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: George Clooney

“The Boys in the Boat” Brought Home the Gold in 1936

George Clooney

George Clooney

I just watched George Clooney’s film (he directed) “The Boys in the Boat.”

My spouse did not want to watch it, declaring it to be “too predictable.”


I wanted to see Joel Edgerton in action as the coach, and the lead actor playing Joe Rantz (Callum Turner) was a new star, for me. He’s British and the Brits have been saying he is “the star of tomorrow” since 2014, which is 10 years ago. He’s 34 now (born in 1990) so perhaps a better title would be “the men in the boat.”

I did notice that the pictures at the end of the movie featuring the real Washington crew were all very handsome young men. They had great teeth, The love story between Joe  Rantz (Callum Turner) and Joyce Simdars (Hadley Robinson) was nicely done.

The cinematography was also wonderful, although all of the close-ups on the oar locks made me think that one of them was going to give way at a crucial moment.

The “boys in the boat” were the crew members who journeyed to Hitler’s Germany for the 1936 Olympics. I have watched another documentary about how piqued Hitler was when Jesse Owens performed so brilliantly, defeating his Aryan athletes.


We know how this movie comes out before it even starts. In that regard it reminds of the movie about space launches where we know whether the launch went well or poorly.

My husband was right that it was “too predictable,” but it was still worth a look.

It cost $19.99 to rent “The Boys in the Boat.”

Maybe wait till it comes down in price.

Ryan Gosling: The Hottest Actor Currently Working in Hollywood

Ryan Gosling: now appearing in a movie theater near you.

Ryan Gosling, who turned 31 on November 12, 2011, is in George Clooney’s new film “The Ides of March,” which is to open the 68th Venice Film Festival on August 31, 2011. Clooney both acts and directs in the film, portraying the fictional Governor Morris, based on Dr. Howard Dean, in a run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Gosling will play Governor Morris’ spokesperson, with Paul Giametti as a rival campaign manager. I was there at “the scream heard ‘round the world” (ValAir Ballroom, Des Moines, Iowa, 2004) and I  look forward to seeing how the movie makes use of that climactic moment in the Dean run for the roses.

Gosling also just acted in his first romantic comedy (“Crazy, Stupid Love”) with Steve Carell and Emma Stone. Next up will be his turn as an action hero in “Drive.” It seems that the handsome, idiosyncratic actor can play anything and is everywhere, these days, just as it seemed as though Shia LaBoeuf was everywhere with the “Wall Street” reprise, “Transformers” and his role as Indiana Jones, Jr. just a year or so ago.

With Gosling, however, you get the sense that— like Marlon Brando whose accent he says he copied after  living in Florida  with Canadian roots (born in London and grew up in Cornwall, a mill town on the border of Quebec and the United States). —it’s more about the craft of acting.


Gosling has been acting since the age of 12, after winning a spot in the Disney troop alongside such future stars as Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera and Brittney Spears. He beat out 17,000 other child actors and, with his mother (Dad, a paper mill worker, had split), he and Mom moved to the Yogi Bear trailer park in Kissimmee. Ryan’s acting paid the bills and was the duo’s sole income.

Of his Disney years, Gosling has said, “I loved the idea that Walt Disney had this dream of a place and then made it a reality.” Later, in discussing the David Lynch film “Blue Velvet” Gosling says, “It’s so clearly one person’s singular dream.  The fact that somebody believed in their idea so much to make it a reality…I want to be that kind of person.”

Gosling has become that kind of actor, with indie cred but also the bankability of roles such as his 2004 starring role in “The Notebook” opposite Rachel McAdams. After “The Notebook” hit, he took a job in a sandwich shop near where he lived.  Why?  “I’d never had a real job.” Noting that “The problem with Hollywood is that nobody works” he concludes that it would be “a much happier place” if actual work were performed there.

