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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!


American Folk – Strangers drive from California to New York after their flight is grounded on September 11th. A thoughtful look at angry and wounded people and our ability to overcome what holds us back (or not). Some nice singing, too.

The Wall – a woman visiting the country with friends survives an apocalyptic event that separates her from the remaining world. A vivid portrayal of acceptance and survival and the importance of our relationship with nature.

From Sea to Shining Sea – Buddies on a road trip across America, viewed both from the lens of a native and foreigner.

Something, Anything – A woman eagerly searches for her own sense of self and her place in the world.

Harriet – The dazzling story of Harriet Tubman – so much more than I ever realized.

Boundaries – An emotionally vulnerable mom takes her son and pot-dealing father on a road trip after he’s been kicked out of yet another nursing home.

The Capture – the dark side of technology and activism collide in this crime thriller. Not for the idealistic or faint of heart.

The Only Living Boy in New York – a recent college graduate gets caught up with his new neighbor and an affair with his father’s lover, among other things, as he struggles to determine a clear path for his own life.

The Sleepers – a chilling spy thriller depicting the first days of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, where no one is trustworthy and everyone is culpable.

Dr. Sleep – For any one who ever wondered whatever happened to Danny Torrance. I’m not normally one for horror, but this had me from the first moment.

Foodie Love – a horrible name for a great story delving into the complications of insecurity and regret on a relationship. Beautiful people and beautiful food, in a tip of the iceberg way.

Love Life – Follow Darby through the ups and downs and sometimes serious embarrassments of being a young woman struggling to find her way in love, relationships, and her career.


The Fencer – One of those based on true events stories that would have been just as interesting had they actually stuck with the truth. But, I digress, because it is still quite good. A man hiding from the communists moves to a small town, falls in love, and teaches children how to fence.

Appollo 11 – Like entering a time machine (insert cool sound effect here) and watching the first trip to the moon unfold. Truly magical!

Follow it with this for an apropos cultural counterbalance…

The Biggest Little Farm – Follow a couple as they struggle with plants and trees and beasts to create a sustainable & regenerative farm in California. Inspirational.

Cold War – A beautiful and difficult film that captures a troubled love during the Cold War, where sacrifice and loss are the standard order.

Feel Good – Comedian Mae works to overcome her addiction to drugs while becoming romantically entangled with a straight woman unsure of her feelings. Funny and real. One of my favorite lines: “I get my good qualities from my parents, and my bad ones are a mystery.” Truth.

Some Freaks – A trio of misfits date and become friends, show their most awful and fragile selves, fall apart, and come together again.

Dispatches from Elsewhere – A group of Philadelphia strangers come together for a common purpose in a most magical and mysterious way. Goodnesssss. Were I an inhabitant of the Bay Area and heard of this while the wheels and inspiration for this series were in motion, I would have been a most gleeful participant.

Hannah Gadsby: Douglas – One of my favorite comedic minds is at it again, and what a marvel it is to be along for the ride!

Small Apartments – My kinds of quirky cast of characters, all living in or somehow associated with a dilapidated apartment building. Death, mischief, theft, mayhem, much heart, and a lot of laughs.

All the Light in the Sky – An aging actress struggles with the fact that she’s beome less and less desirable (and employable) while entertaining her young niece, who is also an actress. Such truth here – the fragility of spirit, the disheartening reality of a changing body, and suddently becoming the oldest person in the room.

Wanderland – This was such fun! A man takes up a stranger’s invitation to spend the weekend at her home in the Hamptons, and it is anything but what he thought it would be.

Betty – Saving the best for last. Girls who skate (board), call each other out on their bullshit, love fiercely, fall down, and get back up again. And the music is a dream…


I Am Not Okay With This: A teenage girl deals with the everyday as well as the complicated: friendship, high school, the effects of her father’s suicide on her family, as well as her budding and, as yet, untamed superpower.

Patrick Melrose: I am slightly premature on this one, only having viewed the first three of five episodes, but that, in itself, should be a major tell. Benedict Cumberbatch is positively brilliant as a man struggling to overcome the demonic hold of his wickedly abusive father and emotionally absent mother over his life. The first episode alone is worth a view. Horrifying in its intensity, it depicts his wild spiral into the madness of drug addiction.

Mr. Church: A man hired to be the cook for a dying woman and her child forges a lifelong bond when the original six months spans years. This was so sweet! I love you, Eddie Murphy.

In the Shadow of the Moon: A serial killer defies death and physics to kill every nine years while the cop on her trail nearly loses everything to capture her.

All the Bright Places: A high schooler mourning the loss of her sister befriends a boy struggling with his own past and present. Tender and ever so true.

ZZ Top: Like much of the music my dad listened to when I was a child, I cannot remember a time without ZZ Top, singing along to La Grange and Cheap Sunglasses before I even knew the name of the band. This one is on the lighter side – a fun and thougthful look at an equally fun and thoughtful band.

Anita: A young woman with down syndrome loses track of her mother after a terrorist bombing in Buenos Aires. Adrift and disoriented, she finds help among the equally broken and lost.

Youth in Oregon: A cantankerous man learns that a surgery to repair his heart was unsuccessful and demands to be driven to Oregon where he can take his own life via assisted suicide.

Blue Ruin: A homeless man learns the person responsible for the murder of his parents has been released from prison. A slow burn of a fil-um, sucking the viewer into a violent abyss, tense and sweaty and mad.

Beforeigners: A near future tale of people from varying time periods in the past who literally surface in water and have to adjust to modern life. One of them, a Norwegian Shieldmaiden, becomes a cop. Super funny and smart!


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