Saturday, March 27, 2010

German Food? Well, kind of...

If I went with the food they made in the movie, I would have made crusts of bread and raw meat.  I decided, however, to go with something a little more universally popular.  My original decision was to make German Pancakes.  I got the recipe from SmittenKitchen.com, another of my favorite food blogs (thank you, SFR). I don't actually know how German they are, in several posts people also referred to them as "Dutch babies."  However, they looked yummy and they had the word German in them so I was sold.  My friend, JC, was game enough to try them with me, although she was certainly skeptical at first.  I don't know if she was so interested in German food as much as she was just too lazy to cook herself.


Not-So-German Pancakes
You'll Need:
4 eggs
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup flour, sifted
2/3 cup milk
2 tablespoons soft butter
A handful of raspberries
Some maple syrup
A sprinkling of powdered sugar
  1. Heat oven to 400°F. Butter two 9-inch cake pans well. I didn't have two cake pans, so I used two similarly shaped bowls.  It went ok, but in future if you want them thinner, go for the cake pans.
  2. Put eggs in mixer, wisk until light yellow in color. (It's okay if you don't have a mixer)
  3. Add remaining ingredients; wisk until smooth. 
  4. Pour into prepared pans and bake 20 minutes; then reduce heat to 350°F and bake 10 minutes. 
  5. Let cool and service on plates or in the bowl.
This recipe yields 2 medium sized pancakes.  You can serve this as the original recipe recommends, with lemon slices, powdered sugar and butter.  Other options include raspberry syrup (which sounds awesome) or maple syrup, powdered sugar and fresh raspberries, if you’re us. We sprinkled a heavy dose of the powdered sugar on top and then added a little syrup and raspberries.  They're best hot out of the oven, but I left some for my roommate and she thought they were great after re-heated in the microwave. Mmmmm....


JC wasn't convinced that these weird pancake things would be enough for dinner, and after working all day she and I were really hungry.  So I picked up some Hofbrau German sausages from Trader Joe's, along with red and orange peppers and a small onion.  "Do you like sausages?"  I asked as she looked at me with raised eyebrows, "They're German too!"  Thankfully I have nice friends who go along with me even when I'm a little crazy.  We therefore created...

German Sausages with Relish
You'll need:
A package of German sausages (mine had 5 sausages in it, which is more than enough)
2 peppers (red or orange)
1 small white onion
2 tbsps honey
2 ½ tbsps Dijon mustard
1-2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
Some bread or rolls

  1. Heat oil in a large pan over the stove.  Add sausages and cook until they are brown all over, turning frequently to avoid burning.  They should be around 170 degrees, if you have a meat thermometer.  Take them off the heat when done and cover to keep warm.
  2. Finely chop onion and place in ziplock bag.  Add the honey and the mustard and shake the bag until all is mixed together.  You can vary the amount of mustard or honey according to taste.
  3. Dice peppers and add them to the pan you just took the sausages out of.  Let them cook for about 5 minutes in the sausage grease (yum).
  4. Add the onions and cook until the onions are slightly translucent, stirring often to combine the flavors. 
  5. Remove from heat. Place the sausages in rolls or on bread, and cover with the pepper/onion relish.

Voila!  German sausages with relish! Kind of.  Well it's my take on a German recipe anyway so I guess it will have to work.  And it must have been pretty good because JC stopped being skeptical and helped me devour everything.

Next time...Cimarron.  Ugh.  Soooo not excited.
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All Quiet on the Western Front

"...Now they're sending babies, and they won't last a week! I shouldn't have come on leave. Up at the front you're alive or you're dead and that's all. You can't fool anybody about that very long. And up there we know we're lost and done for whether we're dead or alive. Three years we've had of it, four years! And every day a year, and every night a century! And our bodies are earth, and our thoughts are clay, and we sleep and eat with death! And we're done for because you can't live that way and keep anything inside you! I shouldn't have come on leave. I'll go back tomorrow." --Paul Bäumer to his old professor (All Quiet on the Western Front)

Dark, depressing, and utterly morbid, this film is as far from The Broadway Melody as I could get.  I don’t really like war movies, and the film quality wasn't great, but I ended up actually enjoying the film.  As much as I can enjoy a film about the hopelessness of war and the death of everyone involved.  As an anti-war film, it serves as a poignant reminder of the casualties of war that is still extremely relevant today.

