Sunday, November 17, 2013

20 or 21 Netflix Streaming Suggestions for your Cold Winter Nights...Baby

As the weather turns bitterly cold at the Jersey shore, I find myself spending more "quality time" with my dear friend, Netflix. (Hey, it's only $10 a month - definitely cheaper than some of my flesh and bone counterparts.)

Below is my list of streaming Netflix programs that range from sharp and witty, to carefree indulgence, to damn, that's some heavy shit.  

Shameless (UK)

Shameless is a diabolically clever show with a lot of heart, even amidst the characters' glaring imperfections and never-ending hardships. 

The father is a drunken bastard with a 6 kids, who are essentially raising themselves (Mom left years ago). But don't let the heavy premise dissuade you; the show highlights the triumph of the human spirit and variations on what we define as "family...and the need for a really good party.

Challenge: Find another actor who plays a drunk as well as David Threlfall (above). I don't know if its his impeccable acting ability (stage actor), or the make-up (which is done just right) but he has embodied this part, that's for sure. 


Bravo to this fantastic UK-based crime drama. It's gritty, human and Idris Elba is infinitely captivating. It's a an intense, psychologically-brooding series (think Wire in the Blood--one of my faves ever) but still maintains a sense of humor. A must watch, this one.


What a smart and contemporary interpretation of Sherlock Holmes! The relationship between Holmes and Watson is complex and sweet, even though Holmes is well aware of his sociopathy and inability to truly love.

The series almost lost me with Martin Freeman's performance as Holmes, which veered toward the silly and overly deadpan at times, but I came back for more and the relationship improved.

Besides, any actor named Benedict Cumberbatch (above) just has to be good. Stunning looking man. He can solve my crime any day.

The Fall

Another must see. The Fall is an Irish-British crime drama series directed by Jakob Verbruggen and stars Gillian Anderson as the senior police officer investigating a string of murders in Belfast, Ireland.

Anderson has never been one of my favorite actors. She's often struck me as chilly and a bit vacuous. But I'm a converted fan now. She nails it (with a questionable accent unfortunately) in this well-directed and nuanced show with serious feminist underpinnings (a rarity in this genre).

But the real shocker is the killer, played by a former Calvin Klein model Jamie Dornan. Now before you scoff, let me tell you this: he gives one of the scariest portrayals of any serial killer I've seen. Perhaps it because of his good looks that you're that much more surprised of his dark side. More likely, its because the director makes sure you really get to know the killer--intimately. Dare I say, you almost feel for him and his awful sickness.

Its a strange, scary journey but well worth it.

The Bletchley Circle

Set in in England during the 50's, this mini-series follows four women who once worked at a wartime code-breaking center and reunite to track down a serial killer. Anna Maxwell Martin (same fantastic actor in Bleak House) leads the pack. In addition to working on a crime, each must overcome the limitations of a sexist society that doesn't take their skills seriously.


What a clever show gone wrong, then boom, cancelled. 

The premise of the show consists of a group of individuals with "enhanced abilities" like super-strength senses (Rachel can hear hearts beating), the ability to "push" (hypnotize), and rapid-fire reflexes. 

My particular favorite is Gary (played to sweet perfection by Ryan Cartwright below) who is autistic and possesses the ability to read electromagnetic waves, intercepting cell phone calls, broadcasts and the like. 

So what went wrong? The show turned too aggro with an annoying story line where they take on an "alpha" villain who threatens to end the world. Prior to this misstep, Alphas was clever and distinctly human, with flawed and unusual "super heroes." 


North and South

Richard Armitage why can't I be in a romantic scene with you? Why?

This British serial drama produced by the BBC movie is the most romantic program on the list so far, for those who are amorously inclined (aren't we all?). 

The leads share a taut and tangible chemistry between one another and the scene where they (finally!) kiss for the first time is positively knee melting. Based on a Victorian novel by Elizabeth Gaskell.

Pretty Little Liars 

Pretty Little Liars is total candy, I admit...but who doesn't like candy? This show chronicles the privileged lives of 4 teens (who looked like this during their teen years?) as they uncover the mystery surrounding their haughty friend's death. They're not particularly honest and at times ruthless, which makes the show that much more fun to watch. 

It's like Charmed but with meaner, snobbier witches.


