The Shakespeare Project: Henry VIII

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It’s been a while. I knew I would get stuck in the Henrys, but at least it was at the end of the list. I had seen this one years ago at Chicago Shakes, and remember being struck by how well developed the character of Katharine is, given that most of the plot revolves around Henry trying to divorce her. At the time, I attributed this to an excellent performance by Ora Jones, but it turns out its really there on the page.

The introduction to my Bantam Classics edition explains that this was Shakespeare’s last play, and it was a surprise return to the genre of history after a late career focus on dramatic romances. The editor (David Bevington) claims that this Henry’s story, despite its call for elaborate sets and stage effects (including a cannon that in the original run burnt down the Globe theater) is essentially a romance masquerading as a history play. I’m not sure I would go that far, but there is a refreshing lack of battles/rousing speeches glorifying war. (There is quite a bit of theological handwringing and long monologues about just how rich a priest should be allowed to be, so maybe its a trade-off.)

I would be surprised if this was anyone’s favorite play, or anyone’s favorite narrative of Henry VIII’s life for that matter. (Shakespeare’s patrons were his descendants, there was only so much Will could say.) But, it was a more engaging read than I was expecting, if only for the moments of remarkable clairvoyance sprinkled throughout. Who knew you could tell so much about the coming glory of a monarch just by looking in her mother’s face?

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Jones as Katharine in the 2013 production at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Five Star Book: A Room With A View by E.M. Forster

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I always forget until I’m deep into a Forster novel just how much I like him. Revisiting A Room With a View was no exception. I’d read this in high school or college in a Merchant-Ivory inspired rush to consume all of Forster’s books (I think I made it through 3, but this definitely makes me want to read more again) and I remembered loving it. But as I made my way through on this read, I was struggling to recall exactly why. (And why so many of my friends reached out to gush about it when I posted I was reading it on Instagram.) And then, as with my previous Forster experiences, I turned the page to the last third of the novel and got hit with one scene so beautiful it catapulted the book from “cozy cup of tea” to “crying on the subway, overwhelmed by the power of language.” I don’t want to spoil what the speech (OK, speeches) in question were and therefore deprive you of the delightful surprise, but I do want to recommend giving this book a try, even if you think you don’t care about a bunch of middle class, English people traipsing through Italy. It’s about that, yes (and I’m not knocking that, it’s a fun, mental vacation), but it’s also about love and conflicting loyalties and growing up and the nature of beauty…and oh just go read it.

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Best Picture Baking Project: Gigi

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(Photo Credit: MK Holman)

Firstly, I know I didn’t post about the Tony’s. I meant to, I took notes and everything, but I had a job interview the morning after the show and then, I kind of didn’t want to…and the biggest plus of a blog I do for fun is that…I don’t have to. Anyway…I got the job! (And I’ll be back to posting about awards shows soon I’m sure.)

Something I definitely wanted to do – eat cake, drink champagne, and watch Gigi! 

Had I seen this one before?

Only about 100 times as a child. My mom got me the VHS and I loved it, though I don’t think I understood it at all really.

Top 3 observations on this viewing? 

  1. It’s so much more complex and frankly less horrifying than I remembered it. When I was a kid, I mostly just loved the costumes and Leslie Caron’s hilarious, huffing physicality. But as I grew up songs like this:

and the general plot where a man watches a girl grow up and then falls for her, left a general sense of ickiness in my mouth about the whole thing. But, on this rewatch (having noticed that it was based on a novel by Colette) I can see it’s actually a really arch satire of the misogynist culture of infidelity and the “keeping” of mistresses in Parisian culture and there are so many more layers to the relationship than I could have seen as a kid. (Maurice Chevalier’s character is still super creepy and hard to watch – but I see that’s on purpose.)

2. Even as satire though, the flippant, maybe even giddy, response to Gaston’s first “lady love’s” suicide is really fucking hard to watch, especially since there is no reckoning with that particular sin after his last minute (almost literally) revelation that his lifestyle is empty and sad.

