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Movies in the night

/ 12:09 AM February 28, 2017

Watching the Oscars while writing this adds impetus to a column I was planning in my head while seeking to bridge the gap between wakefulness and sleep in the middle of the night. This—the sleeplessness—is increasingly becoming common among people of a certain age, I’ve read. As one grows older, sleep is no longer an unbroken cycle that allows one to recharge and recover. Instead, it is broken into two, or more, segments, and all one can do during the gap is to find more productive outlets while waiting for sleep to return.

Indeed, some people say the interim can be the most productive time of the day, which some creative people use to write their best prose or poetry, music or imagery.

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But weren’t we talking about the movies? Lately, bridging the gap between sleep periods has become a lot easier and more relaxing thanks to Netflix, which my daughter-in-law Tesh thoughtfully provided. I watch Netflix, which, for a fee, makes movies, shorts, TV series and specials from all around the world available via a number of devices. I use my iPad, which makes me a late recruit to the ranks of my children and grandchild who constantly have in their hands their phones or iPads, their eyes fixed on the screen. (Yes, my almost-two-year-old grandson has his own iPad, an old model his parents dug out to spare their cell phones from toddler damage.)

Right now, while I’m transfixed with my choices on Netflix, the hubby is preoccupied with “The Vikings,” a series he watches whenever he catches it on the History Channel, but which a few days ago he decided to watch in its entirety through DVDs. We must make a strange sight: two adults in bed, one transfixed by battling Norse men on the TV screen, the other gazing at a small electronic gizmo to which are attached earphones. For newlyweds, that’s a glimpse of marriage future.

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So far, I’m done with “The Crown,” and I must say all the plaudits for the miniseries, especially for lead Claire Foy who plays Queen Elizabeth II, are well deserved. And because I still am not over my British royalty fix, I had to watch “The Royals,” a documentary series on British nobility—from weddings to funerals to scandals. But I must say the segment I enjoyed the most was that on royal pets, featuring not only the Queen’s Corgis but also her horses, swans, and even pigeons!

I’d been hearing a lot of positive reviews about “Stranger Things,” which features a main cast of precocious preteens facing an otherworldly quest. You’d think the genre would have been exhausted by now, but it’s the kids that add edge and humor and pathos to a fantastic story.

Right now, would you believe, I’m watching three Netflix offerings simultaneously—one at a time, of course. Based on a niece’s recommendation, I’ve begun “The OA,” which, because of its creepiness, I have to take a break from every now and then. I take a break from mystery and gloom with a Korean drama, “White Nights,” filled with intrigues among the superrich, and the Japanese serial, “Midnight Diner.”

The last deserves a separate accolade. The credits are in Japanese, so I can’t cite any creatives or performers. But its central character is the “Master,” proprietor of a small eatery open from midnight to 7 a.m., and the stories he shares about his clients.

The clients range from a crossdressing superhero, a lonely office worker who knits sweaters for men to whom she’s attracted, a professional mahjong gambler and the son he’s suddenly saddled with, and a produce seller whose dead mother visits him in his dreams.

It’s a welcome break from all the supernatural struggles and royal intrigues I’ve watched so far, but the simple stories of “Midnight Diner” have a “stickiness” whose echoes last long into the next few days.

The “Master” and the producers neither make judgments nor take sides, but simply tell the stories as simply and directly as possible. In the wee hours, trapped between wakefulness and the desire to get back to sleep, one finds that the stories, centered on a favorite dish the clients order, not only distract but also prepare one for the day ahead.

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