Friday, May 29, 2009

Matters of Proportion

ONE OF the benefits of home ownership is the ability, should one choose to do so, to subdivide or re-configure the rooms within. One of the benefits of making lunch at home is roughly akin: nothing says that I have to use uniform proportions of any given ingredient, nor that I cleave to the the strictures of regional cuisine. So nothing says I must stick to a single split link of kielbasa-- kielbasa!!!-- in this sandwich, rather than split a second link and add one-half of it to the load. And nothing says I cannot slap two slices of white American cheese between the sausage and the sauerkraut. So basically, this sandwich is everything the kaiser roll could reasonably hold. I was going to call it "Third Prize, You're Fired," after my favorite scene from a movie I will never, ever recommend,* and then switched to "Third Prize, You're Fried," as I was frying the sausages, but then thought I might want to call it "This Sandwich Was Described In Haste," after one of my favorite Kids in the Hall sketches, but that struck me as both obvious and wrong. Also, I am now thinking I could give it a name that would honor the multi-national composition of the thing while making a reference so obscure that pretty much no one would get it. But I am not sure which is funnier: "Raise The Flags Of All Nations!" or "Look Out! He's Got A Loaded St. Christopher's Medal!" And, I have the ingredients left over for a whole 'nother one. So I got time and reason to think about it.

The movie of the day-- and, by the way, this was yesterday-- was almost The Undefeated. But what is there to say about The Undefeated? Aside from some stellar perfomances-- John Wayne at his most iconic, Jan Michael-Vincent completely beliveable as an oblivious asshole, and, foremost, Rock Hudson doing an awesome job portraying a heterosexual male! (That's completely unfair. I have always thought Hudson was a fine actor in the middle-Hollywood mold, and here, he aquits himself very nicely alongside the Duke, and both actors are clearly having a ball. That is all.) But the film takes a view of morality that takes twice as long to parse out as it does to actually watch the movie itself. So screw it.

The movie of the day-- and, again, this was yesterday-- was The Ninth Configuration, which is not something that I have been meaning to get around to for any real time. I seem to think I was aware of it at some point, maybe as far back as 1980, when it came out and sank without a trace (very unfairly, I think), or maybe later, after it developed a cult following on the basis of some cryptic and sometimes misleading reviews. I came to it this time out of multi-layered curiosity. William Peter Blatty, the writer-director, claims the novel he originally wrote was both funnier if crueler; it took him ten years to get the project moving after he originally wrote the script; he transported the entire cast and crew to Hungary because PepsiCo, who was assisting in footing the bill beyond Blatty's own private fortune, owned a castle there; said cast and crew were supposedly drunk and AWOL as often as possible, and so on. So I sacked it into the NetFlix queue, bumped it to the top, and just a few days later, there it was.

I ALMOST put off watching it-- thus the viewing of the Wayne/Hudson flick-- but then went in on the grounds that I could turn it off at any time. The movie started as soon as the player had digested the data; the opening was hypnotic and beautifully shot. As the movie proper began, the mood became dank, dark, slightly claustrophobic, uncomfortable and funny at the same time. Although there were many elements that felt questionable, there was an overwhelming sense of Vaudeville slapstick that pervaded and, to my thinking, buoyed the proceedings. Imagine if Blake Edwards had directed a cross between M*A*S*H (as Hooker wrote it) and Catch 22. Also there seemed to be nods in many directions, not the least to Kubrick's vision of The Shining, although that seems entirely impossible, as both movies came out the same year.

And there I stop. It is impossible to critique this movie without giving most of the best bits away. The anti-authoritarian glee of the first act completely compliments and validates the earnest angst of the second half and denoument, and the last note puts a plume on the whole affair. It is one of the more neatly wrapped up scripts I have encountered. And I don't want to ruin it for anyone else who might want to experience this.