Okay, you've probably seen Portlandia before...but have you really seen Portlandia, like all of it? When I saw it years ago, I found it a little smug and uptight. But I gave it a second chance and watched every episode (yes I do too have a social life...sometimes) and I'm glad I did. 

Some of Portlandia skits definitely fall flat (like the animated segments where they play mice...bleh), but overall, what a razor-sharp team, creating pieces that take a well-needed potshot at the "hippie elite" culture.

Below, watch the wonder that is Kyle MacLachlan (who is also my boyfriend). He is so adorable and wacky as the mayor of Portlandia. 



Bleak House 

This nuanced BBC series based on Charles Dickens most-esteemed novel reminds the viewer of the wonder of Dickens, who so deftly created such complex, interesting (and funny) characters.  

Bleak House chronicles the life of Esther Summerson (played by the infinitely watchable Anna Maxwell Martin, above), an orphan who moves into Bleak House with her two cousins who quickly become wrapped up in a intractable legal battle. 

(Hats off to Gillian Anderson steely performance as Lady Dedlock, below. Again, I didn't think she had it in her.)


The Imposter

This documentary will have you saying, "No! Impossible!" But it is. And he did. And they did. Wow. 

A 2012 documentary based on the 1997 case of the French deception artist Frédéric Bourdin who impersonated Nicholas Barclay, a Texas boy who disappeared at the age of 13 in 1994.

I am Dina 

Don't make her angry...just, don't. 

Okay you may sue me for this suggestion. Or we'll be best friends for life. This movie is a little weird. Maybe a lot weird. But certainly original and very pretty (shot in Norway). 

And the lead? Man oh man, she is one wild and crazy bitch. 

Dina (played by the insanely beautiful Maria Bonnevie) was responsible for the accidental death of her mother and her father is so bereft, he leaves the young Dina to fend for herself. She grows up in this feral-like manner, with only one true friend (a household servant).

One of the best scenes? Dina's miserably father slaps her in the face when she's fully grown (which he had done once before when Dina was a child) and she goes bah-listic on him. By the end of the scene, the viewer and the fictional father know, he will never, ever raise a hand to this woman again. All women take note!

This movie takes you on an unusual journey that is surreal, touching and and at times, overreaching. 

Paranormal Witness

  Chock full of ghosts

Okay I may have suggested this show before but it's so scary and good, it bears repeating. It's still one of my favorites for an cold night at home where I can hide safely under covers. Well-crafted, real ghost stories told by the people who experienced them. Produced and re-enacted well. 

My latest favorite? The "Ghostly Affair" episode, shot in the Arkansas home shown above. (But all of them will raise your hair a little, trust me.)

Mrs. Brown

Queen Victoria (played by Dame Judi Dench) is deeply depressed after the death of her husband. Her rebellious and spirited servant John Brown slowly brings her back to life with genuine acts of kindness and affection. 

It's a real treat to watch Billy Connolly act, since I wasn't familiar to much of his work prior to Mrs. Brown

The Secret Circle

Another "Pringles" show like Pretty Little Liars (meaning it's no good for you but you'll eat it all anyway), The Secret Circle is a team of young adults with magical abilities, strengthened when they are together. 

This show was eventually cancelled but I found the cast watchable and the plot line captivating enough. The real downfall of the show, unfortunately, is the lead, who doesn't quite have the kick-ass gravitas as Buffy or Xena.



 Does this look like Jonathan Pryce to you?

This movie can border on the sleepy at times but its such a unique plot line that I stuck with it. Movies that show different types of relationships are too few and far between, and this is one of them.

Based on famous Victorian painter (and member of the famous Bloomsbury group) Dora Carrington (Emma Thompson) forms a non-traditional relationship with gay writer Lytton Strachey (played by the amazing Jonathan Pryce, who I could barely recognize in this role). 

Hunger Games 

I know, I know. You've all seen it. But I avoided it. It seemed like it had to suck kinda, simply based on its over-the-top popularity. But then I broke down and gave it a shot...and I really liked it.

Non-traditional female lead, engaging sci-fi premise, cool, gritty look and feel and not bogged down with special effects or so glossy you need to wear glasses. It reminded me of sci-fi I've liked in the past, like Alien, Running Man, Terminator, etc--just fun, interesting, watchable science fiction.

