Best Picture Baking Project: Chariots of Fire

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Happy President’s Day! I don’t think I’ve ever celebrated this particular strange American holiday, and I’m certainly not going to start under the current administration, but I did take the opportunity to head home to New Haven for a bit of rest and relaxation. And for me that means movies and baking (though the baking was not my best effort…more on that later.) First, the film:

Had I seen this one before?

Nope. Which was surprising to both of my parents. All I knew was the opening sequence with the team running down the beach.

Top 3 observations on this viewing?

  1. This movie is so incredibly British. Which means, it’s charming, incredibly well acted, and obsessed with questions of whether it is acceptable to focus on individual excellence over a “feeling of esprit de corps.” Which as an American is hilarious to me.
  2. The depiction of Americans as professional, running machines that are borderline evil or Bible thumpers. It’s always funny to me (especially in later Richard Curtis movies), but here it is particularly pronounced.

    I mean, look at him with his hat on backwards, how gauche.
  3. I love a good sports movie, and this is one of the best. It’s a classic for a reason. And I like that it takes on other issues, anti-Semitism and commitment to faith, without getting too preachy or overreaching for metaphors. These men are more than just runners, but true Olympians, then as now, are a unique breed motivated by physical challenge, which, as I am very much not, will always be fascinating to me. 

What did it beat? Did it deserve to win?

Atlantic City –  Never heard of it.

On Golden Pond – I really only know of this, because of Jane Fonda accepting her dad‘s Oscar for it, which is a nice awards history moment, but doesn’t really help me judge the film

Raiders of the Lost Ark – I love that this was nominated, but of course it didn’t win.

Reds – Oh, I love this one so so much.

This is tough. Reds is one of my favorite movies of all time, but Chariots is pretty fantastic too. I’m going to go with, I would have voted for Reds but I’m not mad that Chariots of Fire won.

Bechdel Test Pass?

Nope. There are two named women, they are both reluctantly supportive partners to their respective champions. They never meet. (This is one of those cases where this didn’t bother me that much. Cambridge, where most of this narrative takes place, was an overwhelmingly male environment. It would be strange and forced to shoehorn women into this particular narrative.)

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Sybil (Alice Krige) seeing Harold off at port – in a shot later echoed in a future Best Picture, Titanic

OK, dessert time, I wanted to do a flaming dessert for obvious reasons, but…that turns out to be trickier than I thought…

Flaming Baked Alaska Cupcakes

Ingredients for cupcakes

  • 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons milk
  • 2 cups of your favorite ice cream, I used strawberry field

Ingredients for meringue and flambe

  • 6 large egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tarter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2-2 cups brandy

Directions 

Prepare the cupcakes

  • Heat oven to 350F and line cupcake pan with papers
  • Mix together flour, baking powder, and salt
  • In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy
  • Add eggs one at a time, mixing well between additions
  • Beat in vanilla extract
  • Add flour mixture and milk alternately, beginning and ending with flour
  • Divide batter evenly into liners, filling them about 2/3 full
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes (*check them at 15, mine took 18 minutes)
  • Remove from oven and let cool
  • Peel away cupcake liners and discard
  • Cut a small divot out of the top of each cupcake, large enough to hold ice cream
  • Fill each divot with ice cream
  • Put filled cupcakes in freezer

Prepare the meringues

  • In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites until foamy
  • Add the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form
  • Gradually beat in the sugar until the meringue is stiff and glossy
  • Preheat oven to the hottest setting
  • Remove the cupcakes from freezer
  • Set each cupcake on their own small place
  • Place the plates onto a baking sheet
  • Cover each cupcake with meringue using an offset spatula
  • Place the sheet into the oven until lightly browned (*pay close attention and take them out exactly when they are browned) 
  • Remove from oven
  • Pour tablespoons of brandy over each cupcake
  • Ignite the brandy and let burn until the flame subsides
  • When the flame dies down serve immediately

Or…this could happen:

We did try them, they tasted like cheap brandy… But the unlit ones (ie the ones I didn’t put in the oven/douse with brandy tasted good…)

Weekly Adventure: NU Homecoming (and Hamilton!) Edition

(Fair warning right at the top, this post is mostly selfies I took with Jules and gushing about Hamilton. If that doesn’t interest you, I understand. Come back soon for awards season movie reviews!)