Does it take an effort? Not a whole lot, I think. One of the first links that popped up when I searched it was Bad Movie Reviews (Dot Com), and the first reviewer didn't seem to have a clear idea why he considered it a bad film, besides the fact that Blatty directed it. (I bet he drives a Focus.) The second review there, which was not actually a bad review, suggested it took multiple viewings to "get" the thing. Which I think is not the case. I went in armed with knowledge, some of which was continuity-muddled, but I'm sure I still woulda got it all down in one take just the same.

*And, if ever there was a film with a LOADED St Christopher's medal, The Ninth Configuration is it!!! (If you've seen it, you get that.) I will never recommend Glen Garry, Glen Ross to anyone because, after thoroughly enjoying it on my first (and only) viewing, I discovered that the real reason I did enjoy it was the Alec Baldwin monologue, which was added in because the fucker didn't trust the movie audiences to be as savvy and sensible as the theater audiences who had succeded in floating his bloated, well-kissed ass. (Clearly, I don't mean to imply that Baldwin is the fucker with the well-kissed ass. Am I being to oblique for you?) This has informed my viewing of everything else the fucker ever did, to the point that I consider everything else he ever did to be to be idiotic folderol. (Which is completely unfair.) (To ME.)

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Egg Salad of the Damned

WHEN I WAS in college, the ladies at the sandwich grill in the RDH (Residents' Dining Hall) would make me this wonderfully strange thing on occasion, a grilled egg salad sandwich. To this day, I do not know how they did it, but they would take a couple of pieces of Wonder bread, slap a slice of plastic cheeze on each slice, lump a scoop of egg salad in the middle of one slice, mush the other slice down on top, and grill it with a generous splurge of "butter" (which they always called butter, but which had to be some kind of institutional-grade oil emulsion). What came out was a miracle, this perfectly grilled, somewhat floppy but perfectly self-contained sandwich that held together admirably unless you unconscionably abused it, which I occasionally did. What I ended up with, when I tried to make it at home, was superior in one way: the egg salad was akin to the concoction I refer to as bedeviled eggs. But, due to a slightly kerfuluffled flip, the structural integrity of the sandwich was comprimised. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

This is the item immediately after the kerfluffled flip. It actually turned out fine, only I had to eat it with a fork rather than picking it up like a real sandwich. Just think of it as the equivalent of an omlette with toast and hash browns. Which it is nothing like and identical to. Maybe that's what I like so much about eggs. You can do so many things with them, many of which make no sense, but make perfect sense. In fact, the filling here can be construed as something one of my fellow bloggers objected to long ago: eggs with egg sauce.

I don't care. I just love it. Oh, and also, while I am in the neighborhood, recently eggs were removed from the bad food list: no evidence that eggs cause anything bad to happen to your body, after what? 40 years? 50 years of false accusations? (Mayonnaise-- that would be the egg sauce-- my wife points out, is not off the bad foods list yet. One old theory-- old, and probably pretty bad-- would suggest that the consumption of beer alongside mitigates whatever fatty evil the mayo might bring to the death party. Eh. What the hell. They can saw me open when I'm dead.)

The movie of the day is NOT Wise Blood. It was Wednesday's movie, due to the fact that the Onion AV Club reviewed it, and I opened the file about ten minutes before the flick came on the Flix channel. I had been putting it off on a coule of different grounds, not the least of which is that Brad Dourif has been in some really insubstantially creepy stuff, and also that, in the improper mood, I am fully capable of accusing Flannery O'Connor of libeling and slandering the South on the least grounds.

AND the results were strange enough. The shooting took place in and around contemporary (1979) Macon, GA. Which was a strange time for Macon, but to be completely fair, the place has hardly changed since. Macon is a strange place. Dirt poor, pissed off, and proud of it. Then there's the costumes, which go a long way to forging the characters, so as anachronistic as the costumes are, so anachronistic are the characters. Which is admirable in it's strange, strange way, but . . . Well, in the final analysis, this jigsaw puzzle just don't fit together.

