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!

Tag: Emily blunt

Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer:” Instant Classic

Head and shoulders portrait

Oppenheimer, c. 1944

Roughly one-half of the movie “Oppenheimer” focuses on the unjust way Robert J. Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, was persecuted after he performed so spectacularly in heading up Los Alamos and giving the United States the atomic bomb to end World War II in Japan. Oppenheimer was denied a security clearance during kangaroo court hearings in 1954, which basically meant he could no longer work in his field. He continued to lecture, but he was ruined.

Director Christopher Nolan has made one of the—if not THE—most important film in a very important career. This $100 million depiction of how the United States came to create the atomic bomb at Los Alamos is a dense subject. The movie was based on the 2006 Pulitzer Prize winning book “American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer” by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin (2005). Prometheus, of course, was the god who gave fire to mankind. For his crime he was chained to a rock and a vulture ate his liver each day, which grew back each night.

There are so many characters in the book and it appears that Nolan has attempted to wrap his creative mind around all of them and present every character onscreen. I applaud him for taking the dense text and transforming it into this three-hour epic film. The “L.A. Times” critic said: “Arguably Nolan’s most impressive work yet in the way it combines his acknowledged visual mastery with one of the deepest character dives in recent American cinema.”

At three hours, it’s a long film.

It’s deep, all right.

I felt fairly dense myself after trying to follow all of the twists and turns in the plot. I was especially ill-prepared when it comes to quantum physics, having dropped out of Physics in high school after two days. (That act was almost a replay of “Peggy Sue Got Married” where Kathleen Turner gets up from an algebra test and announces that she happens to know that she will never need this stuff in the future.)


The movie, shot on 70 mm film, has stunning imagery, especially in the early parts. (Later sections that deal with the security clearance hearings in offices are more black-and-white).  I was immediately reminded of the sweeping panoramas of filmmakers like Terrence Malick (“Days of Heaven,” “Tree of Life”), or David Lean (“Dr. Zhivago”), or Stanley Kubrick (“2001: A Space Odyssey”). No less a movie maven than author David Morrell commented on the different color palettes employed throughout the film.

The movie does not show the actual dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which killed 220,000 people, but, instead, gives us the test explosion in New Mexico, called Trinity. Cinematographer Hoyte Van Hoytema deserves Oscar nominations for his work. I disagree with the critic who said you didn’t need to see this one on the IMAX big screen. If ever there was an argument for IMAX, a film like this is it. (Last one I shelled out for IMAX treatment was the remake of “West Side Story.”)

If I may wander from the actual film’s words for a moment, supposedly Oppenheimer’s brother, Frank, also a nuclear physicist (who was also hounded from the field) said that his brother’s words after the test were, “I guess it works.” That is not in the film. But the lines that do appear, with Matt Damon and others articulating them, describe the after-effects of the Trinity test blast. Says a witness to the Trinity blast, “I hope you learned something.” To which Matt Damon’s character responds, “We learned we’re going to need to be lots further away!”

That’s about as close to humor as this film will get.


Cillian Murphy, who visually resembles Oppenheimer (and was actually up for the lead role in a previous Oppenheimer treatment), has worked with Nolan on 6 films. He uses his preternaturally large blue eyes to good advantage in portraying this tortured genius. Murphy supposedly subsisted on a diet of fruits, nuts and figs and very little else to keep the elfin stature of the real man intact throughout filming. In real life, Oppenheimer was said to often forget to eat, so that seems apropos.

The number of Oscar-winning or nominated actors in the film is a tribute to the director’s stature. I will probably accidentally omit someone, but Robert Downey, Jr., is bound to be an Oscar nominee for his pivotal role as Lewis Strauss, the two-faced politician who set Oppenheimer up for ruin because of personal animus and Cillian Murphy comes into his own as a leading man.

