Column, Movie Diary

Reading between the lines

By Dom Cioffi

A friend who knew I had reached a major milestone in my cancer battle showed up at my door recently with a present. It came wrapped in one of those tall, thin wine bottle gift bags with tissue paper flowing out the top.

I thanked her for the kind thought and then spent the next 10 minutes catching up. During our conversation, I walked into the dining room and set the bag on our hutch.

And there it sat for several days. Because the bag was colorful, it caught my eye whenever I walked through the room. I kept telling myself to transfer the bottle to our wine cabinet with the rest of our alcohol. However, it wasn’t a priority because I have a ridiculous amount of wine and I wasn’t in any hurry to drink it. So, it just sat there.

I honestly don’t need any more wine in my life. I have several dozen bottles that I’ve collected over the years, most of which came as gifts from friends and clients. They’re collecting dust because neither my wife nor I are big wine drinkers.

It’s not that I don’t like wine; I actually love it. But wine makes me sleepy, and I hate being sleepy. And because it makes me sleepy, I never drink a whole bottle. So, when I do open a bottle, half of it goes to waste.

Every time I think I might like some wine, I go through the same mental process of talking myself out of it because I don’t want to waste an expensive bottle for one glass and I don’t want to end up in bed at 6:30 p.m.

I even bought some of that special gas that you spray into the wine bottle to keep it fresh for days, thinking that would deter me from drinking too much and falling asleep. But honestly, I start to yawn after two sips, so it’s futile. The bottle ends up lasting me three days, but that just means I falls asleep early on three nights.

I finally got tired of looking at the gift bag so one afternoon I went over and grabbed it to put it away. As I reached in to pull out the bottle, I realized there wasn’t one. Instead of a bottle, there was a book.

I stood there stunned for a moment, realizing that I had duped myself for nearly a week. I then took another moment to analyze the book, which also caught me off guard. The gift turned out to be a book of poetry — more specifically, a book of poems about gratitude and hope.

Now, I’m not exactly a fan of poetry. I can absolutely appreciate the artform and respect those who dedicate the time and effort to write in this style, but it’s never been my “thing.” There were times in college where I was forced via a class to analyze style and structure, and because of that I realized how important the artform is. But as point of relaxation, I’ve never turned to reading verse.

Sometimes I find it odd that I don’t enjoy poetry more given that I love to write and find solace in structuring sentences of my own. I also have a great affinity for song lyrics, which is certainly a related form. I gave the book a quick peruse and then walked into our bathroom and set it on the bookrack next to our toilet (I’m not ashamed to say that if I want to give something my undivided attention, that’s a great place to do it).

Over the next week, I periodically flipped through the book to find poems to read. Some I found interesting — even appealing, but I also found just as many that seemed uninspired or devoid of creativity. Ultimately, I found the book to be hit or miss in the way that the words affected me.

When it comes to art (painting, music, writing, etc.), one of my gauges of quality is whether I think I could do it better. There was a good chunk of poems in this book that I found myself thinking, “Even without trying, I could have written something comparable to that!”

But then again, I’ve never written poetry, so how the hell do I know?

“Paterson” – Click here to watch the trailer

This week’s film, “Paterson,” starring Adam Driver, features a middle-aged man consumed with writing poetry. He drives a bus by day but spends his free time poring over the words in his beloved journal.

This is an interesting little film that is hypnotic in its delivery. I initially questioned its legitimacy, but over time I became transfixed with the subtle cadence and rhythm of each scene. It’s not surprising that this movie felt like a poem come to life.

Not everyone will appreciate this film since it involves very little action. Instead, the film leans on a constant tension to drive the story. If you’re looking for something a little different and are appreciative of more cerebral-type films, then definitely give this one a try.

n expressive “B+” for “Paterson,” available for streaming on Amazon Prime. Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at

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