The Plot
The plot in this movie is less linear, and more a series of vignettes in the story of the life of a man named Paul
Bäumer, played by Lew Ayres.  In 1914, parades line the streets of Germany, and a classroom of eager young men listen to their idealistic professor wax lyrical on the glories of dying for their country.  The young men rise as a class and enlist, along with the other men of their town, including their friend, the postman.

The young men head to training camp, only to find their friend, the postman, is now their pompous, tyrannical training officer named Corporal Himmelstoss.  The boys are put through their paces, until they are finally deployed to the Western Front Line, although not before they finally revenge themselves on the evil postman.  They are shipped out the Front, only to find there is no food, no rules, and men dying all around them.   They meet Corporal Katczinsky, or Kat, played by Louis Wolheim,and the other few veterans in the 2nd Company, who proceed to show these untried recruits the ropes of survival.  One of their class died after being horrifically blinded, and all the new recruits are upset.

The next we see the remaining recruits, they are huddled in an underground bunker, with no food, bombs exploding all around them, and only rats for company.  Paul is managing after a week of little sleep or food, but many of his friends are having psychotic breaks.  Kat must start punching them and knocking them out to save them from running out into the gunfire.  One recruit, Kemmerich, breaks free and runs out, only to be shot down and wounded.  Suddenly, there is a break in the bombing and the men rush out to fight.  Men run forward to be killed on both sides, and all the audience sees are men running into machine guns.  Many enemy men are killed, but the Germans are unable to hold the French front, and must retreat.

They return to camp, only to see the cook refusing to feed them because he has cooked the wrong rations; he's made food for 150 men, but only 80 have returned.  Eventually fed and full, the members of the 2nd Company stretch out under the trees, debating the cause of the war.  Paul and another recruit, Mueller, try to give the philosophical reasons, but these are met with the very practical reasoning of the lower class veterans.


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The recruits decide to visit Kemmerich at the dressing ward.  He has just finished surgery, and does not yet realize, until he friends tell him, that he has lost his leg.  Mueller thoughtlessly asks Kemmerich if he can have his boots, as it is clear Kemmerich will not be using them.  Paul stays with Kemmerich, and as he lays dying, he tells Paul that Mueller can have his boots, and Paul his watch.  Paul leaves the ward at a run, Kemmerich’s death leaving him strangely energized and hungry.  Mueller is excited about the boots, claiming that he “won’t mind returning to the front with such fine boots.”

In later scenes, Mueller is killed, and his boots are passed along amongst the group of steadily dwindling soldiers.  Paul remains alive, and grows as cynical as the veterans.  Corporal Himmelstoss comes to Front, only to be laughed at for his pomposity and then spurned for his cowardice.  Paul kills a French soldier, but then tries to save him, crying bitterly when he fails.  When he finally leaves the ditch he had been hiding in, he is comforted by his friends and joins in a round of drinking.  While bathing in a pond, Paul and his friend see French women, and seduce them with food.  Paul tells the woman that he will never forgot her, even if he would never recognize her.

Paul is finally wounded and taken to a hospital with his friend Albert.  While Paul pulls through, Albert has his leg amputated, and is destroyed by pain and sorrow.  Paul gets a furlough and goes home only to find lunacy reigns.  His father discusses impossible war policies with the other old men, and his old teacher is still recruiting young boys with his idealistic garbage.  Paul tries to explain that dying for one’s country is painful and dirty but no one listens or understands.  Only his mother brings him peace, though she lays dying in her bed.  But even she continues to see Paul as the child he no longer is.  Paul leaves a few days early, disgusted and out of place.

Paul returns to the camp, where all of those he joined with are no longer.  One of the veterans, Tjaden, is teaching new recruits the ropes, only these boys are 16 and 15, younger than the 19 he had been.  Paul goes in search of Kat, who is foraging for food, and he tells Kat of his disillusionment with home.  Just as he is calling Kat his one true friend, a bomb goes off and Kat is hit in the shin.  Paul boosts Kat on his shoulders and begins carrying him back, telling him of all the time they will spend together after the war, not realizing that Kat has taken stray shrapnel to the head.  When he gets to the camp, the doctors tells him why he shouldn’t have bothered, and go back to playing cards.  Paul goes back to the front, and while crouched with a gun in a trench, he sees a butterfly.  As he reaches out to catch the butterfly (he used to collect them at home), he puts himself in harm’s way, and gets picked off by an enemy sniper.