Others in the cast include Josh Hartnett in a welcome return to form, Gary Oldman, Kenneth Branagh, Tom Conti (who plays Einstein), Matthew Modine, Alden Ehrenreich, Casey Affleck, Rami Malek, Emily Blunt, Florence Pugh, Tony Goldwyn, James D’Arcy, Jason Clarke and Matt Damon. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some of the bigger “name” actors or actresses, but the wealth of talent is very deep when you’re casting an Oscar winner like Malek in a small part. All of the actors complimented Nolan, the mastermind.  Some critics have mentioned the relatively meager parts for women, as opposed to the meatier male roles. This “it’s a man’s world” depiction is true to the period, however.

Personally, I related to the four-times married Kitty (Emily Blunt), shown at her wit’s end with two squalling toddlers and stuck in the quickly thrown-together town built for the Manhattan Project scientists in Los Alamos. She mentions that there is “no kitchen” upon being shown the house for the first time.

Oppenheimer had his hands full with prima donna scientists who constantly quit or are in conflict, but Kitty was stuck in the house with two extremely colicky kids. Baby Peter is even taken to a friend’s house by his father when his constant crying becomes too much for the couple. Younger daughter Katherine (“Toni”), who was born at Los Alamos in November of 1944 is only seen as an infant in the film. She grew up and studied to be a United Nations interpreter but was denied a security clearance because of her father’s fifties security clearance hearings. This was 10 years after Oppenheimer’s 1967 death from throat cancer. In 1977, after that denial, Toni—who had inherited the St. Thomas cottage where her parents lived in later life, hanged herself. She left the family cottage and grounds to St. Thomas for the use of the public.


Oppenheimer was a World Class womanizer. Matt Damon has an exchange with Oppenheimer where he says, “You’re a dilettante, you’re a womanizer, unstable, theatrical, neurotic!” Oppenheimer’s affair with Florence Pugh (virtually unrecognizable with dark hair) portraying paramour Jean Tatlock causes much conflict in the film. The couple see each other shortly after Oppenheimer’s second child is born.

A troubled soul who ultimately committed suicide, Jean Tatlock WAS a Communist. This bit of personal information on Oppenheimer’s affair was brought out during the 1954 kangaroo court hearings with Oppenheimer’s wife Kitty (Emily Blunt) sitting there to hear it, as Oppenheimer is interrogated by Jason Clarke (“Pet Semetary”). Still, Kitty and J. Robert stayed together.

Lewis Strauss (Robert Downey, Jr.) pretended, to Oppenheimer’s face, to be a friend. He was as two-faced as they come and set Oppenheimer up for his fall, out of vindictive animus. Strauss (who was angling to become the Secretary of Commerce) felt he had been held up to ridicule during testimony that Oppenheimer gave. One dispute was over the exporting of radioactive isotopes to Sweden. The testimony used in the screenplay showed Oppenheimer saying that radioactive isotopes were “less important than electronic devices, but more important than, let us say, vitamins.” In the screenplay the comparison became “a bottle of beer.”

Another change from reported wording seemed to be in what President Truman (portrayed by Gary Oldman) actually said after meeting with Oppenheimer in the Oval Office. In the movie, Oppenheimer tells Truman that he feels he has “blood on his hands.” This is because of how conflicted Oppenheimer is regarding the death of 220,000 Japanese civilians when the bomb was dropped. Oppenheimer is urging (somewhat naively) international cooperation on the use of nuclear weapons, with an entity like the United Nations in charge. The generals and the Army and the politicians do not see it his way.

Truman, during a visit with Oppenheimer in the Oval Office, hands him a handkerchief after his  comment about regulating nuclear weapons internationally and then, when Oppenheimer walks out of the Oval Office, tells his Undersecretary of State, Dean Acheson, “I don’t want to see that son-of-a-bitch in this office ever again.” In the movie, the script has Truman saying, “Don’t let that crybaby back in here.” The profanity is probably more accurate, because Truman was known for his salty language. (They didn’t call him “give-’em- hell-Harry” for nothing.)


Oppenheimer vacillated over his feelings of guilt over the deaths in Hiroshima and Nagasaki from the dropping of the bomb he created.

