Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Treasure of the Sierra Meh.

SO THIS is today's lunch. Today's useless, useless lunch. It's a grilled turkey and bacon sandwich with white American cheese; in fact it's a grilled turkey and bacon sandwich with twice the amount of bacon it would normally have and mustard on both sides, and the Ketchupo! is heavy on the Cholupa. But I can't taste any of it. The Saranac Pale Ale tastes like a porter.

I have a cold.

It started last night; the first sign was when I woke up in the wee hours with one sinus cavity full of muck. I felt a bit rocky after getting up, a bit better after having coffee and a long, hot shower, but then the final sign popped up: about every five minutes I would pop up a reason to be intensely, bitterly anrgy at myself. This stems from my mother having assumed that every single cold I had as a kid was faked.

And enough about that. Today's movie is an old favorite that just happens to be on TCM. I was going to yap all about why I like it, but right now I feel like just saying I like it and to hell with you if you don't know why.

Don't talk to me. I am a bad person.

Williams, out.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

In Medias Res

A FEW YEARS ago I came back from a trip to glorious Cali with a huge and abiding craving for the terrific Mexican food I had had on the trip, and I went an entire year eating virtually nothing but Mexican style food. I don't see that happening again, but today's lunch is an example of the sort of thing I might have done during that era. The emapanadalettes here are a species of Don Miguel product, the likes of which we have not seen in these parts in many a year, and as such are agreeably mediocre: the factory floor interpretation of what kind of food you might get in a Mexican restaurant. I have often made the case that the reason "Mexican" food is so popular in America is that it's the sort of thing which, when done badly, is still pretty good. (See: Taco Bell.) This layout has the advantage of including hand-made guacamole, doctored black refritos, and sour cream. (EVERYTHING is better with sour cream.)

The beer of the day is a longer story. New Belgium's Fat Tire Ale has been enormously popular around these parts for the last year or so. My initial take on the stuff was that it's gourmet beer for non-gourmet-beer drinkers, which was clearly snobby and wrong. Still, there does seem to be a low note, a body note, that seems to be missing from it, giving it a slightly sweet undertone. Meanwhile, I had heard that they make an IPA, but I had yet to get my hands on it. This I got from a specialty store earlier this week. I opened one prior to sitting down at the spread, and the initial response was the same: missing that low body note, and seemed, perplexingly for an IPA, almost sweet.

Let's have a closer look at that label, shall we? IPA's are supposed to be over-hopped, and thus bitter, although many American versions (often called California style) are hopped in such a way as to produce a high, flowery top note (which I quite like, by the way). This seemed to be reaching for such a high note, but without the heaviness to the body notes, didn't seem to be sustaining it. Then I coupled it with the lunch, which I have decided to call Almuerzo del Arador, which is what my utterly unreliable Spanish-English dictionary suggests would the the analog for Ploughman's Lunch,+ and all kinds of whacky low notes came out-- chocolate, caramel, coffee, toffee, and on and on-- making that flowery top note sparkle like the last blast in a Maynard Ferguson trumpet solo.

Ahem. Gee, Jim. Obscure much?

The film of the day most certainly is not this. It most certainly wasn't last night. I don't recall specifically whether it was myself or the Wifey who put this in the queue,* but the other day it arrived in the mail, and last night we tried to watch it. It's baaaaaaaaaaaaad. Bad bad bad bad bad. Stoooopid bad. Mr. Yuck bad. We watched fully half of it, waiting for it to stop being stooopid, but the point at which Amelia Erhart referred to Our Hero's eyes as "cheaters . . . " Well, I corrected her: "Cheaters are glasses." The Wifey turned to me and said "Nearly forty minutes into this, and that's what you have to complain about?" That was it. Back it goes.


The film of the day also is not this. I saw my Woody Allen flicks in entirely the wrong order, staring with Sleeper, continuing years later with Manhattan, later catching Zelig, and then finally catching up with Take The Money And Run, and then this. People went gaga for it at the time, thinking it's combination of social and political satire was smart and savvy, but the fact is it's wildly uneven, only sporadically funny, and actually pretty damned mean spirited. Years on, watching this, it's easier to believe that the man would turn out to be a self-important pederast with a fellatio fixation.