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Justice for Eva Gabor

3. This movie is still so much fun to watch, and I’m glad I don’t have to feel as queasy recommending it as I thought I did for years. Gather your girls, pour some champagne, enjoy!

What did it beat? Did it deserve to win? 

Auntie Mame – Haven’t seen it, but it feels pretty culturally similar

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof – Damn. This is a great movie…I mean, Paul and Liz!

Separate Tables – All I know about this is David Niven won Best Actor for it and I won a trivia point once for knowing that.

The Defiant Ones – Sidney Poitier was in this, I think?

I’m clearly not super qualified to make this call, but between the two I’ve seen…I’m still partial to Gigi, Best Picture is an Oscar for production and this is a grand one.

Bechdel Test Pass?

The Bechdel Test site says no, but I think it does. There are four named women, three of whom talk to each other. Gigi’s grandmother and aunts discuss her life (and teach her about jewels). Yes, these conversations often hinge on the idea of a man, but that’s kind of Colette’s point, I think. Patriarchy limits her options, but they are still hers. I give it a pass.

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Given my favorite song from this score, I had to make a champagne cake, which was easy and turned out so pretty!

Champagne Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 package two-layer white cake mix
  • Champagne or sparkling wine
  • 1 can 16oz pink Funfetti frosting
  • 4 large fresh strawberries

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Grease two layer cake pans (I did one 9in round pan and one slightly smaller disposable pie plate, but you can adjust based on what you have)
  3. Prepare the cake according to instructions on mix, except replace the water called for with an equal amount of champagne (Mix slightly longer than you normally would)
  4. Pour batter into prepared pans, spreading evenly
  5. Bake according to package directions, approx. 30min
  6. Cool in pans for 10 minutes
  7. Remove from pans and let cool completely
  8. While the cakes cool, rinse and slice strawberries for decoration
  9. Place bottom tier cake on serving plate, frost the top
  10. Frost bottom side of top layer
  11. Place upper tier on top of the bottom cake
  12. Frost top of cake, and place strawberries in circular pattern on top of cake

Best Picture Baking Project: Gentleman’s Agreement

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It’s (somehow) almost the end of May, so it was time for the next Best Picture, Gentleman’s Agreement, which is very 40s, but pretty good. All I knew about it going in was it’s basic premise (journalist pretends to be Jewish to expose anti-Semitism) so I searched for “Jewish desserts” and saw that cheesecake came up on every list. (It is also set in New York City, so it wasn’t a terrible choice really.)

Had I seen this one before?

Nope. Like I said, all I knew was the (potentially very problematic) premise. But I think (with a few exceptions, which I’ll get to), it holds up!

Top 3 observations on this viewing? 

  1. The acting in this movie is great (again with a clear exception – see point 3). I mean, this wasn’t exactly a surprise, it’s Gregory Peck! And John Garfield (who is the subject of a great You Must Remember This episode that you should listen to here). But my favorite (by far) was Celeste Holm as Anne, Peck’s coworker at the magazine, that he should have fallen in love with. (I honestly don’t know how anyone wouldn’t). Thankfully the Academy recognized this too, and gave her an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

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2. Though it gets preachy (and obviously does not have a modern conception of the dangers of cultural appropriation), the general morality of this movie holds up exceptionally well. I mean, taking to task all the nice people in Connecticut who know how bad prejudice is, but won’t say anything when a man at the dinner table makes a horrible joke, is (unfortunately) pretty relevant still.

3. The ending of this movie is so frustrating. It basically undoes all the goodwill that it has stored up. (Spoiler alert for a film that is over 70 years old): The fact that he ends up with his nice-Connecticut-“I’m not prejudiced I just know it’s better to not be a Jew”-fiancée Kathy, after her last-act-change-of-heart is gross. Don’t get me wrong, I think people can change. And I’m super glad that she offers her Darien “cottage” to her fiancé’s actually Jewish friend and his family, but that’s not a reason to marry her. To be honest, I don’t buy their “love at first cocktail party” relationship at all. Partly this is due to the actress, Dorothy McGuire, is definitely the weak link in this cast, but she has ZERO chemistry with Peck (which is highlighted with his delightful energy with Holm).