Oscar Nod

Gosling has done some serious work in films that were honored by the nomination committee of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, most notably his leading actor nomination for the role of drug-addicted teacher Dan Dunne in “Half Nelson.” Most experts predicted he would be nominated last year for his leading role opposite Michelle Williams in “Blue Valentine,” but only his co-star got the nod. Of that film, Gosling says it’s the best film he’ll ever make and comments on Director Derek Clanfrance’s dedication in having the cast actually live together in a house, as a family, prior to shooting the film.  Clanfrance had spent 12 years on the film, declaring it “the film that I was born to make” and he allowed his actors to improvise much of their dialogue. “They had so much to do, so much to say in it,” says Clanfrance.

“Blue Valentine”

As for Gosling, he appreciated the opportunity to become part of the dream of a happy couple whose marriage falls apart, saying, “I thought it was really smart of him (Clanfrance) to do that, because even though you don’t see it in the film—they’re not scenes in the movie—I think you can feel it.” He also commented on the onscreen chemistry, saying, “It’s a love story, you know, and physical intimacy is a part of that and we were trying to capture that in a way that was not gratuitous or trying too hard to be sexy or something.” Gosling felt another dream world had been created and said, “Michelle and I found it hard to take off our wedding bands when it was over.  We’d built this castle and then had to tear it down.” He does note, “What I like about the film is that it leaves it open.”

By that, Gosling means the end of the film, where the young couple seems as though they could, conceivably, reconcile. Or not.  In that way, “Blue Valentine’s” ending was similar to Nicole Kidman’s film “Rabbit Hole.” Kidman was Oscar-nominated as Best Actress last year in that film, which also leaves the viewer to decide if the couple, (whose son has been killed in an automobile accident), is going to survive the tragedy or not.

Hot, Hotter, Hottest

Gosling’s onscreen chemistry with his leading ladies has been remarked upon repeatedly. In “The Notebook,” his scenes with Rachel McAdams were so incendiary that they almost earned the film an ‘R” rating. After making “Murder by Numbers” with Sandra Bullock, the two were a couple from 2001 – 2002, despite the fact that Gosling was 22 at the time and Bullock 37, a 16-year age difference. (The 47-year-old Bullock is rumored to be dating another younger Ryan, the twelve years younger Ryan Reynolds, age 34, her co-star  in “The Proposal,” who is just out of a brief marriage to Scarlett Johansson.)

Doing It His Way

In a career that, despite his relative youth, has been ongoing for 18 years, Gosling is making his mark, and he’s doing it his way, selecting films that are idiosyncratic, like “The Believers” (2001) or “Lars and the Real Girl” (2007) and then switching over to his most recent box office offerings.

As he said, “There’s this idea in Hollywood, and I’ve seen it work for people, where the unspoken rule is, ‘Do 2 for them and 1 for yourself.’ And that’s kind of considered a fact.  I’ve never really found that to be true for me.  I’ve gotten more opportunities out of working on things I believed in then I ever did on things that weren’t special to me.”

For this actor, who points to Gary Oldman as his favorite actor, that method works for him. And it works out quite well for his audiences, as well. It is rumored that he will reprise Michael York’s role as “The Sandman” who catches “Runners” in the film reboot of “Logan’s Run,” the ’70s movie made from the classic William F. Nolan book.

Whatever Gosling does, it will be interesting.

Summer Movies: 2010

With Labor Day in the rear view mirror, we can officially say that summer is over. I went to a lot of summer movies, but here I will try to separate the wheat from the chaff. In some cases, I couldn’t get to a few that I really wanted to see (Winter’s Bone, The Pat Tillman Story).

Early in the summer, I missed an opportunity through CinemaChicago to see The Kids Are All Right for free. I regretted it then and I regret I now. It seems to have become the only pure breakout independent hit movie of the summer, and I am much more about small, independent character-driven films than giant Transformer type fare, (although I did trek down to the Chicago River and do some on-the-spot reporting from the Chicago sets of that film sequel shooting in the Windy City.)