This past weekend was (somehow!) my five year reunion from Northwestern. It wasn’t really on my radar to be honest, except I was already planning to be in Chicago because my friend Katelin so generously offered me her extra ticket to Hamilton(!!), which just happened to be for the Sunday night of Homecoming weekend. So, I bought a couple of commuter tickets. It was a really fun weekend of seeing some of my favorite people, and indulging a bit in pretending we were still in college. (Which in my case meant I spent almost all of it with Julia taking selfies…)

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The only picture I took at the official 2011 Class Party. Like I said, it’s just like college (except my glasses are cooler)

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Day 2: Football Game – difference from college include: we were sober when this picture was taken and the Cats won on Homecoming

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Not a selfie, but I had to document Jules getting her car out of her blocked in space by driving down the sidewalk

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They have big bean bags in Norris now and we enjoy attempting to take “Boyhood” shots

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From “Build Her a Myth” by Carrie Schumacher currently on view at the Dittmar Gallery 

I have always loved the Dittmar, it’s weirdly tucked between the student center Starbucks and the TV where people who are “studying” watch games. But they sometimes have really interesting installations. The current show is made up of these apparel pieces made out of pages torn out of romance novels. They make a statement about the stories women are told about themselves and the expectations that creates, plus they look amazing.

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OK, back to selfies. This one is practically required. (Photo Credit: Jules and her updated phone with the selfie timer.)

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Post-nap trip to Little Goat (at this point it’s a tradition when I visit).

I have to admit this is the most Cubs related thing I did even though we were eating this dinner as they were winning the pennant. I’m happy for them, but even looking at pictures of Wrigleyville that night stressed me out.

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Look we have other friends! 

In another fun coincidence, it was Noel’s birthday/housewarming celebration while I was in town so I got to see even more people whom I love.

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Including the birthday girl and her fire carriers

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BOLT!

The next day, after brunch at The Dawson, which was lovely but where I took no pictures. I ventured out to Madison and Jeison’s new apartment to meet their adorable new family member. He was shy but so tiny and fluffy! (It was also nice to his parents I suppose.)

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AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

OK, here’s the thing. You already know everything I am about to say. We’ve all heard it a million times. “Hamilton is brilliant.” “The best show ever.” “Mindblowingly good.” Etc, etc. And to be honest I was actually a little worried walking in that it could not possibly live up to my expectations/love of the album.

But, it totally did. By halfway through the second song I knew I was seeing one of the best things I will ever see. I can’t describe why it’s so much better live. Partly it’s the choreography of course, and the thrill of live singing is always amazing, but there is something about the momentum of the show that is really impressive that I don’t quite have words for.

When I told people that I was flying to Chicago and seeing Hamilton a few out here (in typical NYC fashion) asked me if I was disappointed to not see the “real thing,” by which I have to assume they mean the original cast (which no one can see anymore…). I’ll spare you all my Chicagoan at heart rant about NYCentric thinking (especially about theater in Chicago), and instead just say that:

  1. The cast we saw was amazing. Joshua Henry literally took my breath away as Burr, and Karen Olivo was perfectly cast as Angelica. New to me Ari Afsar was fantastic as Eliza. (The whole cast was great, I can’t link to them all.)
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    Photo Credit: David Korins

    And…

  2. It was actually cool to hear the different takes these actors had on the material. I’ve gotten so used to listening to the recording that at first even the slightest rhythm change was jarring, but then I reminded myself that reinterpretation is what keeps theater alive. And don’t get me wrong there aren’t radical changes here, but  it’s a testament to how good this cast is that they aren’t just doing impressions of the original cast.

