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Friday, January 29, 2010

American Century's Play as Solid as 'Rock'

I met Leigh Anna Fry at a community theater forum at Clark Street Playhouse a couple months ago - I think she saw that I didn't know anyone there (and that doesn't happen often!).  And she was incredibly nice. Then I got to enjoy her work on TV in a Patty Hearst docudrama and now in a new production by the American Century Theater called Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter. Unfortunately, the picture above isn't her but Kari Ginsburg, who stars in the play. I took a picture of Leigh Anna and Kari after the play and I guess their prettyness made me jumpy because the photo's not in focus. 

Anyway, the play is a delight. It's old-fashioned. George Axelrod (who?) wrote this in 1955. He had also written The Seven Year Itch, which became a movie starring Marilyn Monroe, and he went on to adapt the three great plays into three great movies: Bus Stop, Breakfast at Tiffany's and The Manchurian Candidate. Rock Hunter made a star out of Jayne Mansfield, and Ginsburg does well in the role, with a healthy mixture of sexuality and ambition. Fry also does nicely with her secretary role, as does newcomer Donald Osborne as the ordinary guy and Steven Lebens as the devil in the guise of Irving LaSalle.  It's very worth seeing! And I promise a good photo of Leigh Anna very soon.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

An Ode to My Food Blogging Camp in Mexico (with Links to 24 Great Blogs!)

Greetings Food Bloggers across the culinary plains,
I’ve come to say thanks for your secrets of the grains
To celebrate and graduate our wonderful class
And compliment you all on your exuberance and sass.
So let’s raise one last toast of tequila and grappa
For an ixceptional week in ixciting Ixtapa
And hope you all harvest your sites and sow your seeds
And don’t get too blogged down in RSS feeds.
I’m truly humbled in your blogospheric presence
Of raptured baklava and deeply-smoked pheasants.

So dice a mango and glaze a banana
For the storytelling wit of lovely Steve-Anna.
So much group talent can be a little unnerving
Better give me A Plate Full of whatever Claire’s serving.
I’m off to join Foodspiration for some eatin’ and explorin’
With the ever-so-adorable Justin and Lauren.
We’ll examine every basil leaf and edible palm frond,
Then go for a guac dip in the refreshing Sonndapond.
Yikes! The Smithsonian has run out of museum wax!
So much for snapping my fiberglass-built snacks.
Take ice cream, toothpicks, shoe polish and stay calm
And you get a new definition of an ‘Adam Bombe’;
And you know Matt Bites will make it look amazing,
Flashing pictures after the construction and glazing.
As for me, just clam sauce please and a bowl of spaghetti
And let me sit next to Stephanie Stiavetti.
(A guy can dream, can’t he, of his culinary heaven.)
I promise, Ms. Wasabimon, no glutens, yeast or leaven.
Alas, reality beckons, in its finest spanakopitan chorus
Telling me to head to my favorite Dianasaurus.
Did anyone ever see her the slightest bit dour?
Or not wearing a spectac sundress and matching flower.
Actually, with whom among us wouldn’t I love to cook?
I’d gleefully stream with any of our Brook(e)s
Be it the Food Woolf and her dicey posts,
Or Self Preservation and her orange toasts.
THAT would be the coolest of cool, man,
Except if I could go hang out with the Ruhlmans,
Wonderful words and pictures all night and all day,
We’ll snap, Ratio and rock all the way.
Then I’ll rest and sit down with Spoon and Chair,
But only if Diane is kind enough to share.
Hey, I’ll Write for Food if Owen and Dianne are by my side,
Anyone recommended by Bourdain travels in my ride.
Speaking of travel, it’s off to Japan for a quick gaze
To read Nancy’s “anime”ted musings on Indigo Days.
And, of course, we’ll stop in Norway for an Oslo meal,
So fly me to Lekkermunn and the adventurous Cecilie.
Then I’ll parlez vous my way to the City of Light
To visit our Parisian Panissian, the bonbon of good bytes.
From the first day, David couldn’t be nicer (a dream!)
So I’m Living the Sweet Life now, caramels and ice cream.
There’s nothing vanilla about Vanilla Garlic’s sound track,
Garrett makes the Capital seem anything but a Sad Sac,
And Stephanie is so humble about her Copykat beginnings,
Not mentioning the thousands reading her spinnings.
A Beach Home Companion could not be any more enticing;
Sarah’s amazing photos are like the cake AND the icing.
And I’m already a Frantastic Food Franatic!
I mean, she does live TV with no delay or static!
Tonight I’m eating chimichangas, courtesy of Recipe Girl
Knowing Lori is behind it, I’ll give it a whirl.
Next. I’ll. Try. Casey. In. All. Her. Jersey. Glories.
Does. It. Get. Any. Better. Than. Good. Food. Stories?
Well, sitting with Richard, Gary and Jane, shooting the breeze,
Is pretty great company (and getting no check please)
Wait, running off in the distance, is that a silver balloon?
No sillies, it’s just pretty Perre and The Runaway Spoon!
I’d catch it but it’s taking off so fast,
Which reminds me to always save the best for last.