George Clooney in "The American" shoots and misses.The last film-of-summer I hurried out to see was George Clooney’s The American. Contrary to the good review Roger Ebert gave this Anton Corbijin (a Dutch director) film, it was a total dud. Unless you like interminable shots and discussions of weapon assembly that go on for hours (which feel like days), pass on this one. I got the feeling that Clooney…who, as we all know, has an estate in Italy…just wanted to stay close to his Lake Como digs and make a few bucks filming in places with names like Castelvecchio and Castel del Monte. Those of us who are big Clooney fans (count me among that number) and really enjoyed “Up in the Air” and “Syriana” and “Michael Clayton” and “Good Night and Good Luck” were sucked into the vacuum that this film represents.  “Rolling Stone” magazine (September 16, “Arthouse Vs. Grindhouse”) described The American as “a film of startling austerity” (read boring) and “remote to a fault” (read boring). There were 5 of us who attended this movie together, 3 of them male. The snoring began almost immediately. George’s anguished driving scene merely made him appear constipated; not his finest acting hour Very disappointing film.

Then there was Get Low, which was almost as slow-moving at times, but done with spectacular attention to detail. How can you not like watching Robert Duvall play a scene opposite Bill Murray portraying a pencil-mustachioed undertaker? The plot, (for most of you who will miss the film), was supposedly based on a true story and involved the eccentric Duvall, who lives in the woods and is considered a crackpot, trying to arrange to host his own funeral while he is still alive. [Be sure to arrive at the beginning so you don’t miss the scene of the unknown stranger jumping out of a burning house.] It is only at the funeral that we learn that Duvall has actually summoned everyone in the county to the celebration so that he can confess to crimes of the heart committed many years ago. With able acting support from Sissie Spacek as a long-ago sweetheart, Lucas Black as Buddy, Gerald McRaney as the Reverend Gus Horton and Bill Cobbs as the Reverend Charlie Jackson, I have to admit that I thought about this film for days after I saw it, appreciating the lovely cinematography (Director Aaron Schneider is better-known as a Cinematographer) and the spot-on period piece music (“I’m Looking Over A Four-Leaf Clover,” “Blue Skies,” a Bix Beiderbeke piece). There are some great lines. Bill Murray: “I sold 26 of the ugliest cars in the middle of December with the wind blowing so far up my ass I was farting snowflakes into July.” Robert Duvall:  “There’s alive and there’s dead and there’s a worse place in between that I hope you never know nothin’ about.”  Murray again:  “That’s one thing about Chicago. People know how to die.  They drown. Get shot.  Whatever it takes.” This film was only showing at 570 sites, according to “Entertainment Weekly” and its take was far below that of the summer’s blockbusters, but it was a fine film from Director Aaron Schneider, who previously won an Oscar for his cinematography work. It shows in this film and I wouldn’t ever count Robert Duvall out in the Oscar acting category.

Big Blockbusters of Summer:

There’s no question that Inception and Toy Story 3 were the films to smile about this summer. Inception will be nominated for numerous Oscars, and has raked in $270.5 million (“Entertainment Weekly,” September 10, The Chart, p. 75).  Toy Story 3 has done even better, with a take of $405.7 million. Both of them great films.

Other films that were enjoyable include The Other Guys with Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg as unlikely crime-fighting partners. The fact that Ferrell’s character drives a red Prius (“I didn’t know they put tampons on wheels” is one put-down from the film) and that Wahlberg’s cop is known as the guy who shot Derek Jeter are just a few of the comic touches. Brooke Shields’ husband Chris Henchy and Adam Mckay co-wrote. (Look for Brooke in a cameo appearance, sitting next to Ferrell at a Lakers game.)

Cyrus with Noah Hill, John C Reilly and Marisa Tomei was a nicely acted comedy with some depth. It depicted the unhealthy relationship that has emerged between a divorced mother and her adult son. A great supporting performance by Catherine Keener as Jamie (Who can forget Keener shouting, “Check, please!” in Being John Malkovich after John Cusack’s character tells her he is a mime?) Unfortunately, Jonah Hill also was part of Get Him to the Greek this summer, an attempt to cash in on crass comedy of The Hangover variety. Russell Brand did a good job portraying a prima Dona rock star, but the low humor killed it for me.