What did it beat? Did it deserve to win? 

Crossfire – Never heard of it, but Gloria Grahame (an obsession of mine) was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for it so I’m going to assume it’s worthy.

Great Expectations – This is a great movie.

Miracle on 34th Street – Obviously a classic and I love that Edmund Gwenn won an Oscar for playing Santa Claus.

The Bishop’s Wife – Another classic. (Though for nostalgia reasons, I am partial to its 90s remake.)

I would say that Gentleman’s deserved the win if you turn it off before the last two minutes. As is – it’s a tie with David Lean’s Great Expectations.

Bechdel Test pass

I don’t think so. There are 5 named women, 3 of whom are layered and well acted and certainly have their own emotions and feelings. But the only women I can remember talking to each other discuss which families are being invited to a party. Which I guess is technically not about a man, except it is really, because what they are really discussing is whether or not Peck is an acceptable boyfriend.

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There are a million cheesecake recipes on the internet. I usually choose a “No-Bake” version when I make one for our Sunday family dinner, but for the project I went with a slightly more involved version (but not like – water bath, corn starch involved).

Easy-ish Cheesecake

Ingredients for Crust

  • 10 whole graham crackers, crushed (I used the cinnamon sugar kind for a slightly more fun flavor)
  • 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1/3 cup melted butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Ingredients for Filling 

  • 2 cups cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions 

  1. Select a 9″ pie pan, with a deep bottom (I used my standard 9in Pirex) 
  2. Preheat oven to 350F
  3. Make the crust be stirring together all the crust ingredients, mixing until thoroughly combined
  4. Press the crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of the pie pan, making a thicker layer on the bottom than on the sides
  5. Make the filling by mixing together the cream cheese and sugar until smooth
  6. Mix in the eggs and vanilla, again mixing until smooth at a low to medium speed
  7. Pour filling into crust
  8. Bake for 20 min.
  9. Remove from oven and place foil around edges as a crust sheild
  10. Place back in oven and bake for 10 more minutes
  11. Remove cheesecake from oven and let cool
  12. Place in refrigerator until ready to serve

 

Best Picture Baking Project: Gandhi

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It feels like I just did the last one, but it’s already mid-April, which means it was time for the next Best Picture on the list! I attempted to make an authentic Indian dessert, but had some ingredient shopping issues. But more on that when we get to the recipe, first…Gandhi!

Had I seen this one before? 

Nope. But I’ve seen many clips in many Oscars montages about “important films” over the course of my life.

Top 3 observations on this viewing? 

  1. Richard Attenborough has an outstanding visual eye. (So much so that, until I was lining up my notes from this post, I thought that he abandoned narrative filmmaking to craft nature documentaries, but it turns out that’s his brother David.) I guess a spectacular visual eye runs in the family.
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This shot included over 300,000 extras!

2. Despite being too long. (Very few movies need to be more than 3 hours.) This movie did teach me a lot about Gandhi’s life, while only occasionally slipping into a highlight reel of favorite quotes and Hallmark moments. Though honestly, I could have used both less detail (in terms of lingering over visual markers of superb art directions) and more context (i.e. who the Hell is that white woman – Mirabehn (Geraldine James) – who just shows up in the final third and why is she in the inner circle?)

3. This is (like last month’s film) another movie that feels like everyone is in it. Was that Martin Sheen? Yes. Candince Bergen? Yep! And she’s being driven by Cliff from “Cheers!” Isn’t that they guy who plays Vernon Dursley? You bet. A young Daniel Day-Lewis? Of course!

Also – I have stumbled upon a new rabbit hole I can’t wait to investigate – the career and life of Ian Charleson who plays a priest who helps Gandhi’s early work (and was also one of the leads in Chariots of Fire). He is great in both things I’ve seen him in so far, and he tragically died of AIDS, and I have a lot of feelings about this.

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What did it beat? Did it deserve to win? 

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial – I haven’t seen this since I was a little kid, but it’s obviously a classic.

Missing – Never heard of it, but it got a lot of nominations and I love Sissy Spacek.

The Verdict – I’ve never seen this, but it’s Paul Newman, so I’m going to assume it’s good.

Tootsie – The concept of this has always been off putting to me. I’m sure it’s funny, but…I don’t know, I’m not sure I trust that it has aged well.

E.T. seems to have made a deeper impact on our culture, but the Academy has always loved a biopic and an epic. I guess (given that there are the only 2 nominees I’ve seen), I’m not mad Gandhi won.

Bechdel Test pass?

Nope. There are (at least) 3 named women and they do all talk to each other, but only about Gandhi. I guess this shouldn’t be surprising, given the name and focus of the film, but a lot of the men in the movie get to spend time talking about philosophy, social justice, and the future of India. The women get to talk about how much they love and admire one man.

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I planned to make kulfi, which is a cardamom flavored frozen dessert, but, I couldn’t find many of the ingredients in the recipe I linked to, so let’s call this

Bronx Little Italy Kulfi

Ingredients 

  • 3 cups full fat milk
  • 2 teaspoons corn start
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamon seeds, hulled and crushed
  • 10 to 15 nuts (the recipe recommends pistachios which I could not find)
  • 1/4 cup cream

Directions

  1. Use knife to husk cardamom (it was about 5 pods). Set aside.
  2. Bring 2 cups of milk to a boil in a heavy bottom pot
  3. Turn heat down to medium and allow milk it to boil for 10 minutes, stirring often (almost constantly) to prevent milk solids getting burnt at the bottom
  4. Place nuts and cardamom into food processor or blender and grind until mixture is a slightly coarse powder. Set this aside.
  5. After milk has boiled for 10 minutes, add the sugar
  6. Continue to boil for another 10 minutes, stirring very often to prevent milk from scorching
  7. Add corn starch to remaining 1 cup of milk and stir well, getting rid of all lumps
  8. Lower the flame completely and add corn starch mixture to heated milk
  9. Keep stirring and boil
  10. Add the nuts and cardamom powder, mix well to get rid of any lumps
  11. Pour cream into mixture and cook for 10 more minutes, stirring constantly
  12. Once thick remove from heat and let cool completely
  13. Pour the cooled mixture into popsicle molds or ice cube trays
  14. Let freeze overnight
  15. Remove from freezer
  16. Submerge molds in warm water for 1 minute
  17. Remove from mold

 

Theater Adventure: What The Constitution Means To Me

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It’s hard to describe what exactly What the Constitution Means to Me is. It’s an autobiographic play, written and starring by Heidi Schreck, in which she recounts and (sort of) recreates her time as a teenager participating in American Legion constitution speaking contests. It’s a scripted play, though it feels conversational (she breaks the fourth wall constantly, including at one point to tell the audience that the show does have structure). It’s a narrative, or more accurately a few interwoven narratives, but also a philosophical look at what the constitution is and how it actually functions in today’s world.

I knew basically this much about the show before I went in. (I had read this, lovely, piece in The New Yorker.) And I expected it to be an interesting intellectual afternoon of theater, which it was. But, it was also, unexpectedly emotional. Schreck follows the original mandate of the American Legion contest, better than she reports she did at fifteen, and connects the dry, legalistic language of the Fourteenth and Ninth Amendments to the darkest parts of her family’s story. The mock debate becomes a way to talk about the way the Constitution (and the governments built upon it) have failed pretty much every category of people other than the kind of rich, white men who wrote it.

But it didn’t leave me as hopeless as that last paragraph implies, mostly because Schreck calls in reinforcements in the form of a teenage girl who, like her former self, now fills her time with debates. Yesterday, we saw Thursday Williams come out to argue in favor of the constitution, not in a Pollyanna way. I left with a lot more questions than answers (my family had a very interesting dinner conversationbut not despair, which these days can be hard for me to avoid politically.

The show is running at the Helen Hayes Theater at 240 W. 44th St.

Best Picture Baking Project: From Here To Eternity

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Squeezed this month’s in right under the wire. This is the last “F” on my weirdly alphabetized list! And it was super fun! All I knew about the movie before watching was that one iconic scene and the fact that it is set in Hawaii. So I made something I found on the internet called “Hawaiian Dessert” which is very 1950s in that it is constructed out of various premade mixes and definitely not authentically “Hawaiian” at all. But the movie is all about white people so that’s actually probably pretty fitting.

Had I seen this one before? 

Nope. Just this:

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Top 3 observations on this viewing? 

  1. This is the gayest non-explicitly-gay-themed movie I have ever seen. From the first scene, where three men talk about who is the best boxer and bugler available on base, there is a level of homoerotic subtext that is insane. Apparently, some of this is text in the source novel, but obviously they couldn’t be explicit in a 1953 film, but it’s…not subtle.
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Blow, Monty Blow

2. This has an all-star cast. In addition to Lancaster and Kerr, who I knew to expect, there’s Montgomery Clift (whom I have a minor obsession with),Donna Reed (more on her in a bit), Ernest Borgnine (nicknamed “fatso” here even though it’s the thinnest I’ve ever seen him onscreen, and Frank Sinatra. Sinatra actually won an Oscar for this, which allegedly may have been the result of some Mob pressure on Academy members, but also, he does an able enough performance so that may be just a mean rumor.

3. This movie culminated in the Pearl Harbor attacks, but I’ve never seen a “war movie” less interested in the politics, or even mechanics, of war. The Japanese bombers actually feel like an afterthought by the time they arrive. This isn’t necessarily a drawback, the human drama of these men’s lives was compelling enough to me, I almost wish it had ended on December 6th.

What did it beat? Did it deserve to win?

Julius Caesar – Never seen this Marlon Brando vehicle, but I like a Shakespeare adaptation

Roman Holiday – Oh, a classic! I love a love story and this one is a wonderful, messy fairy tale

Shane– Never seen it. It’s a Western I think?

The Robe – Funny story. One time, many years ago, Julia and I went to a bar in Chicago and this was playing on the screens. It took us hours to figure out what movie it was/what could possibly be going on. I remember it looking cheap and ridiculous. I’ve never actually seen it, and honestly don’t plan to, but I’ll have very warm feelings towards it because it will always make me think of giggling all night with one of my favorite people.

Hmmm. The Kathryn Dennett Oscar would probably go to Roman Holiday, but I’m not mad about an Eternity win.

Bechdel Test pass

Yes. Just under the wire, literally the last scene, Kerr and Reed talk about Hawaii and how they may or may not return.

But, the way Donna Reed’s character is portrayed, makes it hard for me to give this a pass. She’s a woman who is, euphemistically, paid for her time at a private men’s club. Until she is reformed by the love of Montgomery Clift, and suddenly her vampy looks (look how dark her hair is!) are transformed into a more traditional Reed image, white dresses and all.

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To be fair, Kerr’s character is given a more complicated back story, but it is rushed through, and so it’s hard to buy her as a real human despite her great chemistry with Lancaster.

But, more importantly, I made a dessert that involved coconut and pineapple, two flavors I really dislike, that I actually enjoyed!

Hawaiian Dessert

Ingredients

  • 1 (regular size) package yellow cake mix
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 3 packages Sugar Free Instant Jello vanilla pudding mix
  • 4 cups cold milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coconut extract
  • 1 (8oz) package cream cheese, softened
  • 1 (20oz) can crushed pineapple, well drained
  • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 2 cups sweetened shredded coconut, toasted

Directions 

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Mix cake batter, water, oil, and eggs according to package instructions
  3. Pour into greased 13in x 9in greased baking pan
  4. Bake 20 min (or what cake box recommends)
  5. Remove from oven and press down on cake to release air
  6. Let cool
  7. In a large bowl, combine pudding mixes, milk, and coconut extract
  8. Beat for 2 minutes
  9. Add the cream cheese and beat until smooth
  10. Stir in pineapple
  11. Spread over cooled cake
  12. Whip heavy cream into whipped cream
  13. Spread over pudding layer
  14. Sprinkle with toasted coconut
  15. Place tray in fridge for at least 2 hours (I chilled mine for 22 hours and it was still soft in texture. You can also freeze if you prefer a firmer bar.)

