and an oncotype  is normally a guide to treatment as well as a guide to the probability of a recurrence, I had no idea how likely I was to have to go through another surgery. I likened my feelings of being totally and completely at sea to a small child standing at the edge of a frozen lake, wondering if the ice is thick enough to  hold.  An oncotype of my tumor might have yielded that kind of information, but I was simply told, “You don’t need one” and I tried very hard to be a good compliant patient for a very long (too long) time.

Was my tumor that small and insignificant? It was 11 mm. Why did I “not need one” when I only found one other woman (out of 60,000 on WebMD), who didn’t get one? Beats the heck out of me, but I will say that it took until March of 2023 (from my initial query at the very first appointment in December of 2021) to finally get an oncotype from a different doctor in a different state, who was not overly impressed with what I wrote down and presented to both the Texas doctor and the Iowa City doctor. (The Iowa City oncologist said, “Why do you think most of the Quad City patients come here?” Why, indeed.)

I asked for referrals to “good Quad City oncologists who listen to you” in Iowa City —citing remarks made to me (and others) like, “Last time I saw you, if you had had a gun, I think you would have shot me” and “After talking to you three girls (former employees of mine whose mother was a patient), I need therapy.” If those strike you as unprofessional remarks, no kidding.

To hear how Diana (my employees’ mother) begged her oncologist (also my oncologist) to run a test to see if her cancer had spread and to hear how he would not do it was upsetting. Her breast cancer, which had recurred after many years, spread to her pancreas and killed her. But when her daughters attempted to take her to the Mayo Clinic her oncologist said, “I interned there. I know everything they know.” O……K……

After 17 months, a Texas oncologist finally secured the oncotype I inquired about in December of 2021, which my Moline oncologist simply dismissed, saying, “You don’t need one.” Not only that, the Texas oncologist spent 2 hours of his time meeting with me,  after hours, when everyone had gone home. (He was working late after hours because there had been an ice storm and all of his week’s appointments had to be canceled and then re-scheduled.)

The Texas doctor vowed to get me the test I asked about, which normally would have been done in January of 2022 after the 1/27/2022 surgery. It showed that my % of recurrence, according to the oncotype, would be 18% if I took Tamoxifen and 36% if I did not take this drug . The score of 29 was not a good one; 25 was the cut-off for chemotherapy/ I flunked an ultra sound test on 1/25/2023 at my one-year anniversary, and had to have a diagnostic mammogram on Valentine’s Day, during which I learned for the very first time that there was calcification on the left side as well as the (bad) right side. I had never been told that previously about the left breast and the thought that flashed through my mind was that it had taken 3 years for the calcification on the right to become a tumor and I’m coming up on 3 years of calcification on the left soon.

I suffered through a stereotactic biopsy in 2018 at Trinity (with no warning that needles were the order of the day, but a letter reaching me 3 days after the 2018 test telling me that I should “consult with your physician about your next step.”) A bit late for that. I cannot recall ever being given a “heads up” about the left-side calcification until the 2/14/2023 diagnostic mammogram.

Therefore, I have agreed with my Texas oncologist that taking one of the drugs that are considered adjuvant therapy (mentioned below) is in my best interests. However, the prevailing opinion is that I am one of the women who absolutely cannot tolerate aromatase inhibitors. (Clinical trials are underway in St. Louis at Washington University to determine who can benefit from them and who might become suicidal if taking them, which has happened.)

I am between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Iowa City seems to think that, “If it recurs, you just come back and we do it all over again.” (actual quote). My Texas oncologist said, “I’m not worried about it coming back on the contralateral side. I’m worried about it going some place else.”

My Moline oncologist never suggested taking any other medication after my 7 months on Anastrozole. He got up and left the room when I tried to share the symptoms I had experienced, saying, “Don’t take it then.” I thought we would discuss alternatives, but that didn’t happen.

I had to be wheeled in a wheelchair to my first post-surgical mammogram on October 3rd, because of my knee blowing out in Chicago on September 15th. I  spent 6 months hobbling with a cane or using a wheelchair before my knee recovered from the inflammation caused by Anastrozole. Injections at a knee joint pain clinic in Oak Park (32 ml of an anti-inflammatory; 6 ml of Durolane) helped (on 9/21/2022), and four sets of orthopaedic surgeons in 3 states have weighed in. Tramadol (50 mg) was prescribed for pain. The precise cause has never been pinned down because I didn’t have an MRI.  I would put hard cold cash that the Anastrozole was one of the reasons my knee gave up the ghost. My Moline oncologist—who is on record as saying the ONLY side effect is “a little stiffness in your hands”—would disagree. If he physically showed up in front of the 60,000 WebMD women, they would probably stone him.