This is the film of the day. As any long time reader would know~ I am a fan of HBO productions, especially thier historical dramas. They tend to get most things right, and better still, they tend to capture the feeling of certain times and events right, or at least they seem to. In this, Brendan Gleeson does a fantastic job of capturing Churchill as a man, and the writer (writers? not sure) lifted about 60% of his dialogue from established historical quotes. And lemme just say this: Len Cariou as Roosevelt! Yee-owza, man! Not only is it good to see the old geezer get work, it feels good just to say it. Len Cariou as Roosevelt. Why didn't someone think of that sooner?
So do I recommend it? I've said it before: even if it's not "authentic" Mexican food, if you like it, eat it. This took an awful lot of work to make it worthwhile, but in the end, it was worth it. Your results may vary. It's important to see a bad movie, or at least part of a bad movie, now and then, if for nothing else than just to remind you of what a bad movie feels like. Never, EVER trust Woody Allen or listen to anything he says. (Except the bit in Zelig about baseball, that was genius.) You can watch HBO films or not. For me they are valuable as interpretations of history, except for that Rome garbage, but if you've read your history properly, and in this day and age, nothing says you have, no offense intended, you're not really missing much.

But, damn, man. Len Cariou as Roosevelt. Worth the entire damned trip.
*The Wifey put it in the queue, but I'm not admitting it, because I love her that much.
+And the little empanada bites I am calling "res," as said useless dictionary insists that "res de arador" means "ploughshares." Thus, at long last, the reason for the cockameme title to this piece.
~As if there were such a beast.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, February 11, 2010

But This One's Eating My Popcorn Part II: The Spawning

I USUALLY don't blog two times in a row, for no real good reason. It's what I commonly call Voodoo: something I do because it makes me feel like it iomproves my chances of a favorable outcome. You know, just like practicioners of Voodoo have no @#$%ing idea what they're doing or why, and only have the most esoteric explanation as to why what they're doing might work.

The lunch of the day is the empanada etc. etc. I felt like posting the picture because it looks like it has a face. Like the face of a metal monster, maybe? Either way, it was lovely. And the Sierra Nevada Pale Ale was a great compliment. This displays the wisdom of providing variety. I'm sure the Carlsburgs would have been as great a compliment, but still. Good to have a choice.

One more thing, then off to the other half of the entry. As I have said before, @#$% is my basic euphemism for "fuck," which I started using in work environs years ago, and kept because I think it's funny in it's consistency. This consitency (which some people seems to have missed) amuses me because the whole point of using those symbols to represent profanity is that the audience can insert whatever their dirty minds desire, so the profanity can be as light or as dark as they wish. Whereas I have put it in code? I dunno. Maybe it's kind of a purile thing on my part. He he he he. I just made you say FUCK!

The movie of the day may be The World According to Garp. It's early yet. I generally like this movie, but sometimes it is hard to take. Additionally, a few years back, I tried to read the book. Now, when the thing first came out, one matter in which the critics were in ubiqutous agreement was that people who like the movie wouldn't like the book, and that people who like the book would hate the movie. Which stands to some reason. In the book, Garp is a mean spirited prick who hates his mother; in the movie, Garp is Mork from Ork, New England. Small example: at one point in the book, the adult Garp is given some good news about the success of a rival author, and he thanks the messenger by lifting him up and placing his ass in the sink on the other side of the New York bar in which they happened to be standing at the time. (I think I knew this bar: it was a dive in that part of the city where the rich and successful went to act boorish and crude, just north of the Bowery. It's long gone now; in the words or Radar O'Reilly, I was only there the once, but I really liked it.)

George Roy Hill was picked to direct, which seemed like a very odd idea at the time (to those who knew the work), but in retrospect makes perfect sense. Hill was capable of making every dark theme, every perverse turn, play for light comedy or slapstick or caricature. Which is why, in the end, four or five of the plotlines ring a little false for me. A few things seem too quickly forgotten or overcome. A couple of the darkest aspects of the book, having to do mainly with the way one may choose to see the world, come off as quirky when they're meant to highlight a particularly disturbing (as Irving saw it) fact of human nature. All of which would have seemed less puzzling to me had I read the book at the time, but I didn't get around to it.

While I was reading it (later on), I had an intermittent co-worker who was a trained librarian, and a heavy reader as well, who had read this, and many other Irvings (the only one I have successfully read is A Prayer For Owen Meany, which probably says more about my personality than I want it to). So I asked him; "Is there any reason to finish reading this?"

After thinking it over briefly, he answered: "Well, no one does that particular brand of cruetly humor as well as Irving." So I quit reading it. I had made it about a quarter of the way through.

So this is one of those day when I will be watching the movie in order to appreciate the contrasts. Every confection-light scene, I will appreciate for the dark, drear, dire counterpart in the book that it ever so mockingly represents.

Wow. Just think what Hill coulda done with Deliverence!