I came out of The Switch feeling sorry for Jennifer Aniston…and not just because Angelina Jolie ran off with Brad Pitt. It wasn’t a bad film, depicting, as it does, an unmarried independent career woman planning to give birth by means of artificial insemination. The best thing about the film was co-star Jason Bateman portraying Anniston’s long-time neurotic male friend Wally Mars (Anniston to Bateman:  “You’ve got to hide your crazy at least through the appetizers.”) The plot, as most will know, involves Wally switching the sperm sample Cassie plans to use for making a baby, which gives rise to a little Wally (child actor Thomas Robinson, who didn’t cut it, for me). The inevitability of Jennifer’s character Cassie and Bateman’s Wally eventually ending up together is a foregone conclusion. My husband objected to having to go to “a chick flick.” I have read reviews that trumpeted the film as “the end of Jennifer Aniston’s film career.” I think that is a bit harsh and overly dire for what was a pleasant-but-predictable film with some good acting from the principal characters (including able support from Jeff Goldblum as Leonard, Juliette Lewis as Debbie and Patrick Wilson as Roland, the sperm donor). However, there is no question that it was uncomfortable watching Jennifer Aniston play a more-or-less close to her real life character’s situation: an attractive, independent female who hears her biological clock ticking and is becoming desperate. Desperate is never fun.

I saw Dinner for Schmucks and found it much better than the trailer the advertising gurus chose to use to promote it (see previous Associated Content article).

Here are the films I purposely avoided and am very glad I did:  The Expendables, Eat Pray Love, Sex in the City 2, The Last Exorcism, Prince of Persia, The A-Team, Jonah Hex, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Step Up 3D, Knight and Day, Killers, The Twilight Saga: Eclipse.

Here are the films I saw and could just as happily have missed: Iron Man 2, The American, Journey to Mecca (IMAX offering). Count these as disappointing.

Here are the films I caught and am glad I did:  A Piece of Work (Joan Rivers documentary), Toy Story 3, Inception, Get Low, and Cyrus.

Here are the films I am going to make sure I see before Oscar-time:  Winter’s Bone, Despicable Me.

Happy movie-going to us all!

“Up in the Air” is a Clooney/Reitman Triumph

up-in-the-air“Up in the Air,” a Jason Reitman-directed (and written, with assistance from Sheldon Turner) film stands a great chance of being named this year’s Best Film of the Year. It’s definitely a front-runner and will (no doubt) duke it out with the likes of “Precious,” “The Hurt Locker,”  and “Up in the Air.”

I had the feeling, as I watched the movie, that without George Clooney in the pivotal role of the commitment-phobic Ryan Bingham, who travels the United States terminating people from their jobs and accumulating frequent flyer miles (his goal is 10 million miles), this movie would not be nearly as strong. Clooney’s reputation as a ladies’ man helps us to accept him in the role and aids the film immensely.  I also had the feeling that Clooney’s expert light comedy touch might go unrewarded, again, just as Woody Allen’s comic film masterpieces did for so many years, (until “Annie Hall.”) [Personally, I would have given Clooney the Oscar for his performance in 2007’s “Michael Clayton,” portraying the title character.]

While “Precious” has Oprah in its corner, and “Invictus” has Clint Eastwood in its, Jason Reitman’s film, based on the novel by Walter Kirn, has both Clooney (a formidable asset), and the fact that unemployment in this country has reached levels not seen since the Great Depression. Lay-offs are as common as crab grass, but far more devastating. With the horrible economic conditions abroad in the land and unemployment rates of 10% becoming routine, the film capitalizes on the nation’s preoccupation with losing one’s job.

Everyone knows someone who has either been fired or fears he soon will be fired. The ability to empathize with the illiterate black teen-ager of “Precious” may not be as universal an empathetic emotion, so let’s give the edge to “Up in the Air” in that department, Oprah effect or no Oprah effect.  Plus, this is a fun and lightweight film, while no one would ever characterize “Precious” as that, nor “Avatar,” nor “The Hurt Locker.” I’ve already declared “Invictus” to be only mediocre entertainment, despite the best efforts of its fine stars, and the rest of the race (“The Hurt Locker?” “Up?”) is wide open at this point in time.

There are numerous vignettes of people being fired, since, in the film (if not the book) the company that is responsible for doing the dirty work of actually terminating employees is considering moving away from the use of real people to do the dirty work and is moving towards the use of long-distance technology (computers). Some of those getting the bad news are actors we recognize (J.K. Simmons, the father in “Juno,” as Bob and comedian/actor Zach Galifiakanas as Steve). Some are not

So, how does the movie measure up to the book?

In the book, Clooney’s character is obsessed with using big words and expanding his vocabulary. In the book, there are more women (other than Vera Farmigia, the female lead, as Alex Goran), more sex, and implications of drug abuse. In the book, Vera Farmigia’s character is desperate for Clooney’s character (Ryan Bingham) to return the affection she feels for him, but he remains indifferent and emotionally aloof. In the book, Ryan Bingham, the traveling terminator, talks about the physical toll of his constant travel, and there is no subplot involving using technology to replace face-to-face termination(s).  But who’s keeping track of such minor details?

The film based on the book is great fun! It is a lightweight soufflé that, ultimately, both entertains and enriches, with a message that relationships do matter and, without them, you may end up “up in the air” with choices drifting by you and floating all around, as an original song by Kevin Renick, (a fan who sent the song to Director Jason Reitman), puts it. I was taken with the use of the song by an unknown over the closing credits, because the daughter’s Nashville mentor, Rick Clark, was the person responsible for selecting the songs used in the film and this one seemed very apropos.  The music in the film opens with “This Land Is Your Land”, sung by Sharon Jones, a soulful rendition, as a plane flies above a variety of midwestern cities.

Much of the film was shot in St. Louis, although other Midwestern cities (Omaha, Des Moines, Dubuque) are also mentioned onscreen, as well as locations such as Miami and San Francisco.

Clooney’s terminator du jour takes up with Vera Farmigia’s character of Alex because they have much in common in terms of constant travel. Only a fellow frequent flier would find the prospect of becoming only the 7th member to reach the 10 million mile club “sexy,” Lines like “To know me is to fly with me” resonate as the film progresses, and Ryan’s side-job as a motivational speaker who encourages others to “unload their backpacks” of responsibility serves as a nice counterpoint to allow Clooney’s character to express certain key philosophies in his life. Example:  “We weigh ourselves down until you can’t even move. And moving is living.”

As a woman of a certain age, I laughed out loud at Clooney’s young sidekick Natalie Keener, well played by Anna Kendrick. Anna is young and inexperienced. She has never actually fired anyone, so she is sent out on the road with Clooney by boss Jason Bateman (Craig Gregory) to learn what the process is really like, up close and personal. When she says, to Vera Farmigia’s character, “I really appreciate everything that your generation did for me,” and tells her that she hopes she looks as good as Vera does “in 15 years,” you have to smile. (Either that or cry.)

There is a telling scene in the film with dialogue that pretty well snaps into focus the idea that it is immature to shirk responsibilities and work so hard to remain unattached, footloose and fancy-free. The women in the film drive it home the most directly, declaring that they are  “grown-ups” who consider Clooney’s character’s approach to life immature. As he declares to rooms of rapt seminar listeners, “The slower we move, the faster we die.  We’re not swans, we’re sharks.” As they say, “You are an escape. A break from our normal lives. A parenthesis.”

Clooney tells his soon-to-be brother-in-law (who is experiencing a bad case of double approach-avoidance response, otherwise known as cold feet, on the day of his wedding to Clooney’s sister (played by Amy Morton, better-known from her continuing appearances as the neighbor on television’s “Two and One-Half Men”): “Life’s better with company. Everybody needs a co-pilot.” The prospective brother-in-law, played by Danny McBride as Jim Miller, has shut himself away reading “The Velveteen Rabbit” and is undergoing a moment of existential angst. He asks Clooney (who is sent in to convince him to go through with the wedding), “What is the point?” Clooney’s answer? “There is no point.”

Another great exchange has Clooney saying to his sister Julie Bingham, (Melanie Lynskey) “I tell people how to avoid commitment.” She responds, “What kind of f*****-up message is that?”

By film’s end, you’ll have your answer, and so will Clooney’s character of Ryan Bingham.

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