My Texas oncologist said that, had I been his patient at the outset, I would have had three bouts of chemotherapy. That ship has sailed. It had been nine months of cold turkey no drugs at all before I flunked the ultra sound and was told “get thee to an oncologist ASAP.” I wrote all of this down in detail and gave a copy to both of my current doctors. I heard the Texas doctor discussing it with a female breast specialist in the hall. They were appalled. (They didn’t know I could overhear their remarks because the door was ajar.)

Now I am taking a different drug (Tamoxifen). It’s been around since the sixties and can give you blood clots that cause heart attacks and strokes and endometrial cancer. Not fun prospects. And yet the other survivors on WebMD describe many, many horrible side effects for every single one of the drugs (either blockers or drugs designed to stomp out estrogen in your body) we are told to take. It is difficult to understand why this wealth of 60,000 survivors is not being more fully utilized to let doctors who seem to be in denial into the information loop about what really happens to many female survivors on these drugs.

I’m not sure if Tamoxifen is implicated in the back pain at the ball game, or if it is simply old age and arthritis, but the over two hour baseball game, (which I went to in order to use my daughter’s ticket), will probably be the last time I  sit on bleachers at a Cubs game. I am so happy that my son and family came to Chicago to cheer me on on my birthday. I’m so I’m glad it was a Cubs win. I’m happy I made it through the day and I hope I was a good sport. (I tried).

Meanwhile, if you are a cancer patient in the Quad Cities, take note:: YOYO.

Volleyball for Four Days in Chicago

Volleyball for Four Days in Chicago

Elise is ready.

There is a volleyball tournament ongoing here in Chicago at McCormick Place.

My 14-year-old granddaughter, Elise, was drafted to play with a Texas team coming to the tournament.

She played an entire season back in Austin with a different team, so tonight’s team seemed as though playing as an ensemble was still in the “gelling” stage.

Elise had games at 4, 5 and 7 p.m.

She will have more games tomorrow at roughly the same times.

The last 3 games against the Wisconsin team Elise’s team won, which was nice.

The first set of games against the Los Angeles team did not go as well.

It was difficult to gauge how many teams were playing inside McCormick Place. I tried to count one row and could not see past 7 different sets of teams playing on temporary courts.

I’ve been to McCormick Place for an automobile show and I’ve attended two BEA (Book Expo America) shows at the Chicago facility. Usually, the BEA takes place in New York City, but every so many years they bring it to the Midwest.

The weather here has been very smoky due to the wild fires burning in Canada. There is rain predicted for tomorrow and that may carry the smoke out of the area. Everything is gearing up for the NASCAR race that will put cars on Columbus and Lake Shore Drive and Roosevelt and other Chicago city streets for a race that will see the cars traveling 120 mph through the streets of the city.  Much of this race goes on near me, so, as you can imagine, getting around during this preparation is chaotic.

Back to the volleyball court(s) tomorrow and, supposedly, on Friday and Saturday as well.

The Wilson family has a female jock. (Yeah!)

Bob Odenkirk Rides Again: “Lucky Hank” Premieres at SXSW and Streams (AMC+) on March 19th, 2023.

“Lucky Hank” is Bob Odenkirk, in his first television outing since leaving “Better Call Saul.” The premiere episode of the AMC+ series premiered at SXSW on March 12th (Oscar day), showing once and once only at the Stateside Theater in Austin.

Bob Odenkirk and cast members of “Lucky Hank”, streaming on AMC+ on March 19th.

The series owes much to the Pulitzer Prize-winning book on which it is based, “Straight Man,” by Richard Russo.

The synopsis for the series reads: “An English department chairman at an underfunded college, Professor Hank Devereaux toes the line between midlife crisis and full-blown meltdown, navigating the offbeat chaos in his personal and professional life.”  As IMDB further says, William Henry Devereaux, Jr., spiritually suited to playing left field but forced by a bad hamstring to try first base, is the unlikely chairman of the English department at Railton East University. Over the course of a single convoluted week, he threatens to execute a duck, has his nose slashed by a feminist poet, discovers that his secretary writes better fiction than he does, suspects his wife of having an affair with his dean, and finally confronts his philandering elderly father, the one-time king of American Literary Theory, at an abandoned amusement park”

If this all sounds like a great vehicle for Bob Odenkirk, you’re right. The humor and sarcasm are on full display in this clip.

