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Hi ALL! Though summer has yet to officially begin, the heat (SO hot!) and sun and wild rollick of garden blooms speaks otherwise, so here we are with my recent favorites.

Tokyo Girl, which is not a movie but a stellar t.v. show. It follows Aya from a teenager dreaming of moving to Tokyo, to a recent college graduate making the move to the big city, all the way into her 40s. I loved this! It’s so rare to find a show that feels so true to a woman’s emotional journey, dreaming of one life while another unfolds. Additionally, as someone who has never visited Japan, it was such a treat to get an intimate look at neighborhood life in Tokyo.

Arctic – a man struggles against weather and polar bears after his plane crashes. He is mad-clever and great at systems, but his burden becomes far more dear when the helicopter come to his rescue crashes, and he must help a woman in far worse shape than he. Not a thriller in the typical sense, but Greg and I were seriously stressed out as we rooted for the pair to make it to safety. And bonus, what beautiful scenery!

All Nighter – A father with poor communication skills enlists his daughter’s ex to help him find her after she fails to return his phone calls. Silly and funny and light-hearted.

Freaks – A father and daughter exist in isolation, only venturing outside when absolutely necessary. But why? Is it delusion, madness, a criminal past? Something strange is going on, and the film makers sure kept us guessing!

The Assistant – Spend the day in the life of an assistant to a very important and powerful entertainment mogul. A subtle and disturbing glimpse at the sacrifices people make to bring their dreams to life.

Map of Tiny Imperfect Things – A teenager relives, a la Groundhog Day, one day over and over again, no deviation from the norm. Until a young woman enters the scene and he is flummoxed. It takes ages, but he finds her again, and they form a friendship before coming to grips with what it might take to move into the future. All.The.Things. Yup.

A Fantastic Fear of Everything – A crazy romp with a man who spends far too much time in his head and not nearly enough in the actual world. Paranoid and squeamish, he sees horror lurking around every corner, even laundry freaks this guy out. We laughed A LOT.

The Farewell – Billi, a flailing artist, learns her beloved Nai Nai (grandma) has a terminal illness. Against her family’s wishes, she travels to China for a wedding banquet to say goodbye without arousing suspicion of her diagnosis. Tender and filled with love, with a pro-collectivist nod. By not disclosing her illness, the family takes the burden off Nai Nai and shares it, so she might live more peacefully. Chew on that.

Uncle Frank – 1973. A rather sheltered Southern young woman moves to New York to attend the college where her Uncle Frank is also a professor. During a party at his apartment, she learns he is gay. Soon after, her grandfather dies and the pair drive down for the funeral. A story of love and understanding, a fair dose of hatred (self and other) and fear, of those who can cope with gayness, and those who cannot. Brilliantly done.

Long Strange Trip – When I was in college, my friend Mitch and I had a shared love for Van Morrison, Led Zeppelin, and Big Head Todd. Where I could not join him was in his affection for the Grateful Dead. As much as I tried, no matter how catchy, I did not like Truckin’ or Uncle John’s Band. I could not abide a Touch of Gray, and said as much. He was kindly and told me the JAMS were where it’s at. End of conversation.

Here we are, some twenty-nine years later, and Long Strange Trip pops up on Prime. If you know me, I’ll watch any documentary of quality, regardless of subject. Greg joined me, and we loved it. I scribbled song titles as the fascinating history unfolded. Turns out Mitch was right. It IS the jams. We’ve been playing a pretty steady stream. Apologies all these years later, my friend, wherever you are.


We watched Sound of Metal recently, the only, I think, Oscar nominee we managed this year. It’s funny how I used to be so into it, seeing the movies, watching the red carpet, the ceremony, so interested and invested in it all. The clothes, the speeches, the wonder! A season of my life now complete, I suppose.

The film, however, got to me, deeply. How for a long while, a body moves along, believing it is one person, doing life in one certain way, contentedly so. Suddenly a change comes, wholly unexpected and painfully blunt. In the main character’s case, a loss of hearing. How does a drummer go on when he can no longer hear the notes? How does a body get out of the head space of necessity? Of Disability?

The most intriguing moment of the story happens when he’s told his grief is not about hearing loss. The problem is not deafness. The problem is making peace with deafness. The problem is the mind.

How true this is. How true that our minds are often our greatest road blocks. Stories we are told. Stories we create. Dysfunctional patterns and beliefs run riot, ruling us like bullies, toddlers in need of rest. How bankrupt and desperate. Sometimes ugly, too.

How potent the moment when we witness this ugliness from a distance, truly recognize it. Embrace it with love. Then let it go. What sweet freedom. What peace.

May we all arrive there.


Prince Avalanche – Two misfits re-stripe the back roads of Texas after a massive fire. Both lonely and unaware of how much they need the friendship of one another. The landscape plays itself, beautifully so.

The Hollars – There’s a lot going on here. Pregnancy, insecurity, illness, loneliness, and wicked destructive jealousy. Also awkward funny laughter followed by some truly heart felt moments. Kinda like life.

Plus One – Two friends decide to embark on the unbearable together – ten weddings over the course of a summer. More insecurity, quite a bit of drunkenness, love, dysfunction, and good humor. Oh, and to save you the head scratching, the main man is Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid’s son.

Britt Marie Was Here – A very tightly wound woman leaves her husband upon learning of his years-long affair with a much younger woman. Uncertain of her abilities, she takes on a neglected community center and its flailing soccer team.

