my        reccomendations

Watching movies. In the old days you
bought a ticket, a coke and box of
popcorn and took your seat. The movie
begins and there are three
possibilities: you will like it, you
will loathe it or some other reaction
in between. But either way the one
thing you will not do is to rise from
your seat and leave—to walk out. I
could count on the fingers of one hand
the number of times I have walked out
on a movie. Why? I dont know. But in
the stock market if I buy a stock and  
it begins to tank and at some point I
am down by 10% I sell this clunker and
move on to the next buy. Its called: to
cut your losses.

You reach a certain age, lets say 70
, and your ability to tolerate
stupidity begins to slide. Or you could
say the slide, already in motion,
accelerates. Stupidity manifests itself
in many ways but here I am concerned
with one example—the stupid movie.  Its
a long list.

That brings me to Netflix. There is a
well known quote from Descartes: I
think, therefore I am. Today we say: I
stream, therefore I am.  And there is a
lot of streaming to be done—
molto.  At
last count the Netflix library stood at
72,000 titles. I grant you that 71,000
are unwatchable or close. That still
leaves you with 1000 films no one has
ever heard of but worth the trouble to
track  down—to stream your way through
the garbage to retrieve the gem buried
within. Its labor intensive but the
gems are there to be found.

For example:
Queen To Play. There I am  
comfortably installed  on the couch,
feet up on the coffee table and on
the wall opposite my super duper 52”
Sony LCT TV with the internet
connection and my remote within reach—
easy reach—and I am streaming.

The site organizes itself into
categories. There are many. I will list
a few: classics, drama, cult,
documentaries, romance, independent,
thriller, etc. These are the general
categories that break down further into
sub categories. For example: go to
drama that opens a drop down where you
find: foreign drama, indie, military,
gay and lesbian, show biz, teen, and
others. There are subcategories within
the subcategories. For example:foreign.
Foreign breaks down into: foreign based
on a book, understated foreign,
cerebral foreign, World War 2 foreign,
crime, based on a true story, foreign

On with the streaming: I go to drama
cerebral and take a crack at
directed by Steven Soderberg who made
Sex. Lies and Videotape and somehow.
following that one, he lost his touch,
modest enough though it was, never to
be regained. I am 12 minutes into
Haywire, that begins with a good fight
scene in a diner, why they are fighting
we dont know but the movie proceeds and
its 3 scenes later and I am still in
the dark story-wise. The actors speak
but in circles. They make sense to each
other but not to me. Also they mumble.  
Marlon Brando in Streetcar was a master
of articulate speech compared to these
incoherents. Either way I am 70 years
old, times is a wastin’ and I am
reluctant to spend any more of it
waiting for Steven Soderberg to
straighten out this mess.

At top left on the screen is a link—the
Back to Browsing link. I have my trusty
remote—the equivalent of rising from
your seat to walk out on an unwatchable
film and maneuver  the arrow over to
the Back To Browsing Link and I click
on the link and I am gone.

I scroll here and there, still in drama
cerebral. Scanning the films and I
check out 3 films:
Primal Fear with
Richard Gere for 12 minutes, The Bad
Detective with
Nicholas Cage for 12
minutes, The
Lincoln Lawyer with
Matthew McConaughey for 3 minutes.  
Whats the problem
? There are many: the
acting sucks, the story is stupid, the
director is a bum, and the music, very
important, compounds all these sins.
But whatever the problem the effect is
the same: to waste my time.

I scroll here and there, still in drama
cerebral, and now I am watching
Sea Of
with Al Pacino and Ellen Barkin.  
I like Pacino—also Ellen Barkin.
Sea of
isnt a watchable film or an
unwatchable film but falls somewhere in
between—the ambiguous type film. It
grabs you, it loses you, your interest

There is a story—Al as a cop on the
trail of a serial killer that is,
maybe, Ellen Barkin. We don’t know and
there is but one way to find out—for Al
to bang Ellen Barkin. Its the movies:
When in doubt—fuck someone. Al bangs
her, the investigation continues, it
continues to drag  and they must bang

My point is this. You reach a certain
age, lets say 70 years, and the thing
you most desire, film-wise, is a good
story—action.  But a love scene is a
love scene is a love scene that in no
way differs from the 2000 love scenes
you have already seen. The action
stalls and your patience, what little
you have left, is tested.