Elise simply reminded us of all we need to know,
Simply Recipes, darling, is my new favorite place to go.
And Todd and Diane, they frame, shoot and splice, (so supple!)
Just try tearing me away from White on Rice Couple.
Alas, I thank Jaden for making this amazing trip take flight;
What a bouillabaisse of campers, a parfait of delight.
She’s incredible, with her care, her hard work and her texts,
Steamy Kitchen may be the new Oprah by the time we meet next.
Wow, I guess I’m done! Hooray! It’s time for a beer!
I hope we can Ronndezvous again, same time, next year!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Food Films to Recommend

In honor of my week at Food Bloggers Camp, rent these food movies if you're in the culinary mood (and let me know any of your suggestions):
Julie and Julia: It takes two separate stories--Julia Child's culinary march to fame in Paris--and then, 50 years later, Queens (the place not the band) government worker Julie Powell's attempt to bake, brown and bone her way through Child's cookbook. You can't have two more excellent, likeable actresses than Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. The film moves so humorously and intelligently from story to story that I was disappointed each time it went to the other.
Secret of the Grain
No Impact Man
Babbette's Feast
Like Water for Chocolate
Food Inc.
Eat, Drink, Man, Woman
Mostly Martha

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Thumbs 'Ups,' French Connections & 'Ties' That Bind: The Top Films of 2009

Here are my top films of 2009. I would love to see some of yours.  These are films that moved me in some way, shape or form (in no particular order). I have also added some runners-up and one special film that I almost forgot.

Up, Up in the Air, Me and Orson Welles, Still Walking, In the Loop, Julie and Julia, An Education, Secret of the Grain, The Damned United, The Hurt Locker, Crazy Heart, Summer Hours, Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 (most overlooked)

Up in the Air
I can't say it made me feel the best; losing a job and being out of a relationship are feelings that run deep for anyone. But Jason Reitman knows how to make good movies. Anna Kendrick and Vera Farmiga proved to be great foils for George Clooney; their scene in the airport talking about relationships was priceless.

Me and Orson Welles
I'm a huge Richard Linklater fan and I think that this is his best film yet. (Sorry Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke.) I love the show-within-a-show formula, with everything pointing to the Welles production of Julius Caesar in the end. Christian McKay is dead-on as Welles and Zac Efron (who knew?) can really act. Also has a great supporting cast led by Zoe Kazan, Ben Chaplin and James Tupper.

The moment towards the end of the movie when the Ed Asner character looks into his book of memories and sees it from a different light is one of the best film moments of 2009. It's a wonderful movie for people of any age, giving hope to people of any age. (Speaking of which, I need to see it again!)

Still Walking
This Japanese film also dealt with moving on in the face of tragedy - and gives hope at the end. A family comes together years after the oldest son son died saving the life of a young boy in the ocean.  The scenes with the now-young man returning for his annual visit to the family are hard to watch but beautiful at the same time.  PS - There was another Japanese film this year called Nobody to Watch Over Me that I saw in Santa Barbara but has not been released. Rent it if possible!

