Air Conditioned Movie: Obvious Child

So it’s summer, and it was pretty hot according to weather.com yesterday (though honestly it didn’t feel that hot to me…) but I took it as my usual excuse to go the movies. I’d heard about Obvious Child on a couple of my favorite feminist blogs as “the abortion romantic comedy.” And it is technically a romantic comedy with a protagonist that has an abortion, but it’s more than that.

First and foremost it is a showcase for the amazing Jenny Slate, who plays an aspiring standup comedian who is vulgar and immature and everything that comedians in male centered comedies are all the time, but not in a way that feels like she’s trying to be “one of the guys.” She’s just authentically her messed up self.

It’s also an incredibly realistic portrayal of the mess you become when you break up. There’s a great scene where Donna (Slate) stands outside of her ex’s apartment talking to herself in to continuing to stalk him even though she knows she’s being crazy. The bad choices Donna makes, including the unprotected sex, is all believable and more importantly understandable. She’s having a rough time and makes some mistakes trying to pull herself out of a funk and she gets a really big wakeup call in the form of a positive pregnancy test.

I found this movie incredibly refreshing. Not just the open-minded take on women’s reproductive rights (for the record the abortion in question is not treated as a joke, but it’s also not treated as life-ruining tragedy), but it was also a realistic depiction of female friendship. Donna and Nellie (the amazing Gaby Hoffman) are beautifully supportive of each other and yet still look like they have fun with each other. And the man in question, the preppy business school student Max (Jake Lacy) is refreshingly not a douche yet not a savior figure. (I’ve read a review that said the character wasn’t “filled in,” but I think that’s sort of great too, because Donna doesn’t know him. She hasn’t filled him in yet in her mind either.)

Also instead of a cliché sex scene we just see Donna and Max dance around in their underwear to the title song (by Paul Simon), which is charming and delightful.

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Best Picture Baking Project: An American in Paris

american in paris and cream puffs

I’m going to try to get through the A’s before August, so expect a few more of these more regularly than in the past (hopefully…) I chose to attempt to make a Croquembouche, because I googled “French and Fancy” desserts and this came up. I ended up making what I’m calling a ‘low-key Croquembouche’ because my skills weren’t quite up to the challenge of the real thing. (I guess I should cut myself some slack, it turned out well and I only set one pan on fire…)

Had I seen this one before?

Nope. I thought I had, but I also thought that Audrey Hepburn was in it. (I think I might have gotten it confused with Funny Face, except that I’ve never seen that either, so who knows…)

Top 3 observations on this viewing?

  1. I could watch Gene Kelly dance for two straight hours. There isn’t a ton of context/narrative reason for any of his dance sequences in this film, and the last 20 minutes are essentially a dream ballet, but he was so talented that I don’t even care.

2. Oscar Levant is amazing. He was a concert pianist and curmudgeon and he plays a less successful pianist and snarky sidekick. He looks like he was plucked out of a noir film and plopped down in Vicente Minnelli’s Technicolor “Paris.” And watching his reactions to the joy happening around him is just amazing.

This sequence is my favorite thing in the whole movie

 

3. This movie was stranger and less linear than I was expecting. I mean there’s a dream ballet, and an extended orchestra scene where Levant plays all the instruments and the audience, which has no introduction or context. It’s essentially a proto-juke box musical with Gershwin music, which was ridiculous but also lovely.

What did it beat? Did it deserve to win?

Decision Before Dawn  – I’ve never heard of this so I have no idea.

A Place in the Sun – Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor look really great on the poster for this. That’s all I know about it.

Quo Vadis  – Seriously no idea what this is. I’m going to assume it’s Roman and move on.

A Streetcar Named Desire ­– OK, that’s tough. Streetcar is definitely a more compelling story. But it may not be as surprising as a film. But I think Kazan got robbed here.

Bechdel Test Pass?

Nope. There are three women with names that I can think of, and two of them are introduced to each other, but their entire interaction is jealousy over Kelly’s character.

And even if had technically passed, I would have failed it based on the fact that entire plot centers around a man (who though is cute) stalks a young girl (Leslie Caron is 19 here!) despite her repeated clear rejections. But then because Hollywood…she loves him. And poor Milo (played by the lovely Nina Forch) is so routinely mocked and ultimately left lonely without a thought because she dared to “act like a man” in having more money than Jerry (Kelly) and having some sense of independence. It was rather frustrating to watch. I’d rather just watch them dance.

Low-Key Croquembouche (Adapted from this fancier recipe)

Ingredients for Pastry Dough

  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup flour
  • 6 eggs

Ingredients for Filling

  • ¾ cup milk
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • ¾ teaspoons vanilla
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter

Ingredients for caramel

  • 1 cup sugar
  • Water

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 425F
  • Bring butter, salt & ¾ cup water to a boil in a sauce pan
  • Remove pan from heat, add flour all at once & stir vigorously with a wooden spoon until mixture forms a thick dough & pulls away from the sides of pan (about 2 minutes)
  • Return pan to heat & cook, stirring constantly until dough is light dried (about 2 minutes)
  • Beat in 5 eggs one at a time with a wooden spoon
  • Dip two spoons in water, shake off excess and scoop a walnut size piece of dough with one spoon
  • With the other spoon scrape dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet, setting pieces 1in apart on a baking sheet
  • Lightly beat last egg & pinch of salt & brush each piece of dough with it
  • Bake for 10 min
  • Reduce temperature to 350F & bake for 15 min
  • Let cool
  • For the filling: bring ½ cup milk & sugar to a boil over medium heat
  • Meanwhile whisk remaining milk, corn starch, and egg yolks together in a large bowl
  • Slowly pour half the hot milk into yolk mixture, whisking constantly
  • Return mixture to sauce pan & cook stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until it thickens & just returns to a boil
  • Stir in vanilla and transfer to a bowl
  • Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until chilled
  • In a large bowl beat butter on medium with a hand mixer until pale and fluffy
  • Add cold filling and beat until smooth and fluffy (about 4 minutes)
  • If you have a working pastry bag (mine broke halfway through) pipe filling through the bottom of the cream puffs. (If you don’t just rip them open a bit and spoon the filling in)
  • For the caramel: place sup of sugar with ¼ cup of water in a shallow saucepan and stir to combine
  • Cover & cook over medium heat until sugar turns light amber (be vigilant about this, it may burn to a horrible black color and fill your apartment with smoke – just hypothetically)
  • Remove from heat
  • Using tongs dip puffs in caramel and place them on a tray in a cone shape
  • Serve within four hours

 

 

Six Degrees of Cinema: Prince Avalanche

If you watch Prince Avalanche looking for realism, you are going to be very confused. The movie, David Gordon Green’s reimagining of an Icelandic film Either Way (Á annan veg), follows Alvin (a mustachioed Paul Rudd) and Lance (Emile Hirsch) as they put the finishing touches on road repairs in a Texas forest that has been destroyed by a wild-fire.

There are essentially three things in this movie: Alvin, Lance, and beautiful images. I knew from All the Real Girls that Green liked to interspersed his narratives with still shots of the Texas countryside, but I didn’t know how beautiful a director can make yellow road paint look. In Avalanche these silent shots, both of nature and of the monotonous tasks of line painting and post hammering, emphasize the sense of isolation for these characters. They are alone out there, and I personally would go crazy.

 

Which means I have more in common with Emile Hirsch’s hornball of a character than I would like to admit. I have a longstanding, completely irrational distaste for Hirsch, that stems from a slight he supposedly made against the honor of Emma girls when he was there filming The Emperor’s Club (which was before my time, but whatever.) Based on this sketchy adolescent grudge, I’ve always thought of him as sort of skeezy, and this role allows him to exploit that. So I enjoyed his presence here more than I thought I would.

But this movie belongs to Paul Rudd for me. As it was always going to. His character is OCD and annoying and clearly losing it, but still oddly attached to Lance, almost in a paternal way. The relationship tenuously holding these two characters together, isn’t their own, but Alvin’s love for Lance’s (unseen) sister Madison, which seems to be mostly a love for a photograph. Alvin’s devotion to this idea of love, yet refusal to even go visit her on the weekends, could have been completely creepy and unrealistic, but Rudd made it somehow believable. So clearly, I had to choose him as the next link. And because I’m having a major Wendy Wasserstein fangirl moment, I’m deciding to return to The Object of My Affection, which I used to watch pieces of on TV all the time and haven’t seen in years. I’m excited.

 

In this chain: Breathe In Gone Baby GoneThe Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford All the Real Girls – Prince Avalanche

Award Show Round Up: 2014 Tony Awards

 

As you all know by now, there are fewer things that make me happier than musical theater and award shows, so on this one night a year when those two things combine on national television, I become a squealing, clapping child. Which is exactly what happened last night.

Hugh Jackman was a great host, but why did he hop? I missed the first 30 seconds of the show and was assuming I missed some context, but I don’t think I did…

Also at one point he and T.I. and LL Cool J rapped The Music Man, which was both the nerdiest thing ever and sort of cool, but mostly just strange:

(I know most of the videos from this post will be taken down/replaced with official ones in the next couple of days, but I don’t really care…)

Audra McDonald broke the record for most acting Tony wins ever. She is a legend and her speech made me cry:

Mark Rylance surprised me and my fellow theater nerds by giving an actual speech instead of reciting a poem. And it was a beautiful speech:

Idina Menzel killed it:

As did the cast of Hedwig and the Angry Inch:

And then NPH won a Tony!!!:

James Monroe Iglehart – winner of Best Featured Actor in a Play for Aladdin, was not only a great winner, but is a wonderful audience member. Every time they cut to him he was dancing, and clapping and it was awesome.

Carole King was there! I don’t really have words to adequately express how much I love Ms. King (and how much I’m dying to see Beautiful the show based on her life.) But I’m so glad this performance happened and that Jessie Meuller won Best Actress!

This is already the longest post ever, I’m sorry. I was going to put in a video of Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder (Which won for Best Musical) but you can just click here and watch it there.

Instead, look at some dresses!!

Leighton Meester in Antonio Berardi and Adam Brody (Photo Credit: WENN/Joseph Marzullo)

Vera Farmiga in Stella McCartney

 

Erin Darke and Daniel Radcliffe (Photo Credit: Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Anika Larsen

Sophie Okenedo in Sophie Theallat (Photo Credit: Mike Coppola/Getty Images North America)

Fran Drescher (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

 

 

 

 

 

Music for a Chill Weekend

Actually not okay at all…

I’ve been lacking blog inspiration lately, I apologize for my infrequent posting. But here’s some songs I plan on listening to this weekend while I recover from crying my eyes out at The Fault in Our Stars tonight.

Overdose – Little Daylight

Above My Ground – Landlady

You have to love a band that creates “official vegetable music videos” for their songs.

Another Reason – Loamlands

Coffee – Sylvan Esso

And I have to give this duo credit for my discovery of both Landlady and Loam Lands on their playlist for the great podcast The Dinner Party Download.

Blue Moon – Glen Hansard & Lisa Hannigan

This just makes me the happiest.

Heyday – Mic Christopher

Don’t Save Me – (HAIM cover) -Bear’s Den and Joe Banfi

Thanks to Jules for sending this one along on Facebook this week.

Ain’t It Fun – Paramore

There will always be an angsty teenage girl inside me that loves every single this band puts out.

Iko Iko – The Dixie Cups

For reasons I was not awake enough to process this song was playing on NPR at 6:05 one day this week. I cannot get it out of my head now.

Things I Already Should Have Known – Everybody All The Time

Full disclosure – these guys are my friends, but what’s the point of having a blog if you can’t brag about how cool your friends are. Plus I genuinely love this song – so enjoy.