But I am in Netflix streaming with the
timeline and the little red dot that
can be goosed to leapfrog the scene and
on to the scene that follows—blood
pouring from the eyeballs of a low
life.  In this way, to leapfrog the
love scenes and a handful of other
scenes the movie can do without—the
pointless conversation scene, the
cornball music scene, etc—I halve the  
viewing of
Sea Of Love—to 46 minutes.
(My friend Joe, fellow streamer,
watched a George Clooney movie in 18

Back to browsing. I am in foreign,
foreign with a strong female lead and
now my dedication to this quest—the
viewing of a decent movie—pays off
Queen To Play—French,featuring
the actress Sandrine Bonnaire, well
known in Europe but not to myself.

The films I tend to favor have one
thing in common: they surprise me. The
stories are simple, usually to embrace
some universal theme such as love,
work, family, honor—or dishonor—
loyalty, courage, the struggle to
survive adversity, etc. But they are
handled with great skill and authority,
a confident hand that rewards the
viewer with these little twists and
turns, offbeat, funny—and
unpredictable. And when they are over I
am left with a particular feeling:

Queen To Play. If I was going to
pitch this film to a studio the pitch
would go something like: cleaning
lady bored with life decides to learn
chess and becomes champ. And I would
get a polite look from the producer
behind his desk and it would be a short

The film is set in a French resort.
Helene is a chambermaid at a luxury
hotel. She is cleaning the room of a
young couple who sit outside on the
terrace playing chess. She cleans the
room and from time to time looks over
at the couple and the game and what is
going on with the game. The game
interests her.

A few days later. The house of Helene.
She is married with a teenage daughter.
The husband works in a shipyard, a blue
collar type.  Its his birthday. There
is a cake and the opening of presents.
He unwraps the wifes present—an
electronic chess set. The husband
examines the gift, then examines his

He says: what is this?

Helene: Its a chess set.

I know that. I dont play chess. And you
dont play chess.

Helene: I thought we could learn.

She has a look that says: we’ve been
married 15 years and yes I love you and
am happy enough but I’m a little
bored and feel the need of stimulation
and maybe if we learned to play chess
something might happen—called fun.

The husband is willing enough but after
a few attempts to humor his wife he
throws in the towel. The game means
nothing to him.

But not to her. There is something
about this game that has inserted
itself into the inquisitive or curious
part of the brain and it nags her. She
sets out to teach herself chess. She
stays up late after the husband turns
in and breaks out the chess set and
begins to play. Its electronic so she
can play against the set—the software.

It was at this point I said to myself:
I think we have something here.

Enter Kevin Kline—speaking French. He’s
a professor but doesnt teach. We dont
know why. Maybe the students hate
him. He’s the loner type, not overly
fond of people, a widower, seems to be
nursing some tragic secret.

Helene comes over once a week on her
day off to do the house. Here she is,
cleaning and she notices something for
the first time—a chess set inserted
between books on the shelves.

She says to Kevin Kline: do you play



Would you teach me to play?

Kevin Kline gives her a look: you’re
kidding me.

He says: pardon me?

Would you teach me to play chess. I am
trying to learn on my own but its hard
and I feel the need for a teacher. I
would be happy to clean the house in
return for lessons.

Another look from Kevin Kline: Darling—
you are here to clean the house not for
me to teach you chess.

He says: let me think about it.

But what Kevin Kline doesn’t know is:
Helene is the persistent type. Back at
the house the following week she says:
have you thought about the chess

A long look from Kevin Kline. He isnt
too fired up about this idea.

He says: Be here Tuesday afternoon at 2

The lessons begin. The first game lasts
two minutes—4 moves—the classic Fools
Mate gambit of: f3,e5,g4,Qh4#.