Diana Vreeland - The Eye Has to Travel

Charming documentary about famed Vogue fashion editor and iconocast Diana Vreeland reminds us what it means to be a true artist. It's more than just style but lifestyle.

"She made it okay for women to be outlandish and extraordinary," says Angelica Huston. And so she did.

“The future holds a golden world. It will be for beauty; it will be for intelligent productiveness.” - Diana Vreeland

Good to watch with a group. 


I thought this indie flick would be another depressing "girl goes to Hollywood to become a star and becomes a porn star instead" movie. But that premise is merely a backdrop for a very particular friendship that forms between the "starlet" and a cranky elderly woman. It's a surprisingly hopeful piece of work, reminding us all that friendships come in all forms.

Interesting surprise ending as well.

 The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

What Netflix list is complete without a classic or two? The Ghost and Mrs. Muir is a captivating romantic fantasy film starring Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison.

Gene Tierney has to be one of the most beautiful women of all time. But more importantly, this film simply transports you into a world where your real love might be astrally challenged and in the form of a cranky sea captain.

But its more than your average vintage romance movie; there are resonant messages about independence, destiny and self-discovery.

Set in England, the movie is actually shot entirely in California.

Cold Comfort Farm

Yes, a movie that many of you have seen, but I hadn't. Cute, quirky and imaginative with the most particular characters. If you're looking for an enchanting film to lighten your spirit, this is it. Another good group watch.

Okay, what streaming Netflix suggestions do you have? (As you see, I've watched almost everything.)


Sunday, June 2, 2013

10 Screaming, Streaming, Steaming Netflix Suggestions

Here’s my latest picks, raring and ready to stream on Netflix today. (Okay there’s one show listed that you can’t watch on Netflix but its so good that I came up with a back-up plan so don’t worry your pretty little head.)

1. The Woman Who Wasn’t There

A jaw-dropping documentary about a woman who included herself as a 9/11 survivor and became quite well-known only to be found out as a fraud. It’s almost hard to believe how far she went with her bizarre charade before a New York Times reporter becomes her undoing. Wow.

2. Locked Up Abroad

This is what I call a “gratitude show” because by the end of an episode, you'll say, "My life ain't so bad after all." Well-produced and all-too-true life stories about…people locked up abroad, obviously. Damn, if I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a million times…don’t bring cocaine to Venezuela, people!

3. Paranormal Experiences

Definitely a personal favorite for this paranormal-loving gal. Well-acted, well-produced and genuinely scary true stories that you definitely don’t want to watch alone. Love this show! Makes you believe again.

4. Top of the Lake

Jane Cameron’s edgy and unusual crime drama series shot in New Zealand is truly one-of-a-kind in its use of highly quirky, flawed characters and disturbingly real moments. Watch it for Holly Hunter alone, who is eternally watchable in this all-too-small role. (Cameron should build a movie based on Hunter's character alone.) Or watch it for the meth-fueled bad guy (Peter Mullan) who makes you squirm with his insanely scary temperament.

5. Kitchen Nightmares, UK

I know, I know, everyone has probably watched their fair share of a Ramsey tongue-lashing (which I'd welcome in all its possible innuendo, in case he stumbles across this). But have you seen his first program, shot entirely in the UK? Much more humble, simple and likable. Bonus? Tons of great lessons in marketing and running a business successfully. I find him a real inspiration.

6. Black Mirror

Billed as a "suspenseful, satirical three-part mini-series that taps into collective unease about our modern world", this show feels like sci-fi made for today, not 30 years ago. It’s a UK program and can be found here, not on Netflix…but well worth it. These are very finely crafted work with a big screen feel.

7. The Silence

This UK series chronicles a deaf girl after she witnesses a murder and aids her detective uncle’s pursuits in uncovering the crime. There are a few flagrant flaws (especially toward the end when the lead actress forgets to read lips in certain scenes!) but its very watchable and captivating enough.

8. Torn

This series typifies that gritty edge that the Brits capture so much better than our all-too-smooth and polished programming. It tells the tale of a grieving mother who years later can’t seem to let go of the loss of her daughter…especially when she spots her in a mall one day. Good acting, solid story.