OK, I could go on and on (and on) and in person if you’re interested I will, but let me know, because I’m terrified of seeming like I’m bragging by bringing it up.

(Though not so terrified to not buy a Schuyler sister’s tee-shirt that I cannot wait to wear this weekend to IKEA to buy furniture for my new apartment. Yeah that’s right I’m moving back into the city this weekend. You might think I’m burying the lead, but the lead is still Hamilton.)

Weekly Adventure: Spring Break Getaway Edition

It’s South by Southwest time here in Austin, and like a true local, I spent most of it out of town. (This isn’t a slam on SXSW, I find people that complain about it more insufferable than festival goers, I just had other places to be.) Mainly, one of my dear friends was getting married in Chicago last weekend and because plane tickets into Austin spike in price for the festival I chose to take a detour through Dallas. And just in case you were ever in doubt about whether or not I’m a huge nerd, I spent my time there visiting a couple of presidential history museums (oh, and taking advantage of my hotel’s cable to watch Shadowhunters in real time…).

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I seemed to have brought the gray weather north with me, but nothing can ruin this view for me. It gets me every time I come around the curve on LSD.

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As previously stated, this is not a wedding blog, but I’m just so incredibly proud of Julia and my gift to the happy couple. It seems Pinterest worthy, so I’m uploading here so we can make that happen. (Basically it’s a basket full of booze for them to mark milestones in their marriage. And Jules did the bow, I have no crafting talent.)

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The happy couple at their wedding brunch at Farmhouse

 

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Jules expertly Vanna White-ing the delicious pastries

The next day, I went for a good old fashioned urban hike through a long stretch of Lincoln Park, and stumbled upon the Lincoln Park Conservatory, which is currently hosting the Chicago Spring Flower Show. I didn’t know that was a thing, but it’s right up  my alley.

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I took a million pictures, many of which you can see on my new all-flowers Instagram account.

It was one of those Chicago spring days where it can not decide if it’s gray or bright or cold or warm. But Grant looked pretty good in the afternoon light:

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My destination on the walk was the Chicago History Museum, which I had somehow never been to before. (I know, it makes no sense.) But I’m glad I went, it was a lovely mix of traditional and socially conscious, and I nerded out a lot.

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The 1893 Columbian Exposition as depicted in the diorama room. These have been on display since the 1930s.

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A suffragist in the exhibit on social protest

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They have a temporary exhibit right now called “The Secret Lives of Objects,” which is essentially a hodgepodge of intriguing things curators found in storage. Some fun and some ssurprisingly poignant. Like this lamp, it started the Iroqouis Theater Fire (which is the reason we have doors that open out in public spaces.) A really cool exhibit if you’re in Chicago.

The old part of the CHM building is gorgeous:

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In the permanent exhibit, I learned that the Harlem Globetrotters were founded in Chicago (and remained headquartered there until the 1970s but have been named after the NYC neighborhood since the 1920s, which doesn’t make sense), and saw these important historical artifacts:

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They also have a really well designed, small exhibit of some of Vivian Maier‘s street photography, which I really loved:

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What I loved about the exhibit was the way I felt surrounded by the faces of the people Maier captured. It felt like being on the street with her. Very transporting.

That night I got some post-work Bourgeois Pig with Jules and then enjoyed The Bachelor finale with the girls I started the season with. (Such a treat to see them all again so soon!) And then the next morning it was off to Dallas.

Despite the swing in temperature & humidity, it turned out to be another lovely day for a walk, and I was surprised by how pretty the part of downtown I was staying in was. And they had cool, historical photo based, public art:

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I was walking to Dealey Plaza.To pay my respects as a longtime Kennedy fanatic (I won’t go into that now, this post is long enough) and to visit the Sixth Floor Museum (which is a great mix of tribute to Kennedy’s legacy and examination of what happened on 11/22/63).

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The Plaza itself was a WPA project, and is really pretty. But it’s sort of surreal to walk around it. I’ve seen footage and photos of it so many times, and other than the models of the cars and the heights of the trees not much looks that different. It was very surreal.

