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Movies, etc.

Good Hair – the crazy things women, and a few men, do to and for (?) our hair, myself included. Once a year, from the age of eleven to sixteen, I got a home perm, my mom spending well over an hour rolling what seemed like a million pink and turquoise curlers at the dining room table, my eyes and scalp burning, and me, save the very LAST time, wholly disappointed at the results.

In this documentary, Chris Rock travels the globe to reveal the secrets and truths behind black hair and its care – relaxers, wigs, weaves, the whole shebang. Frightening, serious, and sad, the film brings up interesting questions on the value of hair, and how the majority of what is perceived to be “good” by the black community is far from its natural state. Sodium hydroxide, the primary chemical used for straightening, completely dissolves an aluminum can in about an hour, yet people put it on the heads of girls as young as three and often continue the practice over a lifetime. It’s a nine BILLION dollar a year industry that keeps a lot of mom and pop shops in business and poor women in debt, with weaves and wigs, good ones, at least, starting at $1,000, and many women spending thousands each year to keep it all up. The saddest part is the fact that many black women look down upon those with natural hair, saying they aren’t as serious or professional for forgoing the chemical processes. I happen to love it when a black woman rocks an afro, and after this bit of education will be even more hearty in my compliments to them!

Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage –  Never a big Rush fan, though I can sing along to more than I would have guessed, I started this documentary with the intention of watching it for five minutes, just until I saw what they looked like. An hour and a half later, I found myself at the end, happy and weeping at a quintessential underdog band story. Largely misunderstood by critics and the general public, but with a cult following, the trio play with passion and curiosity, to their hearts, their fans, and each other. Bravo.

Frank – this movie explores the odd and surprisingly lonely world of being in a band of angry misfits: the thrills, disappointments, and often painful work of leading a truly creative life, oh and having a leader who wears a fake head at all times.

Welcome to Me – Alice (brilliantly played by Kristen Wiig) suffers from borderline personality disorder and spends the majority of her time in her apartment watching television.  She wins the lottery and decides, a la her idol Oprah, to create a show that revolves entirely around her. Sooo good!

The Paper Chase – Explore the highs and lows of being a first year Harvard Law student in this classic movie from 1973. Super handsome Timothy Bottoms and that hair! Lindsay Wagner before she was the Bionic Woman! John Houseman! The story ain’t too shabby, either.

Get Low – A hermit with a mysterious past arrives in town to arrange a funeral party while still alive, raising fists and riling imaginations. The truth is never as bad as we think.

Obvious Child – Oh, golly. A young comic struggling from a break-up and the loss of her job discovers she is pregnant after a one night stand. Though the decision to have an abortion comes easily to her, the repercussions are lasting. Wherever you stand on the issue (I find the practice abhorrent and laws dictating what I do with my body equally so), the film is a thoughtful examination, often times tender and funny, of one woman’s handling of her unplanned pregnancy.

The Broken Circle Breakdown – Love at first sight. Tattoos. Singing and guitar picking. A love for America. A difference of faith and one couple’s struggle to reconcile a loving world with a child who becomes gravely ill. This is a stunner and a heartbreaker with a fantastic soundtrack.

What If – A fun romantic comedy with some very lovely animation. Enough said.

Laggies – An aimless woman in a stifling relationship escapes to the home of a new teenage friend in hopes of reassessing her life. Fun and thoughtful, with Sam Rockwell, one of my favorite actors. The man’s never made an indie movie I didn’t like. Word.


Tig Notaro is a comedian that you likely don’t know by name, at least until recently. I know I didn’t. She made me laugh on Amy Schumer, and in the movie In a World (another good one, actually!), but I didn’t know who she was or that she did stand-up. Dang, was I missing out. Tig is funny! A slow burn kind of comedian. Patient with a joke. As it turns out, she’s quite a fighter, too. The documentary follows her life over a series of kick-her-while-she’s-down scenarios, each more difficult than the last. She handles each in the same manner as her comedy, slowly, wittily, with grace and, of course, good humor. Yay Tig!

Hector & the Search for Happiness – Hector is a psychiatrist at the end of his tether. Uncertain about his relationship and fed up with his patients, he embarks on a trip around the world to discover the source of happiness and maybe find a bit of his own. Funny, sad, and sometimes quite terrifying, with a happy ending, of course.