The History
All Quiet on the Western Front was first a novel written by German author Eric Maria Remarque.  Remarque, a German veteran of World War I, wrote the novel in 1927 and was published in January, 1929.  Carl Laemmle, the head of Universal studios, was annoyed that his studio had yet to even win a nomination. 
He poured $1.2 million dollars into making the hit novel into a film (a very large sum for those days) and released the movie in April, 1930. Director Lewis Milestone consulted with real German war veterans who had immigrated to the United States in order to make sure the war scenes were authentic and ended up using them as extras in the movie.  His quest for authenticity led him to leave out music from the movie completely but caused the chief sanity inspector of Orange County, California, to halt production for the day while he checked the conditions of the trenches.  The movie was nominated for “Best Picture,” “Best Director,” “Best Writing,” and “Best Cinematography” and won the first two.  

While a success at the box office, this movie caused controversy in many ways.  On the one hand, the American Legion threatened to picket  because of its sympathetic treatment of Germans, on the other, Nazis released rats into the theaters showing the movie in Germany, because of its negative treatment of  German war.  The film would later be banned in Germany and Italy for its stance against war, and banned in Poland for its pro-German plot.  The film had such a profound impact on Lew Ayres, the young star of the film, that he asked to be placed in the Medical Corps when he was drafted during World War II.  His request was denied, so he sought and obtained "conscientious objector" status.  People began boycotting his films in protest, but Ayres's request was finally granted and he served quietly in the Medical Corps for the remainder of the war.


This movie was #7 on AFI's List of Top 10 Epics and #54 on their 1998 list of Top 100 movies.  It was remade for TV in 1979 and there are rumors that there are plans to remake it again for the big screen in the next few years.  It is remembered as a true epic war film, one that is sited by many actors and directors as a major influence for the big war movies of today.

The Verdict?
I thankfully know nothing of war and death the way this movie describes it.  It is hard to say what is right and what is wrong.  I told my father that I support draft dodgers.  If you don't want to fight, you shouldn't.  "But what if everyone said that," he replied, "what if no one wanted to fight?  Who would defend our country?"  I replied that it is not defending one's country to get embroiled in a war overseas that will never affect us--but then I stopped myself.  We as a country entered wars because we did see threats against our safety.  Against Al Qaeda, against Communism.  Arguments can be made for both sides.  Who is to say what affects us and what doesn't?  I know that I am not clever enough to decide the fate of millions and that I can only have confidence in those I have chosen to make those decisions for me.  I wish I had more confidence than I do.  And as a woman, if there is a draft, will I ever have to worry as Paul does?  Probably not.  I would worry in different ways, as the French women in this movie do who have no food, no men, and no land.

My father, a man who loves books and movies about war, disliked this movie when he watched it with me.  He thought it was dark, long, and depressing.  "It's a war movie," I replied heatedly, "it's supposed to be depressing!"  But it is not depressing the way Wings is depressing, or even more recent movies like Braveheart or Pearl Harbor.  It is depressing because it shows the futility of war, the purposeless of it.  All Quiet on the Western Front shows good men and bad men dying for no reason, killing men who aren't evil and just waiting for others to end the war.  It is depressing because it provides unanswered questions that linger long after the movie is finished.  Who am I fighting?  Why am I fighting?  Where does the onrush of death end?  Who, really, has any answers?  

 

 
This movie causes one to question violence by attaching the audience to characters that are killed with little warning or reason.  It is the pointlessness of it all that causes the melancholy after the film finishes.  Yes, it is dark and depressing, but its message is so important, even today.  Good literature, films and other media cause good people to ask questions even after they are through.  And that's what this movie does, and why it's my favorite film to date.  Who would have thought that?
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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Love Triangle Brownies

I have to admit that I had trouble coming up with food that would fit this movie.  How do you make musical food?  Should I make New York food?  It felt like a cop out.  But thankfully I was craving brownies at the time, so I finally threw up my hands and decided I would look into making something chocolatey. 

I would like to take a moment to thank Tastespotting.com.  I love recipes, and a friend recently pointed out this website.  It’s fantastic, and I’ve found some of my best recipes this way.  Tastespotting.com shows clips of recipes from various blogs on the internet, so you can search for a particular recipe and see what others are doing.  Check it out!

Anyway, I was sitting on couch, having procrastinated most of the day.  It was pouring outside, as it had been for most of the weekend.  The kind of rain that makes you never, EVER, want to leave your house.  I flicked casually through Tastespotting.com, looking for a recipe I could make out of ingredients I already had, that would fit my movie, and that wouldn’t require much effort.  And from mashing several recipes together, Love Triangle Brownies were born.