Although it did grow on me. Everyone is so completely commited to their part that the thing kind of flows along, and by about a third of the way in I was excusing the major flaws. Which, in addition to the anachronisms, there are flaws in the source material, up to and including the decades-long arguments as to whether Flannery O'Connor's 1952 novel cribbed from Faulkner, made hommage to Faulkner, updated Faulkner, or ripped Faulkner off, and THEN, if, like me, you beginning point, your opinion of Faulkner, is, well FUCK Faulkner, then after a certain point you are inclined not to care much. What I ended up seeing was an auteur (director John Huston) so enamoured of his vision that he was able to convince an entire ensemble of actors that all kinds of things that were absurd on their faces would contribute to the creation of a seamless and socially significant work of celuloid art.

So do I recommend it? Dunno. It left me bewitched, bothered, and bewildered, and not in the good way, as if I had had a sultry, sexy dance with a stranger under Autumn moonlight to the mumurrings of a nearby jazz ensemble, but more like I had just endured an IRS audit adminstered by a crew of clowns in full costume and white face. Like something very important, and not altogether pleasant had just happened, but there wasn't any real reason to take it seriously.

So I enjoyed it. But, then again, I'm a weirdo who like eggs in egg sauce.

PS: At one point I was moved to observe that Dourif was essentially playing the same character as he did in the film Ragtime, although I don't know how true that is or what, if anything, it would mean. So I didn't make that observation.

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Friday, May 08, 2009

California Dreamin'

SO WHY a tuna salad sandwich might have spurred a certain nostalgia for California, I do not know. I can only say: it's a good thing. Since my good pal Doc Nagel moved out there back in 98, I have gone to visit at pretty much every excuse I could find, the exception being this year, where I could have gone on the excuse that the Wifey is going to Dragon Con with a friend of hers this August-- of which more shortly-- but I think I have decided, on balance, that I ought to stay home with the dog for that long weekend. Better for the dog, I think.

Not that the decision is written in stone. I am NOT going to Dragon Con, for a variety of reasons-- first, waiting in lines is not one of my favorite things; second, Atlanta; third, Atlanta in August. But I could still find an excuse for going to California. I kind of think I need to.

Now, back to the sandwich. The tuna salad component was basically a given; the fries are the local grocery chain's shoestring cut, which I am quickly developing a preference for as a sandwich mate. So the wild card here was the beer. I had managed to get out and run a couple of errands earlier in the day, and about the time I was ready to begin the lunching process, it had started raining. For no readily apparent reason, having run about in the Miata with the top down for a an hour and change put me in the mood for reminiscing about previous visits to the Golden State. Why the Saranac India Pale Ale would remind me of a fish sandwich I had at a smarmy faux pub on the bay at Monterey, and also of the crumbs of a poem I started writing about the experience that never gelled, I know not. The Black Forest, on the other hand, had plenty of reason to remind me of serial visits to the 'frisco brew-pub we end up going to about every other time we hit the burg. Either way, it was a worthwhile endevour.

In other news, there is a reason why there hasn't been a movie of the day for awhile.

Not that I haven't been watching movies. But I did watch this one, and it kind of has me stymied. If you have watched it, you probably know why. If you have not, well, it's HUGELY tempting for me to tell you why, but that would spoiler the thing. And I wouldn't be the first. About every critic I have run across has confessed to the sin of wanting to spill the beans. Because the twist that is coming is one hell of a twist, and even though I saw it coming, even though I knew what the twist was going to be, I managed to maintain a state of denial right up to about five seconds before the filmmaker tipped his hand and let the cat out of the bag.

Confused? Still know nothing about what this film is about? Whew. Thank God for that. Suffice it to say that this is a film about a very nice guy who knew another very nice guy that some terrible, terrible things happened to-- and happened to have spent about a third of the guy's life shooting film on him! I highly recommend it. I almost didn't. It is a hugely painful procedure, and more than once I found myself feeling slightly dirty for watching, but the fact remains that this is a hugely effective tribute to one helluva a guy who was brutally taken, for the wrong reasons and too soon. See it.

So there's that. I have got it off my chest. We now return you to your irregularly scheduled program, which, as fate would have it, was richly primed for a little California nostaginatin'.

THAT's better.

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