Oh, and the conclusion of yesterday's review: Nah. Seeing Nickelodeon every coupla years is fine. I don't think I would stick it in on general occasion, just for something to watch. It's a little too much work-- although I appreciate why: each of the films three acts represents a different era in moviemaking, metaphorically, from the silent era through the seventies.

Yeah. Just writing that makes me wonder why I even like the thing. But I do, and I will watch it when it is available.

This is a Godiva chocolate covered pretzel, which the Wifey procured for me from a spread they had in her office the other day. It is diabolically delicious, sweet and creamy and crunchy and salty, and I had four of them with the last of my Sierra Nevada Pale Ale after lunch. It is, I think, crucially important to appreciate contrasts.


Labels: , ,

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What Did You Want For A Nickle?

TODAY's lunch is only partly a nostalgia trip. Mainly I wanted a little change of pace after a week's worth of Sierra Nevada Pale Ales for lunch. I stopped short of picking up a half pound of pastrami for lunch on the earlier errands. Still, I will gladly admit to having a wave of sweet memories rush over me after I got the sandwich back here, even though I live in a single story house, sit facing the woods, and the sandwich is (was) full of ham instead of pastrami.

A note on that: the ham is Black Forest ham. I don't see why anyone buys anything else, at least as far as the Oscar Meyer deli varieties go. The rest of them just taste like generic ham to me. This stuff atstes like HAM. I know I pick on people who claim that gras fed beef or organic free-range chicken are what beef/chicken OUGHT to taste like, but, to me . . . Also, you'll note that this has sliced onion and black olives within-- escapees at nine o'clock and twelve o'clock, respectively. Yes, my friends. Play with your food.

The film of the day is something I had been meaning to get to for a coupla months now. With one thing or another, I only just got around to moving it to the top of the queue last week. Today, on preparing to watch it, I came to a decision: this is an experiment to see if this is something I want to own.

The first time I caught it was totally by mistake. It was on HBO, back in the wild and wooly days of pay TV, and I think I basically went "Burt Reynolds? Ryan O'Neal? How can it lose?" Aaaaaaaaand then spent the next eight minutes wondering how/if I was going to make it out of this. Really. It was boring me to tears. Oh, and Bryan Keith was utterly unrecognizeable under his character, totally, brilliantly immersed, and I was ready to plunge a stalk of celery through my chest. (Meaning: I'da killed myself to get out of it, if only I had so much as a stalk of celery.)

That was largely because Bogdanovich had a helluva lot of establishing to do, and he was doing it all at once. As the tapestry began to take shape, things got better, and better, but it actually wasn't until about a half hour in that it started to really make sense-- and get funny. Very, very funny. And pick up momentum and reeeeally move. And from there on out, it was a pure joy. The the last half hour it just kind of died-- which, also forgiveable, was a function of the plot. It picks up again right at the end, and so boom, overall, satisfying movie experience.

So I will get to the recommendation bit before getting to the real reason I'm writing all this. I am sure you all know how I feel about ham sandwiches. But remember: Mama Cass. Hendrix. Jayne-Ann Phillips-Sousa. The ham can be your friend, or the ham can be your worst enemy. Proceed with caution. Nickelodeon is a fine romp, but you have some doldrums to contend with, so you kind of have to either be prepared to tread water or convince yourself, as Bogdanovich did, that the task at hand, the aping and celebration of a long gone time in the making of movies, is not just important, but sacred.

So I popped in the disc and clicked the menu to play and go two options: original theatrical release or directors' cut. And, of course, I thought to myself "I like herring sandwiches!"* So I watched approximately four minutes of the directors' cut. As I did I seemed to recall reading that the chief difference between the two is that the director's cut is in black & white and about four minutes longer. Indeed, a quick check with Wikipedia yeilded the existence of this entry on alternate versions of Nickelodeon:

"The 2009 DVD release includes a 125 minute 'Director's Cut' in black and white."

The Director's Cut is proof positive that not every auteur always knows what's best. Black and white was a horrible idea. This reeeeeeeeeally needs to be in color. It just does.

So am I buying a copy? Dunno. Maybe I will watch it again tomorrow. With a herring sandwich . . .

*From one of Douglas Adams' books; there was created a contraption whose function depended on getting a robot convinced that it liked herring sandwiches; this, the narrator notes, turned out to be the real trick.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Dumpling Central

LAST NIGHT I got the Wifey to finally concede that we had not had Hop Feng in a longish time, although technically, if we had a once-a-month rule, we would only just qualify for a new installment. This isn't it; this is a pic from, lessee, I wanna say last summer, but some point in the decent-recent past, anyways. I have no idea what the beer here is. I could look it up on the blog-roll, probably, but it's not like it makes a difference. Last night it was Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, which was lovely and sharp and accentuated the peanut-oil glissando of the lo mein and the sweet-tartness of the dumpling-dipping sauce pendulously. Tremendously.