The Brownie Part

You’ll need:
3/4 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. 
  2. Butter and flour a small glass baking dish, preferably 8x 8 or 9x 9.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix melted butter, sugars and vanilla.  Beat in eggs one at a time.
  4. Gradually add flour, cocoa, and salt and mix until combined
  5. Pour the brownie batter into the dish and set aside.

The Snickers Part

You’ll need:
1 bag of mini Snickers
  1. Unwrap a Snickers and slice them into around three pieces. Do this for about 5 snickers.
  2. Push the snickers slices down into the brownies, push them in until they are completely submerged.


The Peanut Butter Part

You’ll need:
2 tablespoons butter
8 tsps dark brown sugar
4 1/4 ounces smooth peanut butter
scant 1 cup confectioners' sugar
  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan (or use the microwave and a microwave-safe bowl).
  2. In a large bowl, mix the melted butter with the brown sugar, peanut butter, and confectioners' sugar. It is a little stiff, so use a mixer if you have one, or spend time kneading.

And To Bring Them Together…


Crumble the peanut butter mixture on top of the brownies, covering as much as you can, according to your preference.

Place the dish in the oven for about 40 minutes, until a toothpick placed in the center comes out clean.  Let the brownies cool for 5-10 minutes. 

Slice and place on a plate or eat out of the dish, it’s up to you!


You know your brownies are a success when your roommate comes out of her room, looks at the plate, and says very clearly, “I hate you.”  These brownies have been steadily disappearing over the past week.  I also think they would have worked pretty well as brownie bites.  Anyone want to try and see?
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The Broadway Melody of 1929

"100% All Talking! 100% All Singing! 100% All Dancing!"
-Publicity Slogan for The Broadway Melody of 1929
Much as I'd like to pick a quote from the movie itself, I thought this slogan best fit this 2nd winner for "Best Picture."  While I was thrilled to at last have some sound, the movie serves better as a history piece than anything else.  It's clear that movie studios were so thrilled to have sound, it didn't really matter too much if people could sing, or act, or if the movie had any real plot at all.  Not a complete waste, though.  I did enjoy myself.  But not something I would watch again any time soon.

The Plot:
The movie opens on a cacophony of sound.  Eddie, played by Charles King, works in a music publishing studio, where several groups are rehearsing and creating their own new songs at the same time. (See movie goers!  Sound!)  Eddie has written a sure hit, The Broadway Melody, and is thrilled to be performing it in producer Frances Zanfield's new show (obvious take on producer Florenz Ziegfeld).  He convinces his fiance and her sister to join him in New York City and be part of his show, giving up their small town tours.  Hank, his fiance played by Bessie Love, is excited to advance their career, but Queenie, her sister played by Anita Paige, is unsure about life in the big city.  But Queenie always listens to her older sister, and Hank convinces her they will be fine.

The sisters audition, but hot-tempered Hank causes Zanfield to ignore her and focus on her sister.  Sweet, beautiful Queenie begs the producer to take them both, however, but to never tell Hank this.  Eddie overhears, and realizes he is falling in love with Queenie, while he regards short, spunky Hank as more of a friend.  Queenie ends up reluctantly getting more of the show's spotlight, while Hank gets pushed out a few numbers.  At the same time, Queenie realizes that Eddie loves her, and that she might have feelings for him.  Terrified at hurting Hank, she quarrels with them both and goes out with Jock Warriner, a "Stage-Door-Johnnie" that they both disapprove of.

The weeks pass and Queenie consistently quarrels with both Hank and Eddie over Jock Warriner, who is showering the lovely Queenie with presents.  Hank is distraught, having never fought with her sister before.  Eddie is angry, as he cannot fight Jock for Queenie the way he wants to.  On Queenie's birthday, Eddie sings a song he wrote for her, You Were Meant for Me, and confesses, again his feelings.  They almost kiss when Hank walks in.  Queenie angrily pushes him away, claiming that no one will stop her from seeing Jock.  Queenie goes to a lavish birthday party thrown for her by Jock instead of staying home at the party thrown for her by her friends and family.  Hank, distraught and confused, decides that maybe she will just marry Eddie and leave show business for good.  She cries, telling Eddie he is the one good thing left in her life just as he is about to confess everything.

