Ron Wilkerson

What Was I Thinking?

About The Irishman: I saw The Irishman last week and used it as the film of the week for my online screenwriting class.  It's worth watching because as a film by Martin Scorsese, a major director, essentially made for streaming on Netflix, it's historic.  But as a film itself, it's merely good, not great.  The script by Steven Zaillian is well-written, the cinematography is gorgeous with little or no use of shaky cam.  The biggest problem I had with it is that, despite great performances, it is miscast.  Using four older actors (Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci and Harvey Keitel) and digitally de-aging them to play younger men is part of the problem, and to be honest, it didn't really work for me.  But the bigger issue is casting two actors who are most identified by playing Italian-Americans as an Irishman (De Niro's character Frank Sheeran) and a German-Dutch-American (Pacino's character Jimmy Hoffa).  De Niro wasn't the slightest bit Irish and essentially played De Niro.  This worked strongly against the basic concept of the film which is the idea of an Irishman working as a hitman for the Italian mafia.  His character was supposed to be an outsider, and yet, as played by De Niro was really just another one of the boyz.  Pacino (though he gave a great performance) was slightly less problematic as Hoffa.  But when a scene required the guy who played Michael Corleone to speak about the Italian mob as "you people" it just didn't play.  12.13.19  


About What I've Been Watching: I can't say that I've been overly wowed by anything, but three crime dramas (especially the two French ones) are definitely worth the time.  First up is Mindhunter, a period drama in which members of a new Behavioral Sciences Department at the FBI interview serial killers in order to understand their thinking with hopes of applying that knowledge to current cases.  What's cool about the show is that the prison interviews reportedly use transcripts of actual interviews with Charles Manson, Richard Speck, Ed Kemper and David Berkowitz.  Normal people can't write dialogue like this.  What's less cool is that for the most part there are no ongoing investigations and therefore little drama.  What drama there is -- family/relationship drama as well as conflict within the team -- feels manufactured. 

The next two are crime dramas from France, La Foret (The Forest) and Black Spot (Zone Blanche).  Both take place in small mountain villages in the countryside surrounded by forests that have a mysterious or supernatural element.  Both feature missing or murdered children that start investigations by the local gendarmerie.  The top cops in each show are sensational.  The police in Black Spot are headed by a woman (a local resident with a dark history in the woods).  The police in La Foret are headed by a serious cop who is a new arrival in town.  All the acting is great, or at least seems great since my French is more than a little rusty.  09.30.19


About My Biking Habit: Mongoose I: Backed over with my car in the garage, wrecked. Mongoose II: Wrecked when I was hit by a car, frame bent.  Mongoose III: Stolen outside LA Fitness club two weeks ago. Mongoose IV: Brand new, ready for adventure (see pic).
I've gotta be one of Wal-Mart's best bike customers.
 
06.20.19






About The Game of Thrones Finale: Spoilers ahead.  I liked it.  It was a fitting end to a pretty remarkable show - up there with the endings to Breaking Bad and The Sopranos.  I've not been as much of a Daenerys fan since that whole "must bend the knee" business last season.  Commitment to monarchy is the thing I liked least about Game of Thrones.  It's essentially a show about the consequences of bad government.  I do generally agree with the fan backlash that greeted "The Bells."  Daenerys was not properly motivated to torch King's Landing.  That was, unfortunately, convenient writing to achieve a desired end.  But, having said that, it's not like we haven't seen her cruel side in the past: the Astapor slavers, Mereeneese nobles, Dothraki khals.  They all deserved it.  Right?  But why did Varys deserve roasting?  For having a conversation with Jon about who would be a better ruler?  For such a major character as Daenerys to take a turn to burning innocent men, women and children needed better motivation.  Seems like a misstep for a series that had done so much else so remarkably well.  But you just kinda knew when they pictured her with her troops, echoing the image that Leni Riefenstahl captured in Triumph of the Will, (as well as a similar echo for Commodus in Gladiator) that there wasn't going to be a happy ending for her character.  Still, I liked where most of the other characters ended up.  And for all the good that came before, I can only thank George R.R. Martin, David Benioff, & D.B. Weiss.  05.19.19


About Game of Thrones:  Spoilers Ahead.  While I generally liked “The Last Starks” episode, particularly the funeral scene (nice way to say goodbye to friends) and character moments during the after party, the battle with Euron Greyjoy’s Iron Fleet was just ridiculous.  I’m always willing to give shows that I like a bit of slack, but pul--eeeze-- another “sneak attack” by the Iron Fleet – this one occurring in daylight!  When I moved to the West Coast, I took lessons in sailing and spent a lot of time on the waters of Santa Monica Bay.  I’m hardly an old sea captain, but let me tell you, there is no way that another boat under sail can sneak up on you.  You’d spot it – especially a fleet -- miles away.  It was bad enough last season when Euron’s fleet suddenly attacked Yara’s, but at least that was at night.  Why in the world would Dany fly her dragons anywhere near Euron’s fleet during daylight?  And why was Dany’s fleet in irons with sails barely luffing, while Euron’s fleet was running under full sail?  Did they have different wind?  Maybe Euron brought his own wind.  That would be like him.  I’m willing to accept dragons, giants and the walking dead. But full sail in no wind? Come on, man!  05.11.19


About The Last Kingdom:  Normally I have a prohibition on any film or TV show named "The Last" because they're usually mediocre.  But this one, streaming on Netflix is a rare exception.  The Last Kingdom is about England in the late 800s and the struggles of the Saxons against the invading Danes.  It's basically the other side of the story told on Vikings (another historical fiction show I like a lot), only this is told from the Saxon point of view.  There's lots of swordplay and bloodletting that you would get on Game of Thrones or Vikings, but there's also some rich character development, especially in the relationship between the two guys on the left, King Alfred of Wessex and Uhtred of Bebbanburg, a Saxon who was orphaned and raised by the Danes.  Uhtred is an especially interesting character with roots and loyalties to both sides in the conflict.  Three seasons are available on Netflix and another one is in production.  Definitely worth viewing.  03.01.19


About Peaky Blinders: Found another binge viewer on Netflix. Peaky Blinders is a British production about a mob family in Birmingham post World War I. It's a mix of The Godfather, Boardwalk Empire and The Sopranos. It's not always perfect, but it's pretty darned good. Four seasons worth are available on Netflix now and a fifth season is apparently in production. I've liked Cillian Murphy since 28 Days Later, and he was a terrific bad guy in Red Eye. But he's really found his perfect role here as Tommy Shelby, the head of the family. Also, there's a great recurring guest role for Tom Hardy starts in season two.  01.14.19


OLDER NEWS
________________________________________________________


About My Novel: My novelization of my feature screenplay, Houdini & Lovecraft: The Ghost Writer is now available!  It is published on Amazon as a paperback, Kindle eBook or for download to a PC. 

This story is an historical fiction about an encounter between famed magician Harry Houdini and horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, who was actually hired by the magician to be his ghost writer on a story Imprisoned With The Pharaohs, that was published in Weird Tales magazine in 1924.

I was fascinated by the relationship between these two men, absolute icons of their era, and the fact that they actually collaborated.  So I thought about a "what if?" scenario, and came up with the idea that there was, in fact, another collaboration between Houdini and Lovecraft, only this one became an adventure that was so horrifying and shocking that the true story couldn't be shared with the rest of the world... until now. 


CLICK HERE to read more about the story on the next page.