soft-scrambled eggs recipe from 221 Troutman Country Brunch number 1
Put on the last Pistol Annies album; melt some butter over low heat in a non-stick skillet; break a bunch of eggs into a bowl and beat ‘em; throw in a good amount of dill and a pinch of salt and pepper; pour into skillet; stir constantly and take off heat for a sec if any large curds start to form; they should be done round about when the album finishes and you can put on the Band Perry album and eat.
I had a delicious dinner of braised lamb neck and dumplings at Dear Bushwick last night, and while I was deciding whether or not to order a second cocktail or not, I noticed a bottle of white rum that said “New York City” on it. Of course I ordered a daiquiri made with it, and it was delicious.
It turns out there’s rum being distilled a few blocks from my house! The distillery is called The Noble Experiment, the rum is called Owney’s, and we should really get over there for a tasting and tour soon, yeah?
There’s a specific kind of chugging mid-80s pop song, with rock antecedents but synthpop embellishments, and very often an alto sax getting sweaty, that aims at a kind of hyperreal romanticism. The kind of thing the Drive soundtrack aimed to emulate but was too twenty-first-century cool to allow the sweat to form.
Anyway, I wasn’t exactly surprised to hear Gloria Estefan making it on her first crossover English-language album — there’s a lot of stuff being thrown at a lot of different walls here — but I did like hearing something from her that bears a relation to Pat Benatar, Quarterflash, and latter-day Blondie.
28. Spring Breakers (dir. Harmony Korine, 2013) (Regal City North 14, Chicago)
- I dunno how much of Spring Breakers works on a “real” emotional level other than giddy, but Faith’s pre-exit call to grandma genuinely works for me on some on a trip with your friends feeling like things are really different out here bliss shit.
- obviously, the “Everytime” scene, fucking obviously. Christ I was so happy I almost fell out of my seat.
- Harmony’s up to a little something about suburban appropriation of inner-city African American culture resulting in fear (Faith) or total destruction (Brit and Candy). Maybe.
- I loved it. Is that clear? I loved it.
29. The Lady Eve (dir. Preston Sturgess, 1941) (Netflix Instant)
Will I one day find out that “they don’t make romantic comedies like they used to” is a boring, lazy opinion like every other “they don’t make _____ like they used to” opinion and a lot of current rom coms are really awesome and I should be watching them more? Barbara Stanwyck is virtuosic, and Fonda is somehow a hilarious straight man, but Sturgess and his editor Stuart Gilmore are perfect, too. There’s a cut to Charles Coburn that almost made me do a spit take and I wasn’t even drinking anything.
27. L’amore (dir. Roberto Rossellini, 1948) (DVR’d from TCM)
Friday night TCM aired 4 Rossellini movies, 3 of which aren’t available on Region 1 DVD as far as I can tell, so I taped them before leaving the house. L’amore is actually two short films: “Una voce umana”, based on a play by Jean Cocteau and “Il miracolo”, written by Fellini. Importantly, both of these shorts star Anna Magnani and Anna Magnani is a fantastically good actress. “Una voce umana” is half an hour of Magnani as a woman being broken up with by a man who is getting married, alternately talking on the phone and waiting for the phone to ring.
Magnani’s character deals with a kind of desperation that stems from having to decide what emotions to present to someone whose reaction to your emotions you really give a shit about, and I think she does an awesome job of splitting hysteria with a sense of purpose, even if she doesn’t always have a firm grasp on what that purpose is going to be from moment to moment.
"Il miracolo" is about Nanni, a woman (I think Mankiewicz said "mentally-disabled" in his TCM intro, though I’m not sure how Fellini and Rossellini would categorize that exactly) who sees a gentleman roaming the countryside and assumes he’s St. Joseph. St. Joseph then gets her drunk and she passes out and then she’s pregnant with what she thinks is a miracle baby. This isn’t a movie about religion to me, though, but rather about how we treat people at the margins of society (Nanni spends a lot of time just outside of town).
More Rossellini to come; that dude’s the best. If you haven’t seen his war trilogy, you should see his war trilogy.