The second game lasts 5 minutes—6
moves. Game #3 is more of the same. So
it goes but what Kevin Kline has failed
to anticipate is: chess has become an
obsession for Helene and as we know—
beware the person with an obsession.

On with the lessons. She continues to
improve, the improvement is startling
and there is a ripple effect to
all this chess which is to breathe a
little life into Kevin Kline, to revive
him from his coma, to perk up and even
to speak in complete sentences,
sometimes kindly. He also sees
writing on the wall—that one day, and
sooner rather than later, Helene will
grease him.

Meanwhile there are complications—with
the job over at the hotel and her
family life at home. Shes become a chess
zombie and everything else in her life
has been assigned to second place—or
even not to exist. The job is a problem
because the floors of the hotel are
designed chess board style with the
black and white tiles and the effect is
to induce in Helene a trance, mop in
hand pondering moves.

On with the chess lessons over at the
house of Kevin Kline and she has him on
the ropes, there are a handful of draws
and then she greases him and, classy
dude or no, he feels the pain. Its
annoying—very. But he recovers and says
to her:  There is a chess tournament
about to begin at Chamberay. Do you
know of it?

Yes I have heard.

You must enter it.

She gives him a look, unable to speak.

Kevin Kline says: Helene you have a
gift—an extraordinary gift. Where did
it come from. We dont know. It’s a
mystery—like asking Beethoven how he
wrote all that music. The important
thing is to exploit the gift—to squeeze
every drop of juice from the gift.  

And thats the film. She enters the
tournament and to the amazement and
unbounded joy of family and friends she
wins the tournament. The prize is $1500
and a trip to Paris for the national

But what about: romance. Love and some
rousing sex scenes between Helene and
Kevin Kline? There is a powerful
attraction but nothing happens because
the director understands its a film
about chess, not screwing
, and also,
we find out towards the end, Kevin
Kline is dying. There is a single kiss,
a bon voyage kiss as she prepares to
leave for Paris—a wonderful scene.

Some Others:

ANGELA Foreign with a strong female
lead. Angela is married to an older
man, the rich older man type, the rich
older man Mafia don type. Its a simple
story: she falls for a younger Mafia
type. Complications follow. But who can
blame the guy. Angela (Donatella
Finocchiaro) is phenomenal.

Drama.  Why doesnt Giulia date at
night? Because Giulia is in jail for
murder—to bump off the boyfriend in an
angry moment. But this is Italy where
they take a more cavalier view of
homicide and extra cavalier if the
killer is a beautiful woman. Giulia
is allowed her freedom during the day—
to work as a swim instructor at a local
pool. The day over she returns to
jail. Here at the pool she  has a
handful of students including the
daughter of Guido, a writer, happily
married but not for long.  Giulia is
played by Valeria Golino—the most
beautiful of all the Italian actresses
including Donatella Finocchiaro and
Monica Bellucci and Valerio
Mastendrea as the writer is perfect.
Its funny, dark and quite sad.

TYRANNOSAUR. Drama, foreign
understated. Maybe understated isnt the
word. You might want to add: not for
the faint of heart or anyone who
persists in a rosy view of human

There are two people: Joseph and
Hannah. Joseph is a widower and
sociopath  who occasionally crosses the
line into psychopath territory. He is a
hard case—a man you are well advised
not to piss off lest a chair get broken
over you
r head or, in the case of a
neighbor and the neighbors pit
, to arrive home one day to find
the dog dead in the front yard minus
its head. The head is across the street,
nestled in the lap of Joseph along with
the hatchet he used for the job. Here
he sits in the lawn chair covered with
blood. Why I dont know but I found
myself laughing. Its that kind of movie.

Joseph is nursing deep feelings of
resentment, frustration, loneliness and
a few other things.
Its maybe something
to do with his wife and her absence
from his life. We dont know.

Enter Hannah, a kindly soul, a
Christian with a profound belief in the
power of faith. She meets Joseph and
they go back and forth and gradually
she is able to somewhat impact his
bleak view of humanity—to make a small
dent but a dent nevertheless. Meanwhile
Hannah is married—to James. James
is the reason Hannah clings to her
faith. Its a test. James is: a moron, a
creep, a sadist. Why a woman like
Hannah ever married this man is a
mystery. But love is blind.