9. Loving Lampposts

A groundbreaking documentary that makes you revisit what you think about autism entirely. Nuff said.

10. The Wedding Gift

Sad little movie made in 1994 and interestingly based on the woman who had the first “official” case of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome. Don’t let that scare you away. It’s very well-acted (Julie Waters and Jim Broadbent) and very comfy and intimate considering the heavy subject matter.

BONUS! Kinda....

Arrested Development, one of the most clever shows to bless the blue screen, has added a Season 4. The pacing is weird and it feels different, so I'm not sold yet...I hear I have to hang in there. But I give this show a latitude because even on a bad day, it's good. If they're going down, I'm going down with them.

A little Gob on the way out?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Top Ten Buzz Kills

Just because you're buzzed doesn't mean life stops being annoying. In a perfect world, we'd beam ourselves to a hassle-free planet and ride unicorns and eat marshmallow pies all day. 

Until then, we must deal with these 10 buzz kills:

1. Cops

The uniform, the car, the militaristic attitude...goodbye buzz, hello "Can you step out of the vehicle?" (If you're lucky, it's a stripper cop and it's all a great big joke with a sexy ending.)

2. Losing Stuff

My friend Lisa had a rule of thumb: get everything ready before you get stoned. Everything. If you wait until after, you will search endlessly for your keys, phone or general purpose in life. And never find it...never find it.

3. Frigid Temperatures

When I was a flannel-wearing teen lass, I used to hang out at an arcade in South Jersey. Our long-haired gang would pop into the woods on an icy winter's night to light up. We'd all wonder why we didn't feel high...until we went back into the arcade and our high would thaw out, just like magic! Head magic.

4. The Rambler

Nothing can be more deadly to a perfectly good high than the Rambler, who starts a story with no intentions of ending it. And because you're high, you can't muster up the energy to interject. So instead, you get sucked in, deeper and deeper. Soon your buzz has been bored right the hell out of you, never to return. (The Lecturer has the same effect.)

5. Your Mother

Okay, some of you get high with your mom and she's so cool and blah, blah, blah. But parents are similar to cops; you feel like you've done something wrong by merely being in their presence. They're judging, watching all the time. And don't you forget it. 

6.  A Blow to the Head

Once during a party I got hit on the head by a lamp while pulling my coat out of the closet. Boom - high completely gone. Fucking lamp.

7. Monsters

They're fun in the movies but when they are in your living room, they are unpredictable, angry and messy (because of the green goo). They also will eat your weed and projectile vomit it back up, which isn't pleasant and a waste of perfectly good weed.

8. Dental Work

I thought it would be a good idea to smoke a little prior to some extensive dental work I had years back. Unfortunately, it just heightened the torturous sensations. Pretty soon, I thought the dentist had it out for me like Olivier in Marathon Man. My buzz was literally drilled out of my head.

9. Existential Angst

There is no god. You are all alone. The people are laughing at you and you look ridiculous. The world feels dry, chalky and desolate and you're the only scrap of humanity left. The best you can do is listen to some Pink Floyd and embrace the painful truth. Cheetos may help but I make no guarantees.

10. Alien Abduction

I know, it depend on the alien, of course. Some aliens are totally down for a good time but others are into naval probing and mind melding. I find the smaller, ET-style aliens are much more easy going than the ones with the two rows of teeth.

So watch out for buzz kills. Life is short and highs aren't cheap. Remember: you can always just walk away...even from the cops. Especially from the cops. Go do your own thing. Create your own world. Screw everyone else. Marshmallow pies await you, my friend.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Mentors I Haven't Met

Most of my life, I've waited and waited for my mentor to come along. You know, that magical, mystical (and hopefully hot) elder who would gently yet firmly instruct and guide me down the yellow brick road of life.

But alas, nobody. Sure, some great teachers, but no wise man with a white beard and stern voice.

So I was forced to expand the definition of mentors. Below is a list of mentors I haven't met, but have shaped my path nonetheless.

Mentors I Haven't Met

Howard Stern

Cringe if you want, but Howard Stern is a major risk-taker and one of the few real pioneers of radio. He fearlessly lets his id guide him. No, I don't always like his material and I can find him just as sexist and annoying as the next person, but I respect his balls.

He taught me to take bigger and edgier creative risks.

David Sedaris

Don't tell anyone this but I'm not a fan of most writing. Fiction makes me perfectly sleepy. Plus nothing I had read was all that...funny. Until Sedaris.

I still remember the first time I read The Santaland Diaries on a Muni train in San Francisco and laughed so hard, I thought they might toss me out. I had never laughed like that reading a book.

David taught me that being a dangerous, dark and funny writer is highly encouraged. Go there, it's alright.

Stevie Nicks

Stevie Nicks is a magical and beautiful witch, plain and simple. Ever since I first laid eyes on her, I wanted to be just like her and promptly bought a crimping iron and lots of scarves.

Stevie taught me to tap into that wild, feminine essence and blaze my own gold-dust trail. (Honorary mention goes to Kate Bush, my other favorite rock goddess.)

The Onion

What's there to say about a team of the funniest journalists in history? No one touches their deeply satirical humor. I see Gawker attempting it but they have a meaner edge and just can't replicate the funny that is The Onion.

For over 20 years, they have been taking massively politically incorrect chances and nailing it, somehow not offending but only inspiring people like me to not worry when I write.

Here's a list of their best faux headlines. 

Pee Wee Herman

Pee Wee Herman (aka Paul Reubens) has always intrigued me. He seems like a true artist, compelled by some mysterious inner child. When I'm not feeling great, nothing makes me feel better than watching re-runs of his old TV show or movies. And when I see an interview with Paul Reubens, I'm instantly mesmerized. He's a special man.

He taught me creative conviction and inner child importance.

Monty Python

The first time I saw Monty Python and The Holy Grail when I was a child, I peed my pants. Several times. (So? I peed easily when I was young.) The absurd risks they were taking just floored me. Who were these game changers and how could I become one? It was unlike anything I'd seen before in my life. The sky was the limit after watching these guys.

The Monty Python team taught me the grave importance of being profoundly silly.

Bob Fosse

Bob Fosse and his work have always taken my breath away. When All that Jazz came out (based loosely on his life), I saw it countless times. The dark sexual artistry blended with rich colors and his one-of-a-kind choreography made me want to move that way, look that way, feel that way. And the fact that he was highly imperfect (drinker, smoker, etc) only made me like him more.

Cabaret (which he directed) still influences my creative choices in life. Joel Grey's emcee character still remains in my mind the most mysterious and incredible supporting roles
in a movie. And the pinnacle of her career.

Freddie Mercury

I still remember when Freddie died. I had a plate in my hand, eating, listening to the news. When I heard that he passed, I dropped the plate and ran to my bedroom, in tears for hours. He was my vocal hero.

But it was so much more than that: Freddie commanded attention like no one else. And he wasn't perfect looking. It was that inner "thing" that he radiated. Balls-out confidence.

He taught me to feel powerful and regal regardless of all of my seeming "imperfections".

Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee is one of the most amazing physical specimens known to humankind. He trained hard and damn, it showed. He inspired me, like oh-so-many others, to learn martial arts and take my body just that much further than I thought it could go.

Bruce Lee taught me how to be fierce and kick up my self-discipline a notch.

Pete Townshend

Pete Townshend is everything I consider rock, simply put.

He taught me to be unbridled and defiant.

Early Eddie Murphy

Eddie Murphy truly was raw. Sharp. Edgy. Nobody could touch his funny in his day. Now he's a little too self-serious but then...damn, he was just on fire.

But the thing that Eddie taught me was the seriousness of comedy. If you listen to earlier material, the subject matter was often pretty heavy underneath.

Eddie taught me that real life can be tragic and dysfunctional...but you can make it funny.

Judy Garland

I saved the best for last. Judy is my queen. Since I was 3, I was obsessed with her. She still remains to me the most beautiful woman that ever existed. But again, not just based on her physicality, but that innocence and esprit that she radiated.

Unlike many artists who seem like they should hang it up after years of drug and alcohol abuse, Judy channeled that pain and heartache into her performing, which moved people like no other.

Judy taught me to maintain and nurture the innocence of my inner Dorothy and perform with full, unbridled expression.

So no old bearded man or wizened blue-eyed woman held my hand and taught me how to become an artist. I found them on the big screen, the radio, the movies. And they remain with me, as if they were in this room. Where I type this piece. Topless.

I told you.