21. The Invisible War (dir. Kirby Dick, 2012) (Netflix Instant)
Kirby Dick’s movie about the shocking prevalence of rape in the US Armed Forces is an emotional battering ram, but then again it is a movie about the shocking prevalence of rape in the US Armed Forces; the tears are not undeserved. I’ve recommended this movie unreservedly to people for a few weeks now, and I think it’s totally worth watching, but it will probably leave you a bit of a wreck.
22. Flight (dir. Robert Zemeckis, 2012) (screener)
Watched this on Oscar morning because it was laying around. Matty pointed out at the very beginning the amount of money that Zemeckis must be spending on licensing songs (so much Rolling Stones) and that’s the most interesting thing I remember about it. Denzel is decent. Kelly Reilly with that accent is less decent.
23. Bubble (dir. Steven Soderbergh, 2005) (Netflix Instant)
Somehow, I’d never heard of this Soderbergh. The non-professional actors do decently, though what exactly Soderbergh is doing here was, for me, a but on the inscrutable side. Still, some of the super-modern digital photography of small town bedrooms and factories works looks cool, so at the very least there are some cool tableaus and a sense of boredom leading to darker things. Not a bad quick watch.
24. Side Effects (dir. Steven Soderbergh, 2013) (AMC Loews 34th St)
It’s hard to describe why I loved this movie so much without any spoilers. But it does start out as a very good movie and then develops into a whole different type of movie that is also very good. I haven’t been so excited walking out of a movie since I don’t remember when. I know this is a weak placeholder until I figure out something to say about this movie without spoilers, but if for whatever reason you read this thing, GO SEE IT.
25. Los Cronocrimenes (Timecrimes) (dir. Nacho Vigalondo, 2007) (Netflix Instant)
This kept popping up in my recommendations and, having seen some Vigalondo in the ABCs of Death, and being bored on a Saturday afternoon I gave it a shot. It’s about time travel; it’s cleverly-plotted and tense enough to seem to make sense, though I haven’t been tempted to think very hard about whether it actually does.
26. Nine to Five (dir. Colin Higgins, 1980) (Netflix Instant)
Watching this for the first time in a while, I was basically overwhelmed with joy and wonder for large parts of it. And not only because it’s a great mainstream feminist comedy that actually gives a shit about things like equal pay, though that is amazing in and of itself, but because it’s legit hilarious in so many ways, including a super-long scene of Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda, and Dolly Parton getting high. I can’t imagine a friend that I wouldn’t recommend this movie to.
18. How to Survive a Plague (dir. David France, 2012) (Netflix Instant)
There’s certainly a lot of sadness here but, as far as a chronicle of how shit gets done in America, this doc about ACT UP, the group of activists who focused their anger about the lack of support for AIDS victims in America into a thorough, enormously effective movement, is much more inspiring than Lincoln and, somewhat silly comparisons aside, just plain awesome.
19. The ABCs of Death (dir. a whole ton of people, 2012) (VOD)
26 short films about death, from many of the world’s horror directors who you might expect to be involved in this sort of thing and many more you probably haven’t heard of. Jorge Michel Grau’s meditation on the role of the victim in horror movies has proved very memorable for me (in the weeks that I’ve been procrastinating writing this) while Ben Wheatley (whose Kill List was one fo my 2012 faves) has some great vampire fun. There’s some aggressively bizarre stuff here, too, surprise, surprise - Nazi animals and farts and masturbation to the death oh my - but I really enjoyed watching what truly horrifying tropes surprisingly popped up several times. If you like horror, I can’t imagine you won’t have some fun with this one.
Another Oscar doc: this one consists of 5 years’ worth of footage from Emad Burnat’s cameras, which keep getting broken by smoke grenades and bullets and such from Israeli forces “protecting” the border separating the Israeli settlements encroaching on Burnat’s Palestinian village. It’s not only tremendously moving on an emotional level, but also a very impressive feat of editing.
I can’t help feeling that I’m going to get through these Oscar docs and be very impressed and subsequently bummed when Searching For Sugar Man wins.
17. Searching For Sugar Man (dir. Malik Bendjelloul, 2012) (Blu-Ray)
For a while there are some interesting threads here in this doc how fandom could, at one point, exist in a place and be completely cordoned off from the rest of the world in a way that it probably can’t anymore. And that’s somewhat interesting but, despite some animation, it really doesn’t rise above what could be accomplished in a feature article until Rodriguez himself arrives. Rodriguez’ soft-spoken Industrial Midwest cadence reminded me of Michael Jackson, actually, though their lives are pretty damn different. The former had a whole life to (seemingly successfully, as far as that can be measured) apply his humility and almost mystical wisdom to the urban realities of Detroit, and the parts of this doc in which he and his family appear are legitimately moving.