 

THE GOOD

The cast, headed by Odenkirk, is stellar. Mirielle Enos (“World War Z,” “The Killing”) plays Hanks’ wife, Lily, and she is a revelation. In the Q&A following the screening, she admitted that she “wanted to play a less closeted woman.” Her serious role in “The Killing” made her a natural choice for screenwriters Paul Lieberstein and Aaron Zelman, who had worked with her on “The Killing.” Those representing the premiere in Austin referred to the cast as “spectacular.”

The writers are similarly spectacular. Although credit must also be given to the source material, as the writers admit that they constantly “went back to the book” while also adding depth to Hank’s character.

Bob Odnkirk and Mirielle Enos onstage at the Stateside Theater in Austin, Texas, at SXSW, on March 11, 2023.

Bob Odenkirk, onstage after the screening, talked about how he ended up working this hard so soon after “Better Call Saul” ended. “I had said yes to the show. I really thought it would take forever. It didn’t.” Factor in a heart attack that Odenkirk described as, “what happens when you don’t take your heart medication” and here he is in an 8-episode series that he praised as “A place for everyone to do their best” and “A lot of variety on a journey that goes somewhere.” Odenkirk added that it was “Great use of modern TV. We had 4 different directors and travel alterations. The stories and characters progress and it is more like an 8-episode movie.”

He also praised the dream cast and said, of his character, “He’s so different from Saul, who was a loner. There are people in the right relationships. You love your wife and then, if you’re married long enough, you hate them.” (This brought laughter and an admonition from the writers, “Bob! Your wife is in the audience.”) Odenkirk continued, “If it’s a great relationship, you find your way back and you don’t even know how.” He felt that Saul and Kim in “Better Call Saul” were loners, but “I liked the way this guy relates to other people.” Pointing out the fundamental differences between his Saul character and Hank he said, “It’s fun to do wildly different things. It’s one of the reasons I went into this business.”

THE BAD

For me, the bad is that I currently don’t have AMC+. In order to watch this wildly entertaining series, I am going to have to subscribe, which means that my spouse (of 55 years) is going to be gifted with a subscription to the series (which premieres on March 19th). Since his birthday is March 21st, thank you, Hank, for figuring out what to give the man who has everything. This looks like a totally enjoyable, witty, well-written and well-acted 8-episode series that will entertain mightily.

Anti-Semitism on the Rise in the United States

I’m almost caught up from the recently concluded SXSW film festival.

I still have a review of a screened horror film (“Appendage”) and one that is embargoed until April 24th for a drama financed by National Geographic commencing May 1st that will focus on the brave young woman who helped hide Otto Frank and his family in war-torn Amsterdam. Most of us know the story of Anne Frank from her recovered diary and the many spin-off dramatizations that sprang from it. Most of us did not know about Miep Gies, however.

It  was Miep Gies, then a 24-year-old secretary to Otto Frank at his business (a jam factory called Opetka) who agreed to hide Otto Frank (Liev Schreiber) and his family of four (Otto, Edith, Anne and Margot) and five other Dutch Jews from the Nazis during WWII and the occupation of Holland. They lived in hiding for 2 years, until they were turned in.

Only Otto Frank survived the war after the Nazis captured the family, hiding in a hidden annex built above Mr. Frank’s business establishment, Opetka.  He and his family were sent to concentration camps, separated as a family, and only Otto survived Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen.

Together with her colleague Bep Voskuijl, Miep retrieved Anne Frank’s diary after the family was arrested, and kept the papers safe,  returning the papers to Otto Frank when he came back to Amsterdam from Auschwitz in June of 1945.  Gies had stored Anne Frank’s papers in the hopes of returning them to the girl, but gave them to Otto Frank, instead, who compiled them into a diary first published in June of 1947,

Bel Powley, who portrays Miep Gies in “A Small Light.” (Photo by Connie Wilson)

In collaboration with Alison Leslie Gold, Gies wrote the book Anne Frank Remembered: The Story of the Woman Who Helped to Hide the Frank Family in 1987. Born in 1909, she died just one month shy of her 101st birthday in 2010, which was surprising, considering the fact that she was instrumental in saving many Dutch Jews from the Holocaust. [She denied any involvement in helping hide the Franks when their hiding place was discovered.]

Considering that anti-Semitism is at its highest point since the seventies, the choice to dramatize this story at this time in history is a timely one. The Anti-Defamation League began keeping records of anti-Semitic activity in 1979. In the past 5 years, the incidences of assaults or robberies or other crimes have increased 500%. On college campuses, the incidences have risen 4o% and in Kindergarten through 12th grade schools, the incidences of such wrongdoing are up 50%.