Also strange, the amount of men walking around carrying strange homemade signs trying to convince you to pay them for their tour of “what really happened”

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Very high tech conspiracy HQ

They don’t let you take pictures inside the museum, but it was a moving and thought provoking experience for me. (For the record, I think Oswald did it. I’m not completely sure how to explain Jack Ruby, maybe the mob was involved, maybe not. Oliver Stone is full of shit.)

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I took the DART light-rail to get around. I found it clean and easy to navigate. I also could have rode for free the whole time, but chose to pay, because I believe in supporting public transportation.

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Across from my hotel there was a place called Thanksgiving Square, it had murals and interfaith scriptures, and this ring you were meant to pause under and give thanks. It felt sort of stuck in where it was, but I said a little prayer under the ring. (I didn’t go into the chapel, but I sort of wish I had, it looks really cool.)

On my second day in Dallas I took the train out to SMU to visit George W. Bush’s Presidential Library and Museum. I did this, because of my life goal to visit all of the President’s landmarks (see LBJ and Lincoln).

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Although, I was not and am not W’s biggest fan, I’m not going to go into a political rant here. Mostly, because most of my experience at this museum was apolitical and nice. The staff were all really lovely. They had a temporary exhibit about how campaigning has changed that included this carpet that showed all the results of every presidential election:

IMG_5128And Bill Clinton’s sunglasses:

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On loan from his library in Little Rock

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And this awesome looking board game that I am not allowing myself to look up on eBay, because I will buy it

The building itself is really beautiful:

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And, while I found myself disagreeing with the emphasis of the permanent exhibit there were some pieces that were done unquestionably well.

For instance, the 9/11 memorial, which includes a part of one of the Towers and a lot of very moving archival news footage:

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And the recreated Oval Office (one step up from LBJs because you can step in, walk around, and even take pictures at the desk!):

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There were also some nice lighter moments featuring the First Family. Hilariously, when I went searching for a statue to take a selfie with, I couldn’t find one, but these were prominently displayed:

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The only part of the whole thing that made me truly angry was the “Situation Room” simulation.

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Basically, you sit down in rows with a bunch of strangers, and vote on a screen in front of you on which “crisis” you want to tackle. (My group chose Hurricane Katrina. Other options include Saddam Hussein and The Financial Crisis). They then give you a briefing and 3 options to choose from. You can track what others in the room are thinking with a CNN-like approval line on the big screen. Then you vote on what you would do. Then they tell you what Bush did. As I was walking out of the room it felt like a cool multimedia experience, and I was surprised that I had chosen the same response that Bush did to the crisis. (I do not generally think I agree with how he handled Katrina.) And then I started to feel queasy. The flashiness and official look of the presentation makes it seem like in each of these situations, Bush had exactly 3 options, none of which were all that good and that’s why he made some of his least popular choices. Now, I do agree that being the President is an impossible job, and perfection is not an attainable goal, but I think this presentation simplifies the most important failures of my government during my lifetime to “well things are complicated, you couldn’t do any better.”

What sucks, is that this was right at the end of the exhibits, so I left with the bad taste in my mouth. As you can see from the newest addition to my Presidential Photo Collage:

Post W

Now that I’m back in town, I’ve mostly been lying around exhausted. Though I did go see Midnight Special yesterday. It’s amazing. I want to go see it again. Like I want to go pay full ticket price a second time. That’s an extremely rare feeling for me. But like, I may go see Midnight Special again tomorrow if anyone wants to join me.

And the Nominees Are 2016: Round 4

This was my last week before school starts up again so I took advantage and caught up with a bunch of movies. It was quite a diverse lineup, but some really thought provoking and moving (and downright silly) stuff.

Also, I realized I hadn’t yet blogged about Inside Out (I think maybe because I talked about it on the podcast, and that feels like a million years ago.)

Inside Out

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What an adorable little fable about emotion and growing up. I’ve read a few hyperbolic reviews about how it will revolutionize how we think about the brain, but I think what it will do is give kids (and adults) a way to articulate the mixed up way that our memories shape us and change over time.