Last night's film was District 9, which was . . . meh. It tried to traffic in concepts of prejudice and racism and bureaucracy, but it was all really pretty dumb. The parts it did well, the story of refugee aliens trapped on our planet and the failed attempts of the humans to understand them and help them adapt to our planet and our societies, kinda got buried under a rather ham-handed attempt at social commentary. You just don't undestand us skaters, man! We ain't gonna get put down by The Man, man!

But I could recommend it. Good enough sci fi, I think, as such things go.

I don't recommend FOX NEWS! Recently the NC oard of Education floated a plan to change the way history is taught in our schools, by sort of shmearing it aross the grades from fifth to eleventh instead of trying to pack it all in to the eleventh grade course. And, of course, FOX NEWS! reported that the state was going to stop teaching our kids about Abraham Lincoln the Boston Teabaggers and the heroes of the Civil War. Asshats.

So I was going to blog about that, but now I'm not. @#$% the @#$%ing @#$%ers.

Peace, y'all.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Simpler Things

IT'S BEEN a helluva a week. Helluva week, and it's only Wednesday. One of those weeks when all the small stuff just kinda piles up together, more or less all at once, so that dealing with the everyday details while juggling with unexpected minor emergencies makes it nigh on impossible to get anything done, or, more importantly, to feel like you're getting anything done, which is a feeling so dispiriting, so demoralizing, as to make it impossible to get anything done. So today I decided lunch would be something painfully simple. Just Ramen. No eggs, no onions, no soy or hot sauce. Just a bowl of noodles and broth. Amen.

(The water in the bottle isn't even genuine Crackwater(TM). Just a leftover bottle used for consumption. As I realized years ago, the reason I like bottled water is really that I like drinking water from a bottle. It appeals to my Roman nature: I like things in large quantities. When I drink water, I like to take it in deep swallows, large, wet gulps. I can't seem to do that as well with a glass as I can from the apperture of a bottle. Which, oddly, reminds me:

"Jove in the clouds had his inhuman birth;
No mother suckled him, no sweet land gave
Large-mannered motions to his mythy mind."

Wallace Stevens. He's been coming up alot of late.

Which brings us to the film of the day.

I tried this thing a couple of times before, having caught it a half hour or better into the running time, and immediately getting ham-strung by one silly detail or another. Today, though, the stars were aligned: this started right after something else I had been watching was over, so I clicked in right at the opening shot. Now, I am on record as not having alot of tolerance for things that play ducks and drakes with history, but from the get-go, it was pretty clear that this film-- and, I am guessing, the Italian novel it's based on-- takes five and a half pieces of well-known facts about the Roman empire, slings them into an envelope of time between the fall of the empire and the beginning of the dark ages, name-checks Constantinople, assumes a can-opener, and, with that, is off and running. The Wikipedia article on it opens up with three-- three!!!-- of their oh-so-adorable "Wait! This article might not accurately reflect the actual historic record!" warnings. Ya gonna watch this thing? Huh? Ya Gonna? Ever? Then stop reading now.

The middle warning-- nah, wait. Let's start with the other two, which are actually more adorable. The top one suggests this article could use more sources. Sources on what? Sources on the validity of fictitious bullshit? Who, Umberto Ecco?* The third one actually suggests that the article might benefit from the attentions of those schooled deeply in military history, which is mind-boggling ridiculous. This thing is less militarily reflective that Braveheart. (Which sucks. Yes, it really does. None of that bullshit happened. NONE. AT ALL.)

But the middle one actually has the temerity to suggest that the article might benefit from the scrutiny of those scholars engaged in Wikipedia's ongoing King Arthur project.

You got that? Roman legions? King Arthur? Wait for it. It's totally worth it.