And here is the point as I see it. Its
great to be a Christian and believe in
the power of faith but some people—
James—require a more direct approach—
the Joseph approach. But Joseph doesnt
get the chance. Hanna beats him to the
punch. The husband gives her one
beating too many and the christian
concept briefly fails her and she
blows his brains out. Now she is in
jail on a manslaughter conviction but
Joseph comes to visit and the movie
ends on this somewhat hopeful note.

As I say: its not an easy movie to
watch. I watched it because 1) there is
humor and 2) the performances by Peter
Mullan (Joseph) and Oliva Coleman (the
wife) and Eddie Marsan as James are

ROBBER. The plot: Johann is in prison
for armed robbery. He is a bank robber
and when he is not doing that he runs
marathons. He’s a champ. Right away
this one has my interest: a bank
robber/marathon runner. He’s served his
time and being released and there is a
pep talk by his parole officer to clean
up his act. Johann can be summed up
by a single word: attitude. He has
attitude in spades, not the type to
heed an instructive word—least of all
from a figure of authority.

Out on the street the first order of
business is: to rob a bank. He is in
disguise with some hosiery pulled down
over his head and the two holes cut out
for the eyes and he robs the bank and
makes his getaway, not in a car but—
what else—by running. The cops are
stuck in the patrol car. One cop gets
out to pursue on foot—a good scene, a
cop who weigh 240 lbs, not including
gear, trying to chase down a marathon

The robber has a girlfriend—ex-
girlfriend. Now they reunite—on
condition he mend his ways. But it’s a
lost cause. He cant do it. He sees a
bank, he must rob the bank. Its his

Thats the film. He robs more banks,
runs a few marathons but the girlfriend
gets wise and she dumps him and his luck
runs out. He gets shot up  during a job
and the film ends with a chase scene, a
car chase with the chopper overhead
and 3 police cars in hot pursuit, and
he cracks up the car and bleeds to
death at the wheel. Too bad. There is a
certain amount of sympathy for Johann—
low life that he is.

I was sufficiently intrigued by this
film to pay  a visit to Wikipedia where
I find out the director, Benjamin
Heisenberg, is the grandson of Werner
von Heisenberg, a name that should ring
a bell if you know anything about
quantum mechanics, the uncertainty
principle and the German atomic bomb
program during world war 2. I dont know
why but it made sense to me that the
grandson of Werner Von Heisenberg would
make a film like
Robber. It was perfect.

movie about fashion—haute couture.  
Haute couture means: beautiful women
wearing clothes only a beautiful woman
could get away with wearing. But to be
interested in haute couture is not a
requirement for the enjoyment of this
film. To be interested in the
extravagant personality is the
requirement. Valentino is Valentino
Garavani and the movie is called
Last Emperor
because Valentino ruled the
fashion scene for 40 years. The clothes
are tremendous and its an intriguing
look at the world of fashion and the
fashion shows and what goes into the
production of these shows. The shows
are amazing.  But its Valentino himself
and the life he lived, the money he
made and how it was spent. Compared to
Valentino Donald Trump lives like a
refugee. Along with the homes, boats,
cars and planes are the 5 dogs enjoying
a much better life than you or me. Five

STREET THIEF. Documentary. Somehow the
director of Street Thief managed to
talk the street thief into the making of
this film—with the director following
him around while he cases the job,
assembles the necessary tools and then
into the store or business to do the
job. Its all happening for real and my
thought was: this guy—the director—has
balls! What happens if the job goes bad
and here come the cops and the street
thief gets busted?  The director also
gets busted. What is he going to say to
the cops: I’m only making a movie!  Its
fascinating. But there is a twist.

CARLOS. Docudrama. Based on the life
and times and greatest bombings,
hijackings and assassinations of Illich
Sanchez—aka Carlos the Jackal. One day
there will be a Terrorist Hall of Fame
(why not) and the first inductee will be
Carlos the Jackal. Any film such as
this is at the mercy of the actor
playing the lead—for better or worse.
Carlos is played by Edgar Ramirez and
he is phenomenal. It’s a mini-series 6
hours long and when its over you find
yourself saying: I want more!

market films that examine life down
there on the floor with all those type A
types in blue polyester trading jackets
flashing funny hand signs and a lot of
spit flying all over the place.
why the jackets are polyester—
waterproof. What I did not know before
watching these films is that many of
these people are trading with their own
money. Its about the making and losing
of fortunes in short periods of time.  
Some of these guys go home at the end
of the day to a furnished studio apt in
Queens and others are driven by limo to
a Tony Soprano type pad on the water in
Long Island with a yacht tied up
dockside. If you are interested in the
market—and you should be—these 3 are
worth watching.

LATE MARRIAGE. Foreign drama. Zaza is
30 and unmarried. The parents are
worried and decide to take action. This
is Israel where the arranged marriage
is breathing its last gasp but
breathing nevertheless. A series of
young women are produced for Zaza’s
benefit that he rejects for one
reason or another—usually because they
are Velina types. Velina is an Italian
word coined to describe the young
women who appear as accessories on the
Italian TV game shows produced by
Silvio Berlusconi, ex-Prime Minister and
recent inductee to the AARP Hall of
Fame, who at age 71 continues to bang
teenagers. A Velina has 2 things to her
credit: youth and cleavage. A recent
poll among Italian women revealed the
dismal stat that the burning ambition of
80% of them is to become a Velina and
marry a football player.

Back to Zaza. What Zaza’s parents do
not know but are about to find out is:
Zaza has
a mistress—Judith, age 33,
divorced with a young daughter. And of
all the wifely candidates to marry Zaza
off with the older divorced woman with
children is at the bottom of the list.
So back and forth everyone goes with
Zaza in the middle and I leave it for
you to discover how it all turns out.

Meanwhile there is a good sex scene.
The difference between a good sex scene
and the usual sex scene is: you are
laughing. My favorite sex scene occurs
A Clockwork Orange, the Kubrick
film, with Malcolm MacDowell going up,
down and around with two “birds” in the
bedroom of his parents house and its
all done at double speed.  But in
second place is the scene between Zaza
and Judith in
Late Marriage. It starts,
stops, starts again, stops again. They
are on the bed, off the bed, under the

PIANOMANIA.  Documentary. Why would
anyone watch a movie about a piano
tuner?  Because this piano tuner is
Stephan Knupfer who works for Steinway
and travels around Europe to various
concerts to collaborate with the
pianist and fiddle with the instrument
and somehow coax from it the required
tone—the perfect tone—and I leave it
for you to imagine the conversations
that result.  Musicians are obsessive
and those at the top are the obsessive
of the obsessives. But Stephan Knupfer
is more obsessive. Brilliant and

Briefly, some others:

THE GENERAL. Irish thriller based on
the life and crimes of Martin Cahill,
Dublin crime boss. Every crime boss has
large balls but Cahills are excessive
even by these standards. Directed by
John Boorman who had a personal
experience of his subject when his
house was burglarized by Cahill who
made off with some jewelry and a gold
record awarded for the score of
Deliverance, a Boorman film. Then
Cahill discovers the record isnt gold,
but only called gold, and he smashes it
in a rage. A movie that has the big
three: drama, sex and laughs and
Brenden Gleeson as Cahill is tremendous.

KNUCKLE Documentary. The fist fight
movie. Two Irish families meet
regularly to settle a feud that began
14 years ago and fails to resolve
itself because how much fun would that
be. Instead they pound each other.

PAYDAY. Rip Torn is at his best playing
an asshole and  in
Payday as country
western singer Maury Dan he finds the
role of his dreams

The Way Back: Russia during world War 2
and what its like to escape from a
Siberian labor camp and trek your way
south for 6500 kilometers across
hostile territory compounded by hostile
landscape—starting with Siberia into
Mongolia and then onto Tibet and India.
The movie was inspired by a true story
that has raised some questions of
credibility. But not the movie which is
entirely credible—or maybe incredible.
Directed by Peter Weir

SENNA. Documentary. Senna is young,
great looking and a Formula One racing
prodigy. Its called: to have the world
by the balls. Then he decides to drive
in a race something tells him not to.