Also, Phyllis Smith is an extraordinary Sadness – the rest of the cast is great, but as someone who lets sadness drive (maybe a little too much) it was lovely to see her come into her own as a necessary adult feeling. Truly beautiful.

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Concussion

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This is a pretty good movie. It suffers from what I would call Rush-syndrome (except that sounds gross.) Meaning, this is a movie – like the Ron Howard racing period piece Rush from a few years ago – that is well made and emotionally satisfying, with a great cast, but its also too conventional to actually be in contention for the major awards. (Though it’s some racist bullshit that Will Smith wasn’t at least nominated for the Oscar here.)

That being said, Smith delivers a nuances, moving performance as Dr. Bennet Omalu, the Nigerian immigrant doctor who first discovered and named the brain damage that many (heartbreakingly many) former NFL players have suffered/died from.

It feels like an old fashioned Mr. Smith Goes to Washington-type movie, complete with heavy handed preaching about what it means to be American. And I enjoyed it despite how much I feel implicated by its message. I’m a huge NFL fan and I’ve definitely played my small role in the machine that treats these human beings as animals meant to hit each other as hard as possible for my entertainment. I’m not sure how to reconcile my love of the tradition of the game (and the catharsis of its brutality) with its devastating impacts. Impacts dramatized here heartwrenchingly by David Morse as Mike Webster  who went from Hall of Famer to lasering himself to death in the back of his pickup truck.

I don’t have answers on what to do about this. And neither does the movie really, but it is another reminder (like The Big Short and Steve Jobs) that corporations are not civic institutions devoted to the public good. The NFL does not care about their players beyond their utility, let alone its fans.

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The Spoils Before Dying

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Full disclosure: I’ve never seen The Spoils of Babylon, which this is a sequel to (sort of), but you don’t have to see the first to get this. One, because they are both spoof miniseries supposedly based on unrelated novels by has been mid-century misogynist Eric Jonrosh (Will Ferrell)  who does TCM-style intros to each episode.

And two – if you’re coming to this for plot coherence, run the other way, quickly. Because this doesn’t make any kind of sense. Or, as our protagonist Rock Banyon (Michael Kenneth Williams aka Omar from The Wire) says at one point to the ghost of his lover Fresno Foxglove (Maya Rudolph):

“No sense is the only sense worth making in a world that’s predicated on nonsense.”

Look, this is a funny spoof of both pretentious art film (both French and American trying to be French) and film noir, and the fake jazz, especially Kristin Wiig belting out “Booze & Pills“, is pretty hilarious and the cameos endless. It’s worth checking out on Netflix f you like weird comedy (and I mean it, it’s really fucking weird.)

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Sisters 

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Amy Poehler and Tina Fey are my heroes. They are brassy and smart and unapologetic about their imperfections, but still seem like they are people you want to hand out with. Also, they are friends, and have been for decades, which is a beautiful thing to see (because fuck the media, women are awesome at being friends). I’m saying this, because this movie is a fine. it’s not bad, it’s not great. They could do better (but they didn’t write it.) The cast seems to be made up of their friends, meaning they all got to basically pretend to be at a party with each other for a month, which would be cool. I guess my final word – I want to hang out with Amy and Tina, and you can watch this on Netflix some Sunday when you’re hungover.

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Ex Machina

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Warning: this review gets spoilery.

The trailer for this movie freaked me out so much that I ignored the fact that it stars 3 of my top actors working right now (longtime love Alicia Vikander – I feel like such a hipster about her, Domnhall Gleeson, and Oscar Isaac – actually I sort of feel like a hipster about all 3 of them.) But I don’t do scary, so, seeing this in the theaters was out. But, then it got nominated for stuff, so I reevaluated, read some reviews, and decided I could handle it.

And I could. It isn’t a horror movie. It’s not even really a thriller. It mostly just fucks with your head. Although I know this makes me sound like a Luddite, I’ve always been a firm ‘No’ on whether we should create AI and while Vikander is incredibly beguiling as Ava, this movie makes me even more confident in that viewpoint. But it gave me a new reason. The way our society is set up today (patriarchal, mega-capitalist), sentient machines will be designed by tech bros (excellently captured by Isaac’s ‘dude’ throwing, beer guzzling genius recluse). And, while they aren’t all evil of course, (Gleeson is a charming example of a ‘good kid’ coder) the ones with capital to create an actual being (shades of Frankenstein abound) will most likely create the kind of submissive sex doll Nathan does here. And while the ending can be read as a masterful act of liberation, why create more beings to oppress just to see they are capable of wanting freedom?

Clearly, I could write for hours about this. It’s  brilliant film, written and directed by Alex Garland, who also adapted Never Let Me Go, which covers similar thematic ground. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

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Also this sequence is both amazing and will haunt me for the rest of my life. 

The Revenant

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Alright, I admit I went into this wanting to hate it. I’m still holding a Birdman vs. Boyhood  grudge from last year. But, this is a fucking great movie. It’s not an easy sit, there’s a lot of blood, and human suffering. And frankly by the end my main takeaway was men are awful, particularly if they are white, especially if they are French or Texan.

But seriously, this is a remarkable piece of art that somehow blends Terrence Malick-esque natural beauty (some shorts look straight out of The Tree of Life) and visceral realism. It’s gross at times, I don’t think I’ll ever be excited to sit down for a rewatch of Leo disembowling a horse to climb inside the carcass for warmth. (Oh my God, I can’t believe I even just wrote that sentence.) But, it works, because the emotional heart of the story is Leo’s grief for his wife (Grace Dove) and son (Forrest Goodluck). While there’s a bit of “dead-indigenous woman acts as spirit guide for white man” nonsense happening here, generally the performance and cinematography are so breathtaking that I turned my critical brain off after awhile and just got swept up in the story.

And while it is seriously not for the squeamish, all the violence serves the story and its consequences are clear and tragic. This is not blood for the fun of it. (Fun doesn’t really come into the picture here.) And Iñárritu uses the shots of natural world to give the audience a chance to breathe.

Also – Leo should get that Oscar now.

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And the Nominees Are 2015: Round 3

There finally weren’t any new nominations announced this week, so the list this week isn’t as insanely long (though the BAFTA noms come out this Friday – and with the holidays over I have officially nothing to do until the start of the next semester in a few weeks so don’t expect that to stay the case…) Anyway, here’s what I got around to this week:

Foxcatcher 

Despite the negative press it got late last week, I genuinely think this film is a brilliant piece of art. As it got closer to the conclusion I kept thinking that it was as good as the kind of complex novels that make you want to burrow into them. Except the word burrow might imply warmth, and there is nothing warm about this movie, except for Mark Rufallo’s character (and he’s really wonderful.) I seriously feel like I could write multiple theses about everything from American myth making, the danger of over self-reliance, the ridiculousness of the Olympics, the incredibly interesting way director Bennett Miller connects the way Mrs. Dupont (Vanessa Redgrave) treats her horses and the way John (Steve Carell) treats his wrestlers, but I don’t want to ramble on. Instead, I’ll say that while Rufallo gave this movie its heart, Channing Tatum excellently embodied a character that is almost completely body in a really intriguing and not soulless way. (Also Steve Carell was as detached and mouth breathy creepy as he seems in the trailer and does manage to convince me he’s not good-natured Steve Carell so that’s an achievement.)

[It’s not this movie’s fault, but I do hope they’re some movies with strong insights into femininity and women’s lives coming up on my list – because all this discussing of masculinity is fascinating and all but it’s a sad thing if all women get is Wild and then they try to call it “a great year for women’s roles” – because they a lot of people on red carpets are about to do that.]

Jodorowsky’s Dune 

This is a documentary about a movie that was never made based on a book I’ve never read planned by a director whose actual films I have no desire to see yet I have no desire to see yet I was totally riveted. The film, my first nominated doc of the year, opens with Drive director Nicolas Winding Refn recounting Alejandro Jodorowsky showing him a book of his storyboards and designs of his attempt at making an adaptation of Frank Herbert‘s sci-fi epic Dune at a dinner party.

I share this story because based on the interviews in this movie I would absolutely love to go to a dinner party with any of the people featured, even though they all seem to be various levels of insane, and I don’t really care to see much of their actual art. Jodorowsky describes his Dune (which failed for it’s over ambitious scope and lack of financial security) as a mind opening, consciousness raising project, and while that’s a bit ridiculous, it has been crazily influential on blockbusters that followed it, and the story of its non-happening is worth a watch.

Sherlock: His Last Vow

 How does this still get to count as a mini-series? I’m not complaining, it’s brilliant and I love that they keep getting nominations for it, but surely 3 seasons makes something a series? The rules are confusing. Moving on, I found this series as gripping and witty as I’ve come to expect from this team. I particularly liked the introduction of Mary (and her twist). This show always manages to be unpredictable without being graphic or gory which I really appreciate. Call it whatever you want Moffat & Gatiss, just keep making it forever.

Annie

 Frankly, I was sure I was going to hate this; remakes aren’t my favorite things in general and I have a weird love/hate relationship with the original musical AnnieBasically, I used to love it when I was a small child and convinced of my impending Broadway fame and I now hate it – the music is cheesy and the sound of little kids’ singing on recording is not really my favorite thing. But, Quvenzhané Wallis is being nominated for things so I asked Miró (who also was going to be a Broadway Annie as a child) to come along with me, and it actually ended up being very fun. Wallis is adorable and Jamie Foxx (as Mr. Stacks – the modern-day Daddy Warbucks) and Rose Byrne as his assistant and likable and lovely. Bobby Cannavale is wonderfully slimy, but Cameron Diaz never really disappeared into the character, though I admit she had impossibly big shoes to fill.

Overall, although the new soundtrack is as silly as the original they did a good job of actually modernizing the story (and the score) rather than just recasting it.

Top Five

I love Chris Rock as a thinker and I believe that his voice as a comic and a human are incredibly important for American society. So clearly I wanted this movie to be brilliant and it’s…good. Rock is affable and believable as a comic-turned-actor suffering from doubt and career lag after he goes into recovery. Rosario Dawson is charming and smart as the reporter doing on a piece on him. There’s one truly brilliant scene where they visit his family in Queens (the cameos are too many to list, but Ben Vereen and Leslie Jones are real standouts.) Otherwise this is an able enough satire of modern reality TV pop culture (with a confused jaunt into sexual identity it probably could have skipped) that I’ll be happy to re-watch on Netflix someday.

Weekly Adventure: Chicago Red Stars Game

Did you know that the US has professional women’s soccer again? Well neither did I, till Jules told me a couple of weeks ago, when we decided to go see Chicago’s team – the Red Stars. There were only a couple of flaws in our plan 1- the team plays in Lisle, IL (at Benedictine University) which is incredibly far away and 2-we do not have cars. So we went on a real honest to God adventure. I forgot to bring my camera – so here’s Julia’s iPhone documentary of our delightful Sunday afternoon trip:

We took the Metra all the way out to Lisle

We took the Metra all the way out to Lisle

We went on an epic suburban hike to get to the stadium

We went on an epic suburban hike to get to the stadium

Found a strip mall where we can get our cigarettes and our fortunes read

We arrived at the stadium and matched the chairs (but unforunately not the team)

We arrived at the stadium and matched the chairs (but unfortunately not the team)

The Red Stars and the Portland Thorns (who are unforunately really really good)

This is Alex Morgan – Olympic Gold Medalist – also plays for Portland (Photo Credit: Ives Galarcep)

These girls were Red Stars super fans, and had coordinated dance moves, Jules and I were big fans

These girls were Red Stars super fans, and had coordinated dance moves, Jules and I were big fans

The crowd was actually pretty full which was really nice to see, and some guy named Corey asked some girl named April to prom during half-time over the loudspeaker, so that was adorable.