After the successful drop. The screenplay has him telling a jubilant room full of Los Alamos employees, “It’s too soon to determine the results of the bombing, but I’ll bet the Japanese didn’t like it. I just wish we had had it to use against the Germans.”

At another point in the plot, this line appears, “Nobody knows what you believe.  Do you?”

Repeated throughout the piece, however, is this refrain:  “Just because we’re building it doesn’t mean that we get to decide how it is used.”

Matt Damon’s character, General Leslie Groves, tells Oppenheimer, “We’ve given them an Ace.  It’s for them to play the hands.” Another repetition of this thought: “The fact that we built this bomb does not give us the right or responsibility to determine how it is used.” All of these lines seemed to be justifications. After all, Oppenheimer was the American Prometheus, “the man who gave the Americans the ability to destroy themselves.” As Nolan says at another point in the screenplay which he wrote, “The day will come when people will curse the name Los Alamos.”


Leslie Goranssen’s music has been singled out as one of the best scores of the year (Oscar?.)  Terms like “masterful” and “mercurial” were used. I kept noticing how many of the scenes that had subtle background music would be totally unremarkable without his musical contribution. The use of stamping feet was unique and original.


For tension, structure, sense of scale, startling sound design (very impressive when viewed in IMAX) and remarkable visuals—not to mention the superb cast of actors—this one is going to be hard to beat. Yes, it is overlong and dense and made me feel woefully inadequate to understand the quantum physics discussed, but phrases like “Power exists in the shadows” were universal and I had to agree with the remark attributed to Wernher von Braun, who said, of Oppenheimer’s poor treatment by Lewis Strauss and the bureaucracy, “In England, Oppenheimer would have been knighted.”

On a personal level, since Wehrner Von Braun of Hitler’s rocket program ultimately ended up in Iowa City, Iowa (my alma mater) for the remainder of his life after fleeing Nazi Germany, I thoroughly agree.

I  have personally met and spoken with at least five of the actors/actresses onscreen in “Oppenheimer” at various film festivals, those being Gary Oldman (in Chicago for “Soldier, Sailor, Tinker, Spy” in 2011), Kenneth Branagh (in Chicago with “Belfast” in 2021), Casey Affleck (in Chicago with “Gone, Baby, Gone” in 2007),  Emily Blunt, in Austin at SXSW for “A Quiet Place” (2018), and Jason Clarke at SXSW for the remake of “Pet Sematary” (2019).

It seems fitting to end the review of this extraordinary film with the quotation from the Bhagavad Gita that Oppenheimer repeats, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

“A Quiet Place II” Is Terrific Sequel to the 2018 Original Film

Director John Krasinski said, on an appearance on Seth Meyer recently to promote “A Quiet Place 2,” “If you’re a fan of the movie, I wanted to bookend the pandemic for you.” He was talking about the delayed release of one of the season’s most anticipated sequels, “A Quiet Place 2.” It actually premiered in New York City on March 8, 2020, and we all know what happened after that.

I remember the premiere of the original film at the Paramount Theater in Austin, Texas, as opening night of SXSW 2018 and how amazed the audience and I were at the film we had just seen. It was great! Original. Fresh. Scary. Thrilling. Well-acted. The audience gave it a well-deserved standing ovation.

All those adjectives can be used for the sequel, and, thanks to jump scares and a terrific Marco Beltrami score coupled with great special effects and convincing acting, you’re in for a wonderful time scaring yourself silly viewing “A Quiet Place 2.”

The boys from Bettendorf, Iowa, who thought up the fresh idea (which languished on the Black List of great movie scripts for 10 years or more before Krasinski became involved as a vehicle for his wife, Emily Blunt) now get an opening credit as the creators of the original characters, but Krasinski has taken over with expert help from his cast, Marco Beltrami’s heart-pounding score, and the special effects genies of Industrial Light & Magic and Lucasfilm.

