Thursday, December 29, 2011
ONCE IN A LONG WHILE something comes together that makes perfect sense while making no sense at all. This time it's topping a beef stew with slices of brie. The stew comes about because it's freakin 3 degrees outside-- alright, as of now, it's 48, but it was 28 for the low, and 33 when I took the dog out to walk about ten this morning-- and the brie was just hanging around after being part of a ploughman's lunch a few weeks back. The result, after the brie was allowed to rest atop the steaming stew for a few minutes while the bread roll finished baking, was just tremendous, a subtle, under-the-chin punch that rings the bells like a hay maker, just a shadow of the brie's pungency co mingled with the spice of the stew. It's so crazy, it just might work!
This is not quite the movie of the day. Almost. Kinda sorta maybe. Mostly in that I am watching it on Comedy Central, so it's chock full of commercials and bleeped to h***, but also that I am only watching it for a sense of completion. I have seen the second half of it, in bits and pieces, probably one and a half times all told, just during stints of time when there wasn't anything else much on or while something else I was watching was in commercials. But I felt I needed to give it the full shot, at least once, since it has a real rotten rep as what the critics like to call "lazy comedy," despite having shown me some flashes of, if not brilliance, at least competence.
Allow me to backpedal here, just briefly, and suggest that I also feel guilty for not giving the flick a shout out for containing yet another brilliant Michael Shannon performance-- and whatever else goes on here, Shannon really does manage that stride between drama and comedy, playing a genuinely scary guy for laughs. Nah. That doesn't justify it either. And it doesn't really say much for Shannon, although I don't think it says anything against him either, to lump this in with the Shannon oeveur.
Because it's not that it's a bad movie. It's just not a better one. Its full of yank-out-the-rug humor that doesn't quite surprise. It's like that friend you had in junior high school who learned that if he popped his friends in the right spot in the back of the knee, they'd almost, but not quite, fall down. It's like watching a student pilot do a run-through for the instructor before doing a solo: they punch all the buttons and toggle all the switches, but it never gets off the ground.
Nah. I got nothin. It's a beautifully shot, wonderfully acted, gritty, overseas inter-war drama, full of conflicts and injustice and cruelty, and love and redemption, and, most of all, pathos for flawed but worthwhile characters. It's also based on a pretty badly written book about a bunch of stuff that never happened while the Chinese people were trying to decide which kind of fascism they wanted. Oh, and did I mention the stereotypes? Not just of the Chinese mind you. McKenna-- that's the author of the book, Richard McKenna-- thought it was important to show that peoples of all races are capable of being completely nasty, and that unless you fall in love with Candace Bergen, your soul is as redeemable as a tin can in Nevada.
I have no idea what I mean by that.
So do I recommend it? Not really. In the final analysis, you're as likely to combine brie and stew as, well, you're not likely to, I don't think. Let's Go To Prison really isn't bad, it's just misunderstood. No, wait, it's too well understood, and it takes the patience of a saint to sit through it for all the little good bits to add up, despite the fact that Will Arnett and Dax Shepard are adorable together. And even though The Sand Pebbles is a really good movie about really rotten things (and people! Don't forget the people!), the fact remains that it's about five hours long-- alright, three-- and given that it plays hell with a bunch of really very interesting history, mainly for the satisfaction and edification of it's author, it's really hard to argue for.
Sunday, December 18, 2011
Thursday, December 08, 2011
TODAY's lunch is in part inspired by the Wifey's compul-sive viewing of food related shows on the Travel Channel, specifically Adam Richman's show Man Vs. Food. On one of his bizzaro jaunts through some town's eateries lead him to a joint where they made grilled cheese sandwiches with basically whatever cheeses they could find-- or so it seemed to me-- and every once in awhile the memory of watching those sandwiches being made will inspire me to do something like this. This amounts to a seven cheese grilled cheese sandwich, American, two different levels of cheddar, and the four cheese Mexi blend, which, yeah, I know: that's cheating. But then it's on rye bread. With two kinds of mustard. And bacon and slices onion. He he he he he.
This is not particularly the movie of the day, but it was on while I was waiting to make, making, and then having lunch. I can watch this dumb tub of crap anytime. The science is not precisely junk, but it sure as hell ain't far from it. The whiteboard scene in particular, where they're trying to hone down a pool of victims to try and find Patient Zero, well, um, no, that's not precisely how that works. Besides which, having read the book from which they derive their source material . . . Ah, forget it. The list of bitchings is just too long. But if I am in precisely the right mood, then I can watch the performances and dig to the dialogue and only every once ion a while break out laughing out loud at the fact that I am watching fuckin' Outbreak.
This is also not the movie of the day, insofar as I did watch it, but more out of a sense of obligation than anything else. I heard, when it came out, that it was both brilliant and damned near impossible to watch, and figured that vsooner or later I would end up giving it a run. But then, having enjoyed Michael Shannon's wonderful, dark, increasingly unhinged performance on the HBO series Boardwalk Empire, the final tumbler fell and I stuck it in the Netflix queue. With the result that, dear God, what a superbly well acted, amazingly well written, meticulously constructed chunk of the willies! The best way I can sum this up is to say that, several times, I had to remind myself that yes, there are people out there that believe about 80% of the conspiracy theories being spewed throughout the film as justification for the characters' increasing mania, and to just calm down, all that blood is fake. (And no, that wasn't a bug on my leg just now.)
So do I recommend it? Hell, yeah. Have a grilled cheese on rye. Add bacon. Turn off the part of your brain that knows how the CDC and the Army actually function, along with whatever knowledge you have of virology or weaponizing bugs, and watch Cuba Gooding Jr. pretend to fly a chopper. And you'll probably never want to watch it ever again-- and make sure it's daytime, or else keep the lights on, and plan on getting up and walking around from time to time-- but Bug will keep you crawling. Hate them willies. They oughta call 'em the sams.