These little girls were waiting to get autographs from the players which was adorable

Then we hiked back to the Metra station - past a convent - where there is a fake dog weathervane inexplicably in the middle of a field

Then we hiked back to the Metra station – past a convent – where there is a fake dog weathervane inexplicably in the middle of a field

Then we waited a long time for another train and watched from freighters go by

Overall a success but next time we’re inviting a friend with a car.

Word a Week Challenge: Action

So my interpretation of “action” shot, seems to be “blurry,” but I found a few, not too awful examples. (And some of them are even recent – I’m actually taking pictures again!)

Drummer in the Chicago Pipe Band - Opening for Gaelic Storm at the House of Blues, Chicago, IL

Drummer in the Chicago Pipe Band – Opening for Gaelic Storm at the House of Blues, Chicago, IL

 

Cab in the West Loop, Chicago, IL

Cab in the West Loop, Chicago, IL

"Purple Man" Playing Pong in Evanston, IL

“Purple Man” Playing Pong in Evanston, IL

 

Andy with a Yo-Yo in Austin, TX

Andy with a Yo-Yo in Austin, TX

Haymarket Reanactor in Chicago, IL

Haymarket Reenactor in Chicago, IL

Weekly Adventure: Gaelic Storm at the House of Blues

As I wrote about last year, I’m obsessed with Ireland, and Gaelic Storm (I’m not so obsessed with sidewalks full of people in Tri-Color Viking hats and blinking plastic necklaces, but I live in Chicago so what can you do?)

I won’t go on and on again about my love for Gaelic Storm except to say that the show they put on at the House of Blues this past Saturday night, was probably my favorite of their performances. Here are a few reasons why:

1 – They led us in impromptu sing-a-longs of the following songs:

2 – And a more predictable sing-a-long of this one:

3 – They have a new fiddler – who can really play and had a really pretty dress:

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Her name is Kiana Webber, and she’s amazing.

3 – The Chicago Pipe Band and Trinit Dancers were there:

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4 – Lead singer Patrick Murphy is (inexplicably) a Packers fan. He brings it up every year and it breaks my heart, this year he lost a bet and had to wear this:

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5 – They finished their extended encore by climbing up on one of the side bars and playing “Tell Me Ma,” which was amazing, a nice send off till next year…

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Fall Means Football

I have been remiss about writing lately. But the truth is I haven’t been on any grand adventures. Don’t worry, I haven’t been sitting in my apartment crying and watching Downton Abbey. Well, I haven’t just been sitting in my apartment and watching Downton Abbey. (I won’t start the third season yet, though it’s killing me, I’m an American and if my mom has to wait till January, than I can suck it up to. She declared any finding it on-line ahead of time to be ‘cheating.’)

No, what happened was football season started, and now twice a week – once for the Wildcats and once for the Bears, I get all dolled up (decidedly easier for purple than orange days) and either go up to Ryan Field or make my way to a bar where I scream at the television like Jay Cutler can hear me. (Though often he seems to ignore my advice.)

I’m a football fan though, and not an expert, so I’m not going to start writing game recaps so the blog may be a little slower for the next couple of months. (Though I’ll try my best to think of other silliness to focus on.)

In Lieu of an Adventure: Olympics Edition

So I must have been bitten by a tsetse fly this weekend, as my mother would say, because even though I didn’t do much beyond some laundry and grocery shopping I managed to feel exhausted. My friend Alexis has a theory that watching men’s gymnastics is exhausting, and that works for me.

I love the Olympics, the pageantry, the sports, the international cooperation, the men not really wearing clothes:

And this year with the added bonus of 90% more Ryan Locthe (I mean come on look at those eyes…)

Also the Opening Ceremony was such a delightful string of British inside jokes and it included a shot of my favorite places in the world the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland:

And then today a Northwestern Wildcat – Matt Grevers – won a gold medal for America, I couldn’t be prouder.