Five Star Book: Chicago by Brian Doyle

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I didn’t expect to love this book as much as I did. My parents gave it to me for my birthday a couple of years ago based only on the fact that it was a book and that it was about Chicago, two things I obviously love. But, I have a terrible habit of collecting books and then taking forever to getting around to actually reading them, so it has sat on my “to be read” shelf in two different apartments.

The dead of winter was the perfect time to pick it up, not because when it feels like 8 degrees outside I feel closest to my favorite frozen city, but because Doyle’s book is like a warm burrow of nostalgia for anyone who has loved Chicago and had to leave it. Because, as wonderfully as he captures Chicago’s beautiful idiosyncratic details (both beautiful and tragic) this isn’t really a book about the city. It’s a book about the particular pain of missing Chicago, which is an emotion I am all too familiar with.

“Sometimes, even now, years later and far away, on steel-gray days when the wind whips and I am near large waters, I feel a bolt of what I can only call Chicagoness, and I remember, I remember… what? A certain Chicago of the mind I suppose.”

I made a Google doc of quotes, like this one,  from this book that felt like they were exactly describing my emotions, it is 4 pages long. And I won’t bore you all with each bit of it, mostly because I want you to read it, but also because that would be a very incoherent blog post. I don’t want to leave you with the impression that Doyle, or I, believe Chicago to be perfect. One of the things I connected to most in this was the way he captured the fact that Chicagoans, despite their very vocal civic pride, have their eyes wide open about the bloody sadness that surrounds them. As he puts it, “…you never saw a city so filled with knowing as Chicago…” They probably don’t do enough with that knowing, but who does? 

This isn’t a memoir (though you can tell it may as well be in a lot of ways) and what little plot there is doesn’t always cohere, but it captured the texture of remembering being young and clueless in the city where I was younger and more clueless than I am now, in a way that moved me more than I can really say, so instead I’ll leave you with one more quote:

“But never, among all the cities I have wandered over the years, cities all over the earth, did I feel and smell and sense anything quite like the verb that is Chicago; and always, no matter how many years passed, I could hear and see and touch something inside me that only Chicago has and is, some intricate combination of flat sharp light off the lake grappling with dense light from the plains to the west, the fields to the south, the forests to the north.”

Five Star Book: Educated by Tara Westover

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You’ve probably already had this book recommended to you. I know I saw it on a ton of year end lists and my mom and sister in law both strongly encouraged me to read it. And even if “a memoir of growing up in a family of separatist Mormons” doesn’t feel as aggressively on brand for you as it did for me, let me add my voice to the chorus urging you to give this book a read.

Because, yes, it’s about faith, and an unconventional childhood, but it’s really about growing up and learning to define yourself separately from the myths of your family.  Granted, the Westover’s myths are a lot more powerful and dangerous than anyone that I know, but she writes with such clarity and empathy that I think anyone could connect to her story.

What I admire most about the book is her refusal to offer simple answers. Her childhood was undeniably abusive (and reading some of her descriptions may be triggering for some) but she never paints her family as clearly cut villains. (And it would be pretty easy to.) Instead she examines what she learned from her unconventional life and gives credit both to her family for what they did give her and to herself for having the strength to break away.

Best Picture Baking Project: Forrest Gump

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To keep my “actually doing this every month” streak going, I ended up hosting a Best Picture Baking screening the day after this year’s Oscars. (No I have no idea what I will eventually bake for Green Book…thankfully Forrest Gump had a logically built in dessert.)

Had I seen this one before? 

Only about a thousand times on TV over the years. In college when I sat down to watch it (for a class? to avoid watching the thing I was meant to watch for class? Who knows.) I was surprised there were scenes I hadn’t see before, because I felt like I knew this movie back to front from childhood.

Top 3 observations on this viewing? 

  1. Honestly, it holds up. I was a little wary, given our current cultural conversations, that it would come across as dated and cringey (so many Best Pictures do!) but the clearly metaphorical/satirical nature of the story means that while attitudes have changed, the mythical “America” Forrest et. al. are meant to portray/deconstruct is still a dominant narrative in our cultural understanding of our history and ourselves.