Specifically, incidents of violence against Orthodox Jews are up 67%. Incidents of vandalism are up 51%. General harassment is up 29% and assaults, in general, are up 26%. As the experts have said, “Extremists feel emboldened right now” and various other spokesmen called it a “battleground against bigotry.”

As one CNN expert said, “It may start with the Jews, but it doesn’t end with the Jews.” A super spreader of such hatred would be social media outlets. When social influencers (like Kanye West and Mel Gibson) express hatred for the Jewish people, there are surges in such evil acts. There is a reverberation effect within and among conspiracy groups; the actions condoned by the MAGA hordes are germane.

Signs of people in positions of authority condoning, explicitly or complicitly, man’s inhumanity to man contributes to the deep-seated problem and exposes a sickness in society. Kanye West today tried to dig himself out of the deep hole he had dug for himself with his anti-Semitic rants, saying that watching Jonah Hill in “21 Jump Street” had changed his opinion to one that is more positive. Not only is this a weak defense against his previous bigoted words and actions, but it hardly seems likely to stem the tide of actions like those that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia from August 11th to 12th in 2017.  That Unite the Right rally was a white supremacist rally that seems, now, to have been a watershed moment in giving radical groups permission to act in  uncivil and illegal manners. It is worth noting that it took place during Donald Trump’s presidency.

The focus on the heroic actions of the Miep Gies’ of the world comes at a time that should give the excellent production “A Small Light” a welcome platform. (Review to follow in April).

“Evil Dead Rise” Premieres at SXSW and Heckler Makes News

The first film of the trilogy, The Evil Dead, as well as its 2013 remake, were so horrifically gory that they were actually banned in various countries including Finland, Ukraine, and Singapore. That should have been my first clue that I would hate this movie.

 Eight months, one Covid lockdown, and 6,500 litres of fake blood went into making the latest in the Sam Raimi “Evil Dead” series, this one entitled “Evil Dead Rise” and shot in New Zealand. Its Irish director, Lee Cronin, earned a Saturn award nomination for Breakthrough Director at Sundance. I had high hopes upon entry to the World Premiere on Wednesday, March 15th, at SXSW’s Paramount Theater.

I was game to sit through “Evil Dead Rise.” As a former active voting member of HWA (Horror Writers’ Association) and the author of three novels some might call “horror,” this would be right up my alley for “The Color of Evil” trilogy author.

Wrong, Snore-Snout.

If 80% of a film’s success is casting, this one started out wobbly with a freakishly tall and extensively tattooed leading lady, Alyssa Sutherland. The tattoos may not have been real and the Australian actress/model’s height is listed as five feet eleven inches, so take those comments with a grain of salt. I didn’t buy any of the actors’ performances.

The synopsis read: “A twisted tale of two estranged sisters whose reunion is cut short by the rise of flesh-possessing demons, thrusting them int a primal battle for survival as they face the most nightmarish version of family imaginable.”

I reviewed film through the eighties, when slasher films were all the rage. After about twenty in a row, I swore off the entire series of films that attempt to entertain you by thrusting a knife into someone’s throat (Kevin Bacon in one memorable eighties cabin scene) or  gross you out by having excessive projectile vomiting.

This film has taken the worst of those gross-out concepts and amplified them. If that’s your thing, as it seemed to be for the man next to me who was laughing hilariously and thoroughly enjoying this movie, then go for it. If this audience member hadn’t been very large (and blocking the aisle to exit) I might have left before the end, but, thanks to Mr. Laugh-A-Lot, I couldn’t escape. I saw the entire film (as did the heckler.)

Watching an eyeball fly across the room from a severed head and someone else inadvertently swallow it: gross. Buckets of blood in an elevator that bursts forth? Derivative of “The Shining” but with much less plot justification.

During the Q&A for the film, Bruce Campbell was brought onstage, the original Ash of the first 4 films, who raised the $350,000 for the very first film that Stephen King championed and ended up playing a lead in subsequent films (but not this one.) This new version moved from the woods to the city

As Campbell (“Ash”) was speaking, an apparently inebriated male theater-goer in the audience shouted out, loudly, “This movie effing sucks” (profanity euphemism substituted). Campbell demanded that the man—already on his way out— be removed from the Paramount Theater. (It made all the papers.)

You’ve been warned.

Page 1 of 10

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén