Best Picture Baking Project: American Beauty

American Beauty and pie

If I keep up my pace on this project I may get out of the A-s before I turn 30 (which is in just over 5 years…) Anyway, the dessert pairing for American Beauty was an easy pick – there’s nothing more American than apple pie after all.

Had I seen this one before?

Yes, it was one of my favorite movies in high school. I watched it too many times to count, but I hadn’t seen it since I graduated/moved away from the girl I used to borrow it from compulsively.

Top 3 observations on this viewing?

  1. It holds up. It is hilarious and emotional, and perfectly cast. Also my adolescent crush on Wes Bentley’s creeper character still feels justified, even though I know the whole “watching you through my video camera until you fall in love with me” dynamic is dangerous.

2. I know the movie is about a midlife crisis, but I was continually struck by how young Kevin Spacey looks. I know a lot of that is just because I’m used to seeing him now, 15 years later, but he’s only supposed to be 41, and in my memories of this movie he’s ancient. But again, this perception was formed when I was 15 so…

3. This movie is weird as Hell. And I love that. I especially love that somehow in the 90s, an art house film that includes drawn out surreal fantasy sequences of rose petal strewn obsession, grainy video footage (made by a stalker), Alison Janey staring into space for long periods of time, and Annette Benning slapping herself not only reached a wide audience but won Best Picture.

“There’s so much beauty in the world”

What did it beat? Did it deserve to win?

The Cider House Rules – Somehow I still haven’t seen this. I’m going to have to do a Classics from the Queue about it soon.

The Green Mile – I saw half of it on TV once and cried my eyes out.

The Insider – Is Russell Crowe in this? If so then I saw a trailer for it once.

The Sixth Sense – I saw half of this once. But I already knew the twist and I don’t like violence/gore so I turned it off.

It seems like American Beauty was a pretty clear winner here.

Bechdel Test Pass?

Yes. I think. There are absolutely 3 named women who all talk to each other. Most of their conversations are about men, but they also talk to each other about each other, and duplexes.

But more importantly – pie! This is the recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything with a few modifications)

Classic Apple Pie


  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 5-6 baking apples (on the advice of my dad, who makes the best apple pie I’ve ever had, I used: 3 McIntosh, 2 Granny Smiths, 1 Red Delicious)
  • A dash of honey (also a Bill Dennett pie suggestion)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 pastry for a double crust 9-in pie (bottom crust fitted into a 9 in pie plate); top crust on a baking sheet (refrigerate while preparing the rest of the pie)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits
  • Milk as needed (to wash the top)


  • Toss together the sugars, spices, and salt.
  • Peel and core the apples and cut them into ½ to ¾ inch slices
  • Toss the apples with the lemon juice, honey, and dry ingredients
  • Pile the apples into the rolled out bottom crust, making the pile higher in the center
  • Dot with butter
  • Cover with the top crust
  • Decorate the edges with a fork or your fingers
  • Refrigerate while you preheat the oven to 450F
  • Place the pie on a cookie sheet
  • Brush the top lightly with milk and sprinkle with sugar
  • Use a sharp paring knife to cut two or three 2 in long vent holes in the top crust
  • Place in oven for 10 minutes
  • Reduce oven temperature to 350F
  • Bake for another 40 to 50 min, or until the pie is golden brown
  • Cool to room temperature on a wire rack







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