WSJ: On Trader Joe’s

I like these short Wall Street Journal videos that show you the economics of a particular company like Barnes & Noble,

Three Days of the Condor

Suspenseful and clever, Three Days of the Condor stars Robert Redford and Faye Dunaway. Redford plays Turner, a.k.a the Condor, a CIA analyst who works out of a nondescript New York brownstone. He and his colleagues are tasked with reading all the books, magazines, articles they can to predict nefarious activity through copycat or other maneuvers.

One rainy day when Turner volunteers to pick up lunch, a squad of hit men enter the office and kill the CIA team. When they realize they’ve missed Turner, they start their manhunt. Turner realizes he’s in danger once he returns and sees the carnage. He immediately calls a secret CIA number to report the incident but something seems off in the response. Thus Turner can’t trust the CIA.

He almost politely kidnaps Faye Dunaway’s character Cathy. She’s afraid, but believes his story in time.

Three Days of the Condor has lots of tension and plot twists and stands up to the test of time. The acting and script are better than much of what’s produced today.

Speak No Evil

A Danish couple, Bjørn and Louise, are bored by the other people at the Italian resort where they’re staying until the Dutch couple, Patrick and Karin, arrive. Bjørn is captivated by Patrick who’s bold and extroverted.

After Bjørn and Louise get back home they receive an invitation from Patrick and Karin. Would they come to rural Netherlands for a weekend? Bjørn’s ready to pack the car, but Louise is a littler wary, they don’t really know these people so we’ll. .

The weekend starts well. Patrick and Karin’s son Abel seems to like Agnes, Bjørn and Louise’s daughter. Abel has some rare disease that means he can’t talk. Abel clearly has some serious problems but it’s nothing to be alarmed by.

In addition to the long walks and swimming, the weekend has its uncomfortable moments. Patrick knows from the vacation that Louise is a vegetarian yet he keeps urging her to eat meat. To be polite she painfully goes along.

Louise is troubled that Agnes is expected to sleep with Abel in his room on the floor. Patrick’s behavior is overbearing and sometimes creepy. When the kids do a little dance they made up for the adults, Patrick goes ballistic when Abel, who’s probably 6, makes mistakes. Though Bjørn and Louise are clearly uncomfortable, they want to be polite guests.

The hosts passive aggressive behavior continues as if they’re testing how much pain their guests will endure. The answer is quite a lot. The tension steadily increases, culminating in a climax that shocked me.

I’ll never forget this exchange at the end of the film.Bjørn asks Patrick, “Why are you doing this to us?” Patrick answers, “Because you let me.”

The chilling thing was that Louise and Bjørn weren’t the only ones who did.

Once: Writers Theater

As part of Chicago Theater Week, I saw Once at the Writers Theater in Glencoe. I was blown away!

Based on the art house film of 2007, this play is faithful to the film. Of course, chasing through a shopping street or a motorcycle ride to the seaside won’t work in a small theater so clever reimagining are needed and the playwright got them just right. I did wish the piano had gotten into the house as it did in the film and that the music shop owner’s character wasn’t expanded, but what actor’s going to want to show up at a theater night after night to say next to nothing?

In this production, the performers were all joyfully playing Irish music from the time the audience walked into the theater. That really put people into the mood.

It seemed like me, many people brought friends or family who didn’t know Once’s plot. I wasn’t sure my family would like it, but my aunt raved all the way home and my sister-in-law echoed her praise of the play.

I’m delighted that I’m going back on March 10th to see it again.

It Could Be Worse

As people, I mean pundits get their shorts into a bunch over the GOP’s deadlock to get a Speaker, don’t forget it could be worse/ Take a look. Click and get to YouTube to watch.

He Walked By Night (1948)

He Walked By Night (1948)
— Read on

A terrific read on my favorite film blog.

American Girl

Raw emotion fills American Girl, a film set in Taiwan. When she’s 13, Fen must return to her homeland Taiwan because her mother got cancer. Understandably, Fen wants to stay with her friends, to go to summer camp, to have a normal, safe life.

It’s a rocky transition for Fen and her younger sister. Getting used to living with her father again, going to a new, strict school, and coping with her mother’s illness and possible death, Fen is pushed to her limit. The entire family is on the verge of collapse.

While it’s a sad and emotionally exhausting film, I was drawn to Fen and her struggle with reverse culture shock and her mother’s illness. This is on top of the usual American conflicts many mothers and daughters experience.

I understand why this film garnered three Taiwanese film awards.

Un Triomph/The Big Hit


Based on a true story, Un Triomph tells the story of an actor who agrees to teach convicts to act. The initial rationale for the activity is to keep the men busy, to help them pass the time. As is usual for such projects the actor couldn’t connect with the men who were jaded 8 ways to Tuesday.

Eureka! The actor figures out what to do. He’s going to tilt at a windmill and have the men rehearse and event perform Waiting for Godot. This motley crew excels and the show is a hit. The critics rave about the show and soon theaters around the country ask for more performances.

The troupe hits the road and the men’s outlooks pivots. The ending was beautiful and real.

My Small Land

A gem

In My Small Land, after fleeing their homeland, Sarya and her family have found a new life in Japan. These Kurdish refugees speak Japanese well, go to school and work, have friends and are planning their futures. Sarya, 17, has excelled in school so that she can go to college to become a teacher. She works at a convenient store so she can save money for university.

Her father had protested against the government in their homeland and was imprisoned. They fled to Japan and all was well until Immigration rejected their claim for asylum. Now they can’t leave their town or work. Her father defies the law and soon is arrested. Now what?

As the oldest child, Sarya tries to keep her family afloat, but her financial troubles build and build. My Small Land is a beautiful film about a girl and her family trying to survive despite impossible rules. Sarya’s played by Lina Arashi with strength and innocence.