So the flick opens up with a big exegesis explaining that the empire is in troubled times and this legion and its legionairres have been called back to Rome for the coronation of Romulus Augustus. (Don't bother. Ain't worth it.) We then cut to Colin Firth and his warriors tidying up after their return from the vast regions where they have been battling to safeguard the empire's boundries. My early temptation was to start this by referring to Firth as the working man's Liam Neeson, which might or might not be fair, depending largely on how Colin feels about Liam. (I happen to think he's a ham who got lucky, but that's just me.) We then get young Thomas Sangster-- The Sangster!-- as the young Emperor Romulus, first seen mistaken as a common street urchin-- delicious with nori, by the way-- accused to attempting to steal Aurealius's sword-- that's Firth's characters name, Aurelius-- Aurelius!!!-- at which point Aurelius catches him and bounces him off a guy I almost thought was Robert Sean Leonard. It wasn't, but for a moment there is was reeeeeeeeeeealy cute to think that Robert Sean Leonard (AKA that kid from Dead Poet's Society, e.g. that guy from House) could score this kind of role, y'know, 2nd Roman Warrior. Before Bad Black Leroy Roman gets a chance to chop the kid's hand off for stealing (which, Aurelius-- Aurelius!!!-- takes pains to make clear they don't do in civilized Rome), he's saved by Ben Kinglsey.

(Typo: Ken Kingsley. I was damned tempted to assert right then and there that Ben Kingsley has an evil twin who does things like secure roles in movies like this and/or Sneakers. Too easy. Too obvious.)

So Ben Kingsley shows up wearing rumpled Jesus robes and doing magic tricks with a mysterious pentagram-shaped scar on his chest. In his opening reveal, he almost moves to hid this under his robes, which are just PRECISELY cut to show off the scar, which seemed a very weird choice indeed. Anyways, the second he showed up, before he even did the magic trick, I went "This guy's Merlin. Guy's fuckin' Merlin."

And I was right.

The next thing we know, Romulus is made emperor, the barbarians are at the gate, Rome is under seiege, the main Barbarian baddie kills both the father and the mother of the new emperor, and Aurelius, Not Robert Sean Leonard, Leroy Roman and the rest are trying to stop the seige while protecting the emperor-boy-king, whom they have sworn to protect "To the last breath." Theirs, not the emperors, one assumes.

Maxwell house boy-king! Delicious to the last breath!

After that there'a bunch or traipsing about, being captured, escaping, awaiting word from Constantinople, and then a masked warrior FROM Constantinople who had been volunteered to act as decoy/secret weapon in one of the rescue schemes turns out to be a hot chick.

You had me at Constantinople!

Meanwhile, Noble Friend, played by Edie's brother from The Mummy-- sorry. Played by John Hannah, a fine Scottish actor whose talents are put to fine use here. Anyways, Nobel Friend, who procured the Constantine warrior who turns out to be a hot chick, and is also the one through whom they are negotiating for sanctuary in Constantinople, turns out to have betrayed the Rome Steady crew, and is killed about halfway through the flick by Aurelius. And, dammit, in the scene where Colin Firth runs him though, the fine Scottish actor John Hannah seemed greatful.

Now THAT's what I call breaking the fourth wall.

"They lose me right after the bunker scene."

Alright. Time for some real synopsizing. They make their way to Britain where they follow Hadrian's Wall to the last vestige of Roman empirization where they try to convince the last members of the last legion to join them in turning back the hoardes. A few volunteer, the hoardes show up, the rest of the legionizers joins in, Not Robert Sean Leonard cradles Big Black Leroy Roman while he SLLLOOOOOOOOOOOOOWLY dies of a chest trauma the size of his forearm (and then, apparently, decides to not die), the hordes are defeated, Rumulus refuses Aurelius the right to die, so HE lives. Then Romulus throws the sword of Caesar-- oh, did I not mention that? Ben Kingsley is, among other things, the guardian of the Sword of Caesar, which is vaguely magical and was forged in Brittain for narrative reasons-- Romulus throws the Sword of Caesar so high in the air that when it falls to earth, tip-down, it embeds itself two-thirds of the way to its hilt in a stone outcropping.

Revealing only the last part of its Latin inscription: EX CALIBUR.

No, I am not kidding. And then Colin Firth marries Hot Chick, they change their name to Pendragon, Romulus becomes their son Luther, and then it turns out that Merlin is telling this whole story to his son-- do I even have to say it?-- his son Arthur.

That's right. Arthur Dent is the son of Romulus, last emperor of Rome.

I kid. They don't go that far, but I thought it was a funny thing to say.

So the conclusion is: sometimes, riding something like this out can be utterly rewarding. There is not an iota of worth to this film, but it's well worth the watching. No historical figures were harmed in the making of this film. And if you ever wanted to watch Mr. Darcy swing a sword and kick some ass, well, here's your chance.

Do I recommend it? Have some gaddammed noodles.

*And if you got that reference and know who the guy is, congratulations. I got nothin' more to say about that.

Labels: , ,