In the Loop
This is the film I laughed hardest at this year. Wow, rapid-fire dialogue, great characters and funny situations create a non-stop The Office meets Fawlty Towers meets American Buffalo (given the seriousness of the situation and foul language).

Julie and Julia
This underrated gem made making a sweet, rhythmic and time-switching movie look easy, but it's not. I enjoyed the back-and-forthness of the story, always wanting more when they switched away. Needless to say, acting was great including Stanley Tucci as Mr. Child and the beautiful (and currently pregnant) Amy Adams.

An Education
When the four leads - Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Dominic Cooper and Rosalind Pike - were out on a "date," all was right with the film world. How about the scene at that great jazz club?  Throw in bits of Emma Thompson, Olivia Williams and Alfred Molina, and an excellent script and direction, and you have an extremely enjoyable movie to watch.

Secret of the Grain
This wonderful, overlooked - thanks in Washington to a silly Washington Post review - French film about a Tunisian community in a coastal town had perhaps the best dinner scene in films since Babette's Feast. The director likes to stay with scenes for a long time, sometimes leading to sheer joy, as in the dinner and belly-dancing scene, and sometimes to sheer agony, as in a scene of a wife complaining about her philandering husband. Either way, it's a brilliant film.

The Damned United
This film, featuring great performances from Michael Sheen and Timothy Spall, has all the makings of a terrific movie to watch: a troubled good guy and his faithful sidekick, a bad guy, an exciting story, and a couple personal epiphanies - and it accomplishes everything in a tidy time period.  It's based on a true story; I liked the way they showed real photos of that time in the credits.

The Hurt Locker
From the beginning scene with the amazing Guy Pearce, you could not take your eyes off this film. I know the armrests had extra wear after I finished with them. It has an engaging life-and-death story to go along with valuable scenes that show the humanity of the characters.

Crazy Heart
Jeff Bridges gives his best performance since The Fabulous Baker Boys as, ironically, another singer in this Virginia-born-and-bred film about surviving and going for it all in the great West. Beautiful scenery, strong performances from Maggie Gylenhaal and Colin Farrell, and a Robert Duvall sighting (sans politics) makes this an old-fashioned well-done movie.

Summer Hours
I don't remember everything from this gorgeous French film that brought back memories of My Father's Glory and My Mother's Castle - those lovely French scenery films that made us all long for those childhoods. But I do recall the ruminative scenes at their summer house that transported me to some of my best times. Then, the family in-fighting, that we all can identify with, gave the film a serious reality that lifted it above those older movies.

One Special Film. I went to see author/doctor/rock-star equivalent Atul Gawunde last night at Politics & Prose and saw the dvd for a movie that I almost forgot. Harvard Beats Yale 29-29. I saw it last year at the Avalon's tiny upstairs screen and thought it was incredible. The director intersperses between this grainy late '60s game film and interviews with the same players today - with no narration! And it works incredibly well as both an exciting game and a wonderful comment on those times versus now. Three women sitting in front of me knew nothing about football and loved it as well. Some famous names from the film: Tommie Lee Jones (a player on Harvard), Meryl Streep (the girlfriend of a Yale player), Brian Dowling (Yale quarterback who is the BD in Doonesbury), and Calvin Hill (the Yale halfback who went on to star in the NFL).

My next 10:
Adventureland (almost made top 12 - very nicely done) , Sugar (should have got more exposure), Bad Lieutenant (fun to watch Cage!), 35 Shots of Rum (nice to see some different characters focused on), The Messenger (awesome performances), Beaches of Agnes (my favorite documentary), Goodbye Solo (rent all his films), The Informant (I love Marvin Hamlisch's score), Star Trek (please let JJ Abrams make the next James Bond movie - with Clive Owen) and 500 Days of Summer (good fun, rent Brick).

And yes, Avatar was very exciting to watch!

Let me know some of your favorites!