All the Wilderness – Filmed in Portland! Gee-golly, watching this kind of made me miss my old home, remembering with misty-eyed fondness my own time in the City of Roses. The story is pretty great, too. James witnesses his father’s suicide (off THE bridge, Portlanders) and copes in the best way he can. Obsessing over death, alienating friends and family, finding love, baffling his therapist (Danny DeVito!), it’s a struggle to make it day by day. I suppose that is life for most of us.

Not Waving But Drowning – Two best friends plan a move to New York City from their small Florida town post high school, but, for various reasons, only one of them makes it. The film documents their struggles and triumphs, with each other, new relationships, and life, in general. It’s a beauty.

A fascinating look at a wild and complicated Pittsburgh Pirate. Doc Ellis pitched a no-hitter while high on LSD, but that was really just the tip of the iceberg. Outspoken (and rightly so) on race and equality in the game of baseball in a time when it was highly frowned upon, he never walked away from controversy or failed to stand up for his team mates. His personal life was a bit of a wreck. He was a drug addict, heavy drinker, and known for abusing the women in his life. He makes good, however, in the best possible way.

The Code – A great political thriller set in Australia, with a small time journalist and his brother at the center of a murder investigation and major government cover-up. Very well done!


Love is Strange – A bittersweet tale of love and family that follows a gay couple, Ben and George, and the repercussions of their marriage after being together for thirty-nine years. George loses his job and the couple must sell their apartment and look for a less expensive place, all while living apart with friends and relatives. A great look at relationships and personalities, and the different ways in which we cope and love.

It is especially dear to me as I think of my Uncle Chris and his now husband Joe, who got married just this month (huzzah!), after being together for over twenty-two years. I am so grateful that they live in a place where their love and marriage poses no threat to their job or housing security!

Orphan Black – A streetwise mother discovers she is a clone after witnessing the suicide of a woman who looks like her. Intrigue! Drama! Suspense! And if none of that sounds even remotely interesting, there’s the fact that Tatiana Maslany pulls off, with great aplomb, playing more than a half dozen completely believable and badass characters, our hands-down favorite being Helena. Hello sestra!

The Discoverers – A father’s road trip with his children gets derailed by death, madness, and being forced to participate in a Lewis and Clark re-enactment trek. This hilarious and sweet tale falls into the Colleen loves quirky category, most definitely.

Finding Vivian Maier – John Maloof bought a taped and battered trunk at auction. Hoping for treasure, he found it in spades, with photographs shot by Vivian Maier, a mostly unknown woman with a penchant for capturing the everyday, in thousands upon thousands of photographs. Maloof plays detective and documentarian in a fil-um that asks as many questions as it raises. One thing is quite clear, at least to me, the woman had a phenomenal eye!

Tracks – A moving tale of Robyn Davidson’s 1977 solo journey, save a few camels and her beloved dog, some 1,700 miles across the Australian Outback. Beautifully filmed, this is a send-up to love, for our dreams, our strengths and weaknesses, our fierce and fragile souls, our beloved pets, and the mysteries and wonders of life and humanity.

Oh, and the music is a-mazing. My hat is off to you, Garth Stevenson.

Scrotal Recall – yes, you read that properly. After learning he’s contracted an STD, Dylan must get back in touch with every woman he’s ever slept with. Luckily the list isn’t terribly long, though the six episodes certainly left me itching for the next. A fun, silly, and, at times, quite serious look at love and relationships, including those with our best friends. Fabulous!

Two Lives – The Berlin Wall is crumbling. A woman leads a comfortable life with a loving husband and family in Norway. Her life begins to unravel after being asked to testify against the Norwegian state on behalf of war children, those with Norwegian mothers and Nazi fathers. The story brought rather abominable practices to light (at least for the hubster and me) and asks important questions about truth. A thriller!

Ida – an orphan raised by the church learns she is Jewish just before taking her vows as a nun. A marvelously evocative tale of loss and identity, with stunning cinematography.

Pride – This follows the story of gay and lesbian activists who raised money in support of striking miners in 1984 only to be initially rejected. They decide to deliver the funds in person and a wonderfully unique alliance is created. Ever so sweet and a touch sad, too.






 More movies? So soon? Yup! I realized that I left out some really good ones last time. Enjoy!


Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s – Regardless of your take on fashion, this documentary is pretty cool. Meet the people and learn the history behind the iconic New York institution, Bergdorf Goodman. The genius window dressers, the trend spotters, the sales people. Fascinating!

The Silence – A young girl disappears in the precise location another girl disappeared some twenty-three years earlier. A story of loneliness, friendship, and the past we can’t escape.