Oh, you weren’t expecting critical deconstruction of the metaphorical meaning of Forrest Gump, that’s probably because you take this movie too literally. (*cough* Dad, you’re very wrong about this one *cough*).

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2. All that being said, the reason this won best picture is because of Robert Zemeckis’s technical achievement of putting Tom Hanks into archival footage. And that stuff is still cute to look at, but admittedly a little cheesy.

3. This is not an important point. It’s far from the most important point to even make about her character, but Robin Wright’s hair in this film is perfect in every era, and I want to know what witchcraft Jenny was practicing.

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Every. Era.

What did it beat? Did it deserve to win? 

Four Weddings and a Funeral – One of my all time favorite movies. It’s got some “Richard Curtis thinks American women are sex aliens” issues, but it is a classic and I love it.

Pulp Fiction – The origin of all of my anti-Tarantino bias. I saw parts of this way too young and honestly find it triggering.

Quiz Show – This is an underrated movie, that I always forget about until it’s mentioned, but it’s great!

The Shawshank Redemption – Fun fact: I finally saw this for the first time like a month ago! It’s very good, though I find it very upsetting. I know I am supposed to find it uplifting, but the sad parts stick in my head rather than the ending. This is admittedly my issue not the film’s.

Wow. I feel like given these options I would have assumed a Shawshank victory, but the Academy is going to Academy. I know that my film nerd friends want to say that this is was obviously Pulp Fiction‘s year, but Tarantino is trash. I love that Four Weddings was nominated, that the Academy used to pay attention to romantic comedies, but honestly, I’d give it to Gump. 

Bechdel Test pass?

Nope. But to be fair, I don’t think any men have conversations about anything other than Forrest, except for maybe Bubba talking about shrimp.

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Mama always said that life was like a box of chocolates, and years ago when putting together this original list I found a cake called a “Box of Chocolate Cake” but when I went to look for it again this week the link was broken! So I opened up my copy of How To Cook Everything and made Mark Bittman’s “Chocolate Layer Cake,” and “Chocolate Buttercream” and then bought a box of chocolates and put them on top!

Box of Chocolates Cake

Ingredients for cake

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 oz unsweetened chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups milk

Ingredients for topping

  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 6 tablespoons cream (plus a little more if needed)
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 oz unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 box of chocolates (Note: I used Ferrero Rocher because it was the only box available at my grocery store which was fun and fancy – and hilarious if you know how unfancy my grocery store is.)

Directions for Cake

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Butter the bottom and sides of 2 9in layer cake pans, sprinkle with flour
  3. Melt the chocolate in a small double boiler
  4. Remove from heat and stir until smooth. Set aside to cool.
  5. Using an electric mixer cream the butter until smooth
  6. Gradually add the sugar
  7. Beat until light and fluffy (approx. 3 minutes)
  8. Beat in the egg yolks one at a time
  9. Add the vanilla
  10. Add the chocolate
  11. Mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt
  12. Add the dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture a little at a time, alternating with the milk
  13. Stir until smooth, no longer
  14. Whip the egg whites until they hold soft peaks
  15. Use a rubber spatula to fold them gently and completely into the batter
  16. Pour into the prepared cake pans
  17. Bake for 30 minutes (or until a knife comes out of the center clean)
  18. Cool in their pans for 5 minutes
  19. Turn out of pans to complete cooling

Directions for Decoration

  1. Melt the chocolate in a small double boiler
  2. Remove from heat and still until smooth. Set aside to cool.
  3. Using an electric mixer cream the butter
  4. Gradually mix in half of the sugar, alternating with the cream a tablespoon at a time
  5. Mix in the chocolate
  6. Return to alternating sugar and cream until all sugar is added, mixing completely after each addition
  7. Stir in the vanilla
  8. Move one cooled cake layer onto serving plate
  9. Cover top of tier with frosting
  10. Add second tier on top and cover whole cake with remaining frosting
  11. Decorate the top of iced cake with chocolates