There is a brief flashback involving John Krasinski as Lee Abbott, who died at the end of “A Quiet Place, #1.” His real-life wife, Emily Blunt, reprises her original role as Evelyn Abbott and the surviving children, Millicent Simmonds as Regan and Noah Jupe as Marcus, plus her new-born baby are all back. Co-stars, this time out, are Cillian Murphy as neighbor Emmett and Djimon Hounsou as a man on Long Island (who is given too small a part).

The film opens in the very same pharmacy/general store that we know from the first film, and Lee (John Krasinski) is quickly picking up some water and some snacks to take to a baseball game that is ongoing. (I noticed that he must have a running tab at the store; at no point did he pay for the goodies.)

While the baseball game is underway some sort of strange aerial event takes place, which, even now, I cannot explain properly. Is it the arrival of aliens? Is it a bombing? Not sure, but the baseball game is quickly abandoned. It must have been an invasion, because the spectators in the small town are suddenly being picked off on Main Street by the creatures we know from the first film. Chaos ensues.

It was this scene, with Emily Blunt trying to flee in her vehicle, that Krasinski talked about shooting early in the film. It took six weeks of planning and 3 weeks with stunt people to make sure that Blunt would be able to do the action-packed scene without injury. A pod was built on top of the vehicle she is shown to be driving, and it was operated by an expert stunt driver who, according to husband John, reassured her, “Don’t worry, Miss Emily. I’m the best.” They did the scene one time. It is truly terrifying and is completely thrilling.  Krasinski described it as “definitely the hardest scene” to film.

As the film proceeds, the surviving Abbott family (post Film #1) must abandon their home, which is both flooded and on fire. They begin walking, barefoot, to one of the neighboring homes where signal fires have been burning at night.

The neighboring residence turns out to be occupied by Emmett, played by Cillian Murphy (“Inception,” “Dunkirk,” “The Dark Knight Rises”), whose own children died the day of the invasion and whose wife is also dead. He has holed up in what appears to be some sort of abandoned steel furnace that has a soundproof  interior. It has a secure door and one must climb down to enter it, so it is relatively safe from the creatures.

Shooting inside the steel furnace set as a bunker for the Abbott family proved difficult because of its small size. Production designer Jess Gonchor built three different sizes, with removable front and back and sections that pulled out.

“Often we were on a jib arm with small remote heads on the end of it,” added Morgan, “and we would literally push in and out through the tube with the characters as they entered and exited. It was like a scene out of ‘Alien.’”

Emmett is not thrilled that he has been joined by a woman with three children in tow.

Emily Blunt and Noah Jupe in A Quiet Place Part II.
Emily Blunt and Noah Jupe in A Quiet Place Part II. Photo: Paramount Pictures

At first, despite Marcus’ injury in a bear trap as they approach, Emmett insists that they must leave in the morning, but that soon gives way to an actual rescue that Emmett attempts, when the deaf older child, Regan (Millicent Simmonds), deciphers the message of non-stop playing of “Beyond the Sea” by a radio station as a message. They must go to the sea, she reasons.  She sets out to do this over the objections of younger brother Marcus (Noah Jupe of “Ford v. Ferrari”and “Honeyboy.”) and without her mother’s knowledge or permission.

The map that we catch a brief glimpse of clearly says the island is Long Island. Thanks go out at film’s end to Buffalo, Akron, Dover and Pawling as some of the sites used in filming AQP2.

The film ends in a way that screams: SEQUEL. Krasinski said, initially, that he did not know whether a third Quiet Place would happen, but he made plans just in case. “I set up a couple of tiny little Easter eggs in [Part II] that not only explain more about [the original], but would allow for more mythology,” Krasinski shared last year.

“I haven’t heard from the studio that they want a third one,” says Writer/Director John Krasinski, “But the good news is that the studio and I are on the same page in that this isn’t one of those franchises where we keep pumping them out if they make money. I think we’ve proven that this is an original idea that is really beloved by people in a way that… I don’t want to break that promise to people.”