It is one of the last shows.  Tensions are running high, and Queenie is threatening to take Jock up on his offer to live alone in an apartment he has bought for her.  She doesn't really want to date him, and knows he will never marry her, but she cannot be around Eddie without hurting her sister.  Hank, upon hearing that Queenie is planning on moving, begs her not to go.  Eddie comes into their dressing room and grabs Queenie telling her not to go.  She leaves anyway, but Hank has seen enough to know that Eddie is really in love with Queenie.  Hank pretends that she was only using Hank to get the job, and calls him a coward for not going after her.  Hank collapses crying after he leaves.  Eddie goes to the apartment and pulls Queenie away from a lechorous Jock, before getting punched and thrown out of the apartment.  Jock sees that Queenie loves Eddie and lets her go to him as the two reconcile and marry. Hank finds another girl to join her and puts on a brave face as she leaves her newly married sister to go back to small town tours.

The History:
In 1929, the Academy attempted to clean up the awards, dropping the "Best Artistic Picture" award, the "Best Engineering" award and the short-lived "Best Title Writing" award.  They also decided not to announce the winners ahead of time.  This time the nominees wouldn’t get scrolls; you either won or went home empty handed.  1929 was a frenetic year in Hollywood.  With the advent of money making talking pictures, everyone was jumping on the bandwagon, and silent movies were a thing of the past.  Unfortunately, the technology was very new, and not everyone really knew how to work it.  The Broadway Melody is perhaps one of the best efforts of the time; newspapers raved at the ability of the director to get the sound equipment into small areas and still allow the actors such mobility.  The Broadway Melody is known as a movie without much plot that won while studios were still confused by new technology.  Most of the films of that year were mediocre, with technology being far more important than other cinematic devices.  While the film has faded into obscurity, it is probably best recognized as the film that was the inspiration for Gene Kelly’s smash hit, Singing in the Rain.

The Verdict?
While the movie might have stunned people at the time, the effect is more comical on audiences today.  There are moments where the actors clearly move away from the sound boom, causing their words to get much quieter.  There are still title cards, almost as though the director can’t help himself, to show changes in time or scene.  It also appears as though the director, Harry Beaumont, is saying, “Look!  Sound!  See, we can hear people sing and talk!”  Every opportunity for the audience to hear sound, and lots of it, is taken.  For example, the opening sequence is filled with different musical acts all playing at once.  What we’re not supposed to notice, however, is that not everyone can sing.  Certainly both of the lead actresses do not have the best voices, and their few warbles are like nails on chalkboard.


This movie is completely harmless, a mildly amusing story of showbiz and love triangles.  What makes it more interesting is the transition it shows between silent films and talking pictures.  The movie is an amalgam of both.  It has the drama of a silent film with the sound of later pictures.  The actors seem confused, the plot is slightly off-kilter, and everyone still seems blown away by the fact that they are speaking to be heard.  It’s clear why no one made it big after this picture.  But it is 1929, the beginning of The Great Depression, and the ushering in of a decade that would change the world in more ways than one.  Mary Pickford, queen of silent film, won an Academy Award for best actress that year for her first (and pretty much last) talking film.  The film, The Coquette, wasn’t very good, and afterwards people grumbled that her win was completely political.  But it marked her way out of films, and the end of an important era.  Films were changing, the world was changing, and Mary Pickford would never be nominated for anything, ever again…
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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The 82nd Annual Academy Awards!

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences really tried to shake things up this year.  I had heard this before, and it didn’t come as surprise.  What did surprise me was my reaction to it.  I didn’t mind the changes.  In fact, this was my favorite Academy Awards to date!  Read on for my break down of the night.

Recent History
:
The Academy has not done so well in recent years.  According to the Los Angeles Times, the Awards show reached an all-time low in 2008 with only 32 million people watching.  This was the year that No Country for Old Men won, which I think contributed to the sense of apathy.  While it may have been a good movie (never seen it) it is certainly not a crowd pleaser.  The Academy was getting a little artsy on itself, and the public was losing interest.  So this year the Academy switched things around, picked hosts with a track record of pleasing a wide spectrum of viewers, asked winners to cut short their thanks (the lowest rated part of the show) and expanded category nominees to 10 choices instead of only 5. 

The result?  A 14% increase in viewers from last year, with 41.3 million people watching.  This is the highest number of viewers in 5 years.  I think there will be some people, including myself at first, who will see this as selling out.  Especially choosing movies that are more appealing to wider audiences rather than those that were strictly critical successes and staging large scale musical opening numbers.  But if you read my earlier post