The Story of Film: An Odyssey – Wowie zowie! This is a spectacular documentary series that looks at film and film making, from the very first to present day. Broad in scope, each of the fifteen hour-long episodes covers a different genre, era, or innovation from around the world. Mark Cousins, the talented writer/director/narrator has a fabulous voice, too. In particular, I enjoy his use and pronunciation of the word “sweep.”

Robot & Frank – In a not so far off future, children concerned about their father but too busy or distant to care for him on a regular basis buy him a robot. Oh, and Frank is a cat burglar with dementia, too, and learns how to get his robot in on the action in between bouts of forgetting. Deception and mayhem ensue.

Rust & Bone – A woman wakes up with her legs amputated after a freak accident with the killer whale she was training. A man with a passion for fighting. They meet and become friends. Sweet things happen. Sad, depressing things happen. People make horrible mistakes. Rights are wronged as best they can be. A happy ending, of sorts. Brilliant!

Frequencies – In this mind bender of a fil-um, success and intelligence are determined by a person’s frequency, the higher the better. When people of mixed frequency interact, chaos ensues (earthquakes! lightning! thunderstorms!), usually within a minute. Very low frequency Zak, in love with very high frequency Marie is determined to find a solution. Terrific!

Dear White People – Meet four black students at an Ivy League school, each unique and with very different ambitions, each mixed up in a heated battle in the one all-black house on campus. Whip smart, laugh out loud funny, and incredibly sad and horrifying, at times.



It’s been almost a YEAR since I talked about fine fil-ums. Jeepers. It’s not as though I haven’t seen any, either. I spend so much time with Netflix that I consider it a BFF. Anyhoo, here we go…

Advanced Style profiles the oft ignored, yet completely marvelous style of New York women over the age of sixty (it’s also a blog!). Fun, funny, beautiful, and absolutely inspirational, the film really challenges women to dress like we mean it and with great for love our bodies, despite the number of wrinkles and birthdays under our belt. I was especially charmed by the woman in red, Ilona Royce Smithkin. She’s a fabulously talented artist, makes her fake eyelashes from her own hair, and is one of the most positive, warm, and vivacious women I have ever seen.

Cairo Time follows a married woman (the always fabulous Patricia Clarkson) unexpectedly traveling on her own in Cairo. Beautiful and langorous, I felt as though I was spying  as she’s challenged, delighted, and surprised by this very foreign city and its magical river, which is as much a character as the actors. Cherry Blossoms is a beautiful story of lasting love, grief, and appreciating the here and now, for you never know how much time you have.

Departures is the touching story of a man who abandons his dreams of becoming a world class cellist to discover his rather surprising true calling of dressing the dead for burial.

Electrick Children – A young woman believes she’s been impregnated with the son of God by listening to music and goes on a quest to Las Vegas to find the maker of the song. Her innocence is simply dazzling!

I binge watched series two of The Fall over one spectacular afternoon. Gillian Anderson deftly plays a strong, intelligent, albeit flawed (a.k.a. human) detective eager to stop a serial killer.  Love this show!

The History of Future Folk – An alien sent to earth to kill humans and begin colonization changes his plans after hearing music for the first time (a being after my own heart). When an assassin comes to finish the work he never started and save their home planet, they form a band and other mayhem ensues. This was so much fun!

G-Dog – Gregory Boyle is a priest and, as far as I am concerned, a real life saint. Through tenacity, innovation, and so very much love, he created Homeboy Industries, a program that provides gang members with the emotional, spiritual, and vocational skills they need to become lawful, productive members of society, because, “Nothing stops a bullet like a job.” I wish every city had a program like this in place!

Living on One Dollar – Another inspirational story about four friends who stay in a remote Guatemalan village for 56 days. Through illness and uncertainty, they grow their own food, make lasting friendships with their neighbors, and learn what it means to struggle and thrive with so very little.

The Matador – This movie always takes me and the hubster to our happy place. In a role that is the antithesis of James Bond, Pierce Brosnan plays a contract killer with a penchant for sex, alcohol, and bull fighting, but without a single friend. Enter Greg Kinnear, do-gooder with a string of bad luck. Hilarity, friendship, and murder ensue.

Rectify – Exonerated for the murder of his girlfriend after nearly twenty years in prison, a man returns home to the oddities of freedom, the complications of family, and a community unsure of his innocence. Another binge-watch!



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