I’m drinking my last egg nog of the season, about to unplug the lights on my Christmas tree. My 63rd Christmas has all but come and gone, which is 63 more Christmases than anyone deserves — enough to last me forever.

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If you hired Nate Silver to identify and collect every single cliché about the American heartland, plot them out on a graph and divide them into the incidents of a three-act screenplay, the result would be August: Osage County.

The film is part of a new genre invented by Hollywood in its waning days — thespornography.  Celebrated actors are hired apparently with the express promise that they will be allowed to chew the scenery until their gums bleed, with no distracting attempts to tell a coherent story or to create recognizably human characters.  The Master and American Hustle helped define this genre — Meryl Streep’s performance in August: Osage County takes it to new heights of ham.


Streep calls on every ounce of technique she possesses in order to telegraph a simple message, over and over and over again — “Give me my Oscar now.”



A mean, sad, bitchy movie about a mean, sad, bitchy woman — the narrative of a life on the skids presented without grace, without mercy, without a hope of redemption.

You can indulge your schadenfreude to the fullest here, courtesy of Woody Allen in full bitch queen mode, then slink home and try to forget the whole episode.

Good luck!



Shirred eggs are basically just baked eggs, usually cooked in small oven-safe flat-bottomed baking dishes or ramekins and served in the containers they’re cooked in.

They can be prepared very simply by just buttering the dish and cracking the eggs (without breaking the yolks) into the dish. Salt and pepper the eggs to taste and cook them to the consistency desired.  (At 10 minutes in a 375-degree oven the eggs will start to set and become opaque.)  One can also add some ham to the bottom of the dish, or some cooked rice, and sprinkle cheese over the tops of the eggs, plus any herbs one fancies. Some recipes call for the addition of a little cream to the eggs.  Variations are endless.

I cooked the eggs pictured above in a bowl designed for French onion soup, with the eggs on a bed of precooked rice I had on hand and with Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top.  Delicious and very easy to prepare.

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Last night I dreamed I checked into an old hotel somewhere in Europe with Françoise Dorléac. It was a dark place with dark wood paneling.

In the hotel room, when Mlle. Dorléac took off her make-up her face began to glow white, uncannily, as though from within — as though she were in the process of becoming a ghost.

I woke up before the process was completed. In retrospect this dream encounter was not scary, just strange and sad.



This film would not have made sense ten years go — now it makes too much sense for comfort. It’s nominally about a guy named Theodore who falls in love with the sultry voice, witty style and consoling charm of his smartphone’s operating system. The tale is set a few years in the future, when the interactive possibilities of a virtual human OS have been extensively developed, but you can recognize the OS here (who calls herself Samantha) as a lineal descendent of Siri.

Falling in love with an operating system has its limitations, obviously — only a fantasy form of sex is possible — but at first those limitations don’t seem so bad.  Samantha has infinite patience, access to most human knowledge and develops genuine insights into Theodore’s moods and character, his man-boy passivity and fear masquerading as sensitivity.


Most importantly, Samantha knows how to “talk through” a relationship — she knows all the ploys and challenges and rewards, all the boundaries to be negotiated . . . and you begin to realize that this “talk” is the relationship, that the relationship’s only substance is this web of clichés that we have all been programmed to export and import on cue.  It’s the kind of self-conscious talk that would make, and often enough does make, even a corporeal relationship bloodless, immaterial . . . an abstract proposition.


Theodore begins to understand this when Samantha introduces him to one of her other “lovers”, a virtual Alan Watts.  This is the equivalent of that moment in a flesh-and-blood relationship when one partner discovers a route to a spiritual awakening which, unfortunately, will require some physical unfaithfulness to go along with it.  (Watts was notorious for seducing his female devotees with highfalutin’ Zen platitudes about “personal liberation”.)


Meanwhile, as the Theodore-Samantha relationship runs its more and more painfully familiar course, Theodore finds himself thrown together with an old friend going through her own break up.  She’s not as brilliant as Samantha, not as perceptive, not as stylish, not as eloquent — but she’s a real girl who needs a real boy . . . a relationship that isn’t created by talking about it, but by doing it.


By the end of this astonishingly wise and goodhearted film, you may feel you’re watching the first meeting of a new Adam and Eve — the boy and girl of the future who will have to rescue romance from the outdated code of standard relationship software, so predictable by now that even Siri will soon be able to imitate it flawlessly.

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People talk too much about relationships. There is really only one question to ask about a relationship — will you go with me? The answer is either yes or no.

Will you go, lassie, go? Will you go, laddie, go?

The rest you can work out along the way.