BILL CUNNINGHAM. Documentary. Bill is a
New York Times photographer who bikes
around the city shooting women in
compelling outfits.

HERB AND DOROTHY.  Documentary. Herb is
a mailman and Dorothy works behind the
jewelry counter at Macys in New York.
They live in a small apartment made
smaller via an art collection, of the
conceptual type, that began 40 years
ago. It began on a shoestring and now
its worth 40 million. Meanwhile the apt
is a problem. There is art, art, art
and to eat a meal or visit the bathroom
or plop down on the bed for a good
nights sleep means navigating yourself
around all this art. They are living
like refugees. Why dont they sell some
of the art? Its a good question.

TINY FURNITURE. recent college grad
returns to New York to live with her
mother and priority #1, that she fails
to achieve, to find a boyfriend that 1)
can hold up his end of an intelligent
conversation, or 2) can speak of
something other than himself. This
doesnt sound like much, and it isnt
much, but its all in the telling.

AT CLOSE RANGE. Documentary. Watch Joel
Sartore, wildlife photographer for

National Geographic,
shoot grizzlies,
wolves, fornicating insects and cowboys
who get their teeth kicked out by
horses. Then its on to Alaska to be
eaten alive by mosquitoes and following
that, down in Columbia, an encounter
with the Lesch-Meniasis virus that
starts out as a teeny tiny hole above
your ankle and works its way north to
your head where it eats its way into
your eyeball sockets and nasal passages

ARMADILLO. Documentary.  Platoon of
Danish soldiers ships off to fight in
Afghanistan where they encounter long
periods of boredom punctuated by short
intervals of fighting. They fight and
watch porno. Casualties occur on both
sides and there is the usual
“collateral damage”—the women, children
and old men and the occasional cow,
goat or dog blown to bits. A powerful
film about the futility of war and of
this particular war.

Have your car parked by an entertaining
collection of artist/student/misfit
types who understand the job is a dead
end but for some reason it beats
everything else out there.

HIDDEN AGENDA. Thriller about British
terrorism in Northern Ireland. I will
always watch a film with either Frances
McDormand or Brian Cox and in this one
you have them both and
Hidden Agenda,
directed by Ken Loach, is worthy of
their efforts.

NOTE BY NOTE. Documentary. The making,
from start to finish of Steinway piano
#257 at the company plant in Queens NY.
The amount of labor and level of
craftsmanship that goes into the making
of one of these pianos is extraordinary.

OLD BOY. Korean. Korean movies are
strange and few stranger than
Old Boy.
But there is energy, a perverse
compelling madness and a terrific fight

THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE. Documentary. More
Fashion. Fashion is important.

ups and downs of life as a venture
capitalist. There are many downs but
you only need one up to even the score
and then some—such as the $250,000
investment in Genentech that returned 2
billion in
7 years.

KING OF DEVILS ISLAND: Life, death and
a whole lot of unpleasantness at the
notorious Bastoy correctional for youth
in Norway. The mandate for an
institution such as this is: to crush
the spirit of those
imprisoned within—
or at least those who possess it
excessively. That applies to Erling,
age 16 and recently arrived. Erling is
attitude—with a vengeance. He fucks up,
takes his lumps, fucks up harder. Based
on a true story. The cast, led by
Benjamin Helsted as Erling, is

And thats the list, my personal
favorites and I am well aware there is
no accounting for taste in movies and
my 5 star films could be your 2 star—or
zero star—films. I am only here to lend
a hand, useful or no. You are welcome.
Helene about to grease Kevin Kline
joseph contemplating an
act of mayhem
Lena, looking for love
Old boy prepares to
start the day
one of the things you buy
when you have too much
foto by Joel Sartore
Io, velina
print version