Later, it was revealed that “A Quiet Place 3” is officially a go. Paramount Pictures has announced that the franchise is set to continue with a third movie, which is to be written and directed by Jeff Nichols (MudMidnight Special).

Krasinski got able help on #2 from a new (female) cinematographer, Polly Morgan, and the editor, Michael Schaever, had his work cut out for him as there are multiple quick cuts between action going on in the steel furnace, with action going on at the dock or on the island. Long shots with real film were the name of the game, an homage to the films of Steven Spielberg and to such influences on Krasinski as “There Will Be Blood,” westerns of yesteryear, and Steven Spielberg’s films, which, said Krasinski, kept the focus on the protagonist in peril.

In this film, it is the teen-agers who must cope with the monsters and with their loss of their father in the first film. Millicent Simmonds plays a much bigger role than in the first film and does a great job.

All-in-all, it’s one heck of a great film.  I look forward to seeing #3, when the survivors back at the steel furnace have to be transported to safety on the island, (as well as any other adventures the creative minds of the Paramount team come up with).

It’s great to have a “new Spielberg” coming out with novel, crowd-pleasing material, and I only hope he can keep up the level of cinematography, music, writing, acting and directing in the inevitable follow-up(s).

Things I Learned at the Nail Shop: Annette Bening as Super Hero

When you go to the nail shop in Austin, you are surrounded by technicians who mainly speak to one another in Vietnamese (at least, I think it’s Vietnamese). Otherwise, you have only the large flat-screen television to occupy you. I learned that Annette Bening is going to be a Super Hero in the Marvel franchise—or, at least, that’s what the talking heads said, and it set off a fair amount of discussion amongst the three women and two men onscreen at the time.

 Annette Bening is being touted as a Super Hero for a Marvel movie. This caused a phenomenal amount of interest on the program I was watching (don’t know the name of it; think it’s local). The African-American young man, who had been talking about tickets to go backstage at a Justin Timberlake concert by signing up somewhere, posed the rhetorical question, “Which would you rather see? Annette Bening in a Marvel movie or Justin Timberlake?” (Please… May I phone a friend?)

It could be a very funny “riff” for “SNL” to take on this rumor, as all the icons of yesteryear seem to be fading into oblivion, since “Vanity Fair’s” Editor for decades,Graydon Carter, recently retired and the rumors are also rampant that Anna Wintour (memorialized, fictionally, in the film featuring Emily Blunt,  “The Devil Wears Prada”) may have just attended her final Met Gala. (Oh, the humanity!)

When you couple the above news with Elton John announcing that he is not going to tour any more after his final tour and the many headline names (Tom Petty, to name one) who shuffled off this mortal coil, often very unexpectedly, you begin to see the future. It is filled with Kanye (West) moments. And Justin Timberlake, who gave up bringing sexy back to going all woodsy on us and giving us a perfectly forgettable Super Bowl Halftime Show. [If my choices are watching Annette Bening in anything and Justin’s Super Bowl show, I’m going for Bening. (Sorry, Justin.)]

I was recently offered a deal where I could stream old classic movies for a monthly fee. It was suggested to me, in particular, because I review film, and, of course, how could I be “up” on ALL the movies of the past. (How could ANYONE be “up” on all the movies of the past, is more like it; I think I’m pretty solid on anything from 1955 on, but I’ve been outsourcing the Marvel epics.)

I need to make you aware of the soy bean crisis and the teacher crisis, so pardon me while I leave you with these images of the potential Super Hero at Sixty (birth year: 1958) and the interesting fact that her parents, staunch Episcopalians, were from Iowa. I wonder what they thought when they heard she was marrying Warren Beatty, then known as the World’s Biggest Womanizer?

Colin Hanks Q&A: “The Great Buck Howard” on Oct. 27 at the Chicago Film Festival

Colin Hanks and MeQuestion #1: How long did it take to get the film made? A: “It took us 3 years to get the financing and 2 years to make.”

Question #2: Is Buck Howard like the real-life character of Kreskin upon which Buck is based? A: “The handshake thing is for real. I’ve actually never met Kreskin,” said Hanks. “I hear Malkovich’s portrayal is pretty amazing.”

Question #3: Do you think you’ll ever do more movies like (2002’s) “Orange County?” A: “I think I’ve pretty much done all I can in that genre.”

Question #4: Where did this story come from? A: “The Great Buck Howard…at least about the first 15 minutes of it…is all about the experiences of the writer/director Sean McGinly. He’s the one who worked for Kreskin. I just liked the story. I just think this is a really cool story and it is just a great little movie that can get a few laughs and tell a story.”

Question #5: How did you get all the people to do the cameos in the film? “Most of the cameos were written into the script. I have some mutual friends with
Jon Stewart and Conen O’Brien. Martha Stewart was the one I was surprised to get, but all of them were petrified to have been performing with John Malkovich. I’ve actually thought it would be cool if John would dress up as Buck Howard and go back on the same shows to promote our film. We also got Ricky Jay (Gil Bellamy in the cast, as Howard’s manager), because he’s kind of a historian of magicians. He was too busy to consult, but he came in and said, in a matter of seconds, ‘This is about Kreskin, isn’t it?’”

Question #6: What was John Malkovich like to work with? A: “Malkovich was extremely friendly, very very funny, a pleasant surprise, because, obviously, you don’t always like the people you work with and people say, ‘That dude is supposed to be the weirdest man ever.” I asked John about his weekend one day. He said, ‘I woke up on Saturday. I read the paper, even though it’s all bullshit, but I read it, anyway. I hung around the house and went to the park and played in a pick-up game of basketball.’ Anywhere he is filming, John Malkovich will be taking part in a pick-up game of basketball. The thing that makes John such a great actor was his adding little touches like the Captain & Tennille and telling me, “Those flowers are expensive. Take the flowers.”

Question #7: What was it like working with your dad? A: A lot of fun. It was good. He makes it easier, more enjoyable because he’s so good at what he does. With Malkovich, as well, it was a trifecta, a sandwich of joy.”

Question #8: Did you always know you wanted to be an actor?” A: “If my team was in the play-offs in sports, then I often wanted to be whatever sport that was. I always enjoyed acting, though, and I always did it. It was not until I got to college that I realized I had to figure out what I wanted to do. I love what I do and actually there is nothing else I would really rather do. The truth is, I love what I do. I have genuine passion for it.” (*The younger Hanks had a production assistant job on “Apollo 13” and most recently had a story arc as Father John Gill on AMC’s “MadMen” televsion show, with Jon Hamm. He also starred in 2005’s “King Kong” as Preston, Jack Black’s assistant and in 2002’s “Orange County’ as Shaun Brumder, Jack Black’s scholarly brother. He had a role as 2nd Lt. Henry Jones in the television mini-series “Band of Brothers,” which his father helped produce, and had a small role in “That Thing You Do” in 1996, as a male page, a part which he got using a fake last name to avoid trading on his father’s fame. Colin Hanks also has a small part as Speechwriter #1 on Oliver Stone’s “W” out now.)

Question #9: What is your next project? A: “To be honest, I’m not working on a whole lot right now. I just had a story arc on “MadMen” and a bit part in “W.” I’m directing a documentary on Tower Records, which could take a while.”

Question #10: Do you have any other idols, other than your dad? A: “No, not really. I do like Jeff Bridges in “The Big Lebowski.”

Question #11: What have you been doing while you have been in Chicago?” A: “Well, I just killed an hour in the bowling alley that’s attached to this place and I was hoping to go to a World Series game while here. I saw a BlackHawks game. I heard some good comedy at Second City. I ate a buffet at the John Hancock building (not so good). I saw some great art.”

Question #12: Did you visit any bars? A: I’m gonna’ plead the fifth on that one? Well, okay: Timmy O’Toole’s.

Question #13: What is your favorite Tom Hanks film? A: “I really can’t pick ‘a favorite,’ but I can tell you that I can’t watch ‘Philadelphia.’”

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