I know we’re all making fun of the Richard III news being “news”, but let’s also take a second to remind everyone how absolutely fantastic of a novel Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time is. Historical mystery y’all!
16. Academy Award-Nominated Live Action Shorts (IFC Center)
16a. Death of a Shadow (dir. Tom Van Avermaet)
Matthias Schoenarts plays a dead soldier who photographs people dying (he only sees them as shadows unless he’s using his magic camera) and then delivering them to a dude who evaluates the deaths aesthetically and posts them on a wall. Yeah. They don’t quite do enough with the concept for my tastes, though, and it kind of boils down to some pretty boring romance.
16b. Henry (dir. Yan England)
A thriller about an aging pianist for about 5 minutes, and then the allegory kicks in heavy. This sits about halfway between genuinely touching and way cloying (the score, as is often the case, doesn’t help).
16c. Curfew (dir. Shawn Christensen)
I’m kinda convinced that this dude is straight doing a Ryan Gosling accent, because the Ryan Gosling accent is, famously, a made up accent, right? I liked Curfew least out of these five; it’s about a suicidal junkie and his chipper niece and the madly-shifting tone doesn’t work for me.
16d.Buzkashi Boys(dir. Sam French)
Gorgeous desaturated photography of Kabul here. The story involves two young boys’ dream (a very local dream, mind you) of being a Buzkashi rider (that’s that sport that was in the news for a while when we invaded Afghanistan; it involves a goat carcass). It balances the sadness of an economic reality in which most young men’s dreams are unrealistic with an acknowledgement of the dignity of labor. This was my fav of the bunch.
16e. Asad (dir. Bryan Buckley)
Asadmanages to balance some slight whimsy with the horrors of war-torn Somalia. It’s good.
On Sunday we washed away the boring sea of Life of Pi with the sweat, blood, swamp water, and, of course, urine of the Paperboy. It pretty much lives up to being The Movie in Which Nicole Kidman Urinates on Zac Efron or, maybe more to the point The Kind of Movie in Which It Would Make Sense for Nicole Kidman to Urinate on Zac Efron. That’s a compliment to its thorough unsavory-ness, which is appreciated. Also appreciated is a maybe-really-great performance from Macy Gray in a Macy-Gray-slowed-down register as Efron fam’s maid/mother character and Kidman playing a character with a melted Barbie doll for a soul with great enthusiasm. Nobody could possibly give a shit about the plot, of course, but that’s true of many great(er) noirs. There are spectacular things in the muck here (rather, some of the muck is spectacular).
14. Life of Pi 3D (Ang Lee, 2012) (Regal Union Square 14)
There’s a shot towards the beginning in a French pool that uses 3D in a way that’s clever and surprising and isn’t a hatchet or axe flying at your face. The rest of this movie is just awful though. The thesis is something about how you should believe in God because this movie/novel/story is awesome and fun and magnificent? There is also a white person audience surrogate in the movie that is very impressed by it! Fuck Life of Pi.
13. The Birdcage (Mike Nichols, 1996) (DVDrip projected on a sheet)
Still really funny and more moving than I remembered, at least in the first half when Val is asking the folks to hide their identity for the sake of satisfying influential bigots. I still can’t shake some discomfort at the fact that the kids and the conservative senator both get off pretty easy, but I suppose that’s not unrealistic. Shit really is really, really funny though, especially Hackman (that foliage speech), Wiest (everything), and Azaria who, especially once he gets to the “I can’t walk in shoes” physical stuff, is ridiculously good here.
So, one of my favorite people ever dropped this onto social media today, and it’s kind of great as a real thumper of a jam, I think, even better than it is as a reminder of how much a certain style of 00s electro-pop singing owes to our Queen Yoko of the Screech and Howl.
A+ (ok, B+) showing from first-time director Josh Trank, and hopefully the inventiveness and cleverness he shows here (and there’s quite a bit of it) will still come through when he gets when to working with astronomical Marvel budgets in the future. The bullied and abused villain/main-character played by Dane DeHaan gives ultra-nervous realness for the first half, and his skinny-but-suddenly-super-powerful rage at the end works too; he gets the right amount of corny for the character. I’m not sure the movie has anything definitive to say about a generation constantly filming itself, but the use of that as a visual idea at worst leads to some very clever shots, and ambiguity about this constant chronicling (movie title! take a shot!) may be a more interesting and harder choice than condemnation anyways. (Manohla Dargis compared the camera in this to Tinker Bell, which is unsurprisingly on point)
11. Prosecuting Casey Anthony (Peter Werner, 2013) (DVR’d from Lifetime)
In this Lifetime docudrama, Rob Lowe plays Chris Traeger, a former Indiana city manager who ends up prosecuting Casey Anthony without using any physical evidence and failing. There was more Nancy Grace and Jane Velez-Mitchell in this movie than I have seen in the last 2 years or so. I guess maybe the amount of hypocrisy and incompetence it shows in the Florida DAs is somewhat admirable, as is the chance to hear Oscar from The Office US say something truly disgusting.
8. Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow, 2012) (AMC Loews 34th Street 14)
About 15 minutes in, I thought I might hate this, but, though I have my reservations, I think I kind of love it, though I think Bigelow and Boal are bluffing a bit in suggesting any real journalistic approach. ZDT works for me on very similar levels to The Hurt Locker: the first is the examination of a Type of American action hero (Revenge Fiend here, Adrenaline Junkie in Hurt Locker), the second is very skillful pacing with regard to both long build-ups of suspense and bursts of action. Chastain isn’t playing a real person here as much as she’s playing our collective need for revenge that grows and moves forward and forward to the front of our brains the longer it goes unquenched (the line in which she admits to thinking that she’s been left on Earth to finish the job is key, I think, as is her lack of a past, personal life, an maybe future). I think she’s really good at it too. Once the film built up steam after the 40 minutes or so, most everything about it was super-entertaining and (not that I’m looking for a movie to be less entertaining, but) I wonder how this material would’ve played directed by someone with less Action Movie chops and more interest in banality and detail. Who knows? I need a second viewing to chew through some more of this one.
9. The Impossible (Juan Antonio Bayona, 2012) (screener)
This one I admittedly knew I was going to hate as soon as I saw the trailer, so there’s my admission of bias. Bayona doesn’t make it easy for about 30 minutes or so, though, using horror cues both in the music and direction to maintain a sense of fear, tension, and general awfulness for a while. That ends when Naomi Watts hits the hospital though, and the rest of it is a schmaltzy, poorly-paced (it’s not a short movie, but the conclusion does seem sudden and unearned, plot-wise) film about angelic white tourists and how much they suffered in a disaster that killed hundreds of thousands of Southeast Asians and left many more homeless. Fuck this shit on a very basic level.
10. Les Miserables (Tom Hooper, 2012) (screener)
Your mileage may vary based on your attachment to the material (I had none), but daaaaamn does this go on for a while. It’s thoroughly unpleasant to look at throughout, and thoroughly unpleasant to listen to about half the time. Russell Crowe sings like he’s been hit in the head. Hathaway, as you might have heard by now, is more successful, or at the very least more interesting, because she goes further than anyone else in trying to actually synthesize the songs with the “gritty” (ugh) aesthetic while she’s singing. Helena Bonham Carter (not-unreasonably) thinks she’s still in Sweeney Todd. Jackman is ok. Samantha Barks gets better throughout, but there is about three minutes in which she’s trying to look confused and troubled but looks like she’s smelling farts. Cousin Trip from Gossip Girl is…in this.
Maybe it drags a bit in the middle, and maybe Aaron Taylor-Johnson is really, really bad, and maybe it doesn’t quite carry the moral and psychological weight of Tolstoy all the way, but I had about a billion times more watching Anna Karenina than I expected to. And, frankly, I’m not sure Wright’s explicit artifice adds anything thematically, but the scene changes in the theater have real flair, and the initial dance between Anna and Vronsky is one of my favorite 2012 film moments. Joe Wright maybe hasn’t made a Great Movie yet but I think as long as we let him keep lighting Keira Knightley’s face a billion different ways we can have some fun.