Troop Zero – A young girl aching for her dead mother seeks to win the competition to have her voice put out in the universe (and therefore heard by ALL), via the Voyager craft. The only problem is she needs a Birdie Troop to do it, and the only one available does NOT want her. Undeterred, she gathers all the other misfit girls she knows to make their own. Underdogs rule the day, my friends. Plus, Viola Davis!!!

FREAKY – I loved the original Jodie Foster Freaky Friday and prolly could have watched it on a loop were the option given to me as a child. This racy, young adult in our modern times version is no less fabulous. Vince Vaughn plays a serial killer who switches bodies with a high school outcast in hilarious fashion. It’s madcap and funny and terribly gory.

Tales From the Loop – Greg and I, after ages and ages, finally bit the bullet and got Amazon Prime. For the shows, not the shipping. We’ve always kept our cart going until it was free, anyway. But, I digress. This show!!! It’s a three exclamation point and more, yes ma’am. It highlights the frailties, excitement, wonder, and loss of ordinary people living in a most extraordinary place of time travel, adventure, and answers one might not care to know. Beautiful, simply beautiful.

Save Yourselves – A couple super-attached to their devices decides to unplug for a weekend in the country right when the world is invaded my murderous, Tribble-looking creatures. It’s a hoot!

Mum – Follow Cathy as she navigates her new life after losing her husband, starting on the day of his funeral. Her in-laws, husband’s best friend, brother and obnoxious girlfriend, thick-headed and equally obnoxious son and his dimwitted but awfully sweet girlfriend play important roles, as she struggles to find her independence and sense of self. Three wonderful seasons.

Colewell – A quiet film following a postal worker as her office is declared obsolete, despite being the hub of her small community. A stunner.



We’ve been PBS supporters for a long while, and with our membership comes access to an extensive collection of their programs. The interface is clunky and not terribly intuitive, begging for a Netflix employee to jump ship and make it great, but there is a rhythm to it. Once achieved, I find my way around the areas I like. American Masters, American Experience, and the films of Ken Burns and Lynn Novick my absolute favorites.

My Great Uncle Ed and a friend on V-E Day

Over the past month or so, after a dearth of titles elsewhere, I went on a Ken Burns bender, watching Jazz, The Civil War, The War, and Hemingway. Keith David and Peter Coyote’s voices a near constant in my ears. The perfect pitch and timbre, oh, yes.

My high school history teacher would be proud. Were you watching with me in heaven, Mr. Poisson, black Converse and Cuban cigar? What an education I’ve had! There’s so much I didn’t know, so many details Mr. Poisson couldn’t possibly have time for.

I am infinitely grateful for the dedication and attention to detail in these films, how deeply personal it all becomes. The world gets so messed up and still is in so many ways. It makes my depression spike, but then the reminders, of music and great literature, and movies, and small mercies: flowers and wildlife, the scent of pine, and news from loved ones. I also come to remember the words of Mr. Rogers, about looking for the helpers. Wretched people enter our lives; horrible events happen, but there they are, seen and unseen, and I must always keep them in mind.

And the hawk! Early one morning, Greg and I were walking with my Mom and Juniper, through the park of my childhood, and I spied it atop the tallest evergreen. We stopped to gawk at it, which it didn’t particularly enjoy, so it flew off. A beauty.

Enjoy the View

Driveways – A woman and her young son travel across country to empty her sister’s house after her death. She was a hoarder, and there is much more work than anticipated. The process and their initial discomfort at the daunting task and the neighborhood in general soon vanishes when the son befriends the big-hearted, no nonsense next door neighbor. Such tenderness.

Always Worthy – A joyful train wreck of a fil-um following the life of a struggling actress in Los Angeles.

Mary & Mike – My first Chilean television series! And WOW, just wow. How I thank my lucky stars not to live in a place where I or people I care about could be murdered or disappeared at the whim of a maniacal dictator and his legions of Yes Men and Women. The series follows a husband and wife team and their near and far murder spree. Based on a real couple, the husband Michael Townley getting off easy before being ushered into the safety of the U.S. witness protection program for a bombing in Washington D.C. You can’t make this shit up.

Heaven Can Wait – A walk on the less serious side, only forty years or so after it first hit theaters. Warren Beatty plays a football player prematurely taken to heaven by an overzealous guardian angel. He’s sent back and put in the body of another man, where hilarity and quite a bit of mad cap drama ensues.

Long Day’s Journey Into Night – A dreamy wander into the furthest reaches of China, as a man searches for a woman he lost decades earlier. Moody and ever so beautiful.

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial – I’m not going to insult your intelligence by telling you what this is all about. What I will do? Say how it is as wonderfully evocative as the Westminster Mall twilight showing with my family, way back in 1982. I exited shame-faced at my puffy-eyed mess of tears. Yep.

Bad Words – Jason Bateman plays a man capitalizing on a spelling bee loophole to annihilate the competition, befriend a fellow competitor, and generally wreak havoc for a bit of revenge. Crude and hilarious with a dash of sweetness, too.

Wild Nights with Emily – A fun, informative, and sometimes uproarious history lesson on the life of Emily Dickinson. Quite a bit of her poetry, too. Delightful.

Escape to the Chateau – Oh, gosh, was this a wonderful escape, indeed. A couple (and their two adorable children) buy a chateau in the French countryside to refurbish, live in, and hold posh weddings. They are sweet and loving and funny and such damn hard workers, turning their wreck back into a work of art. I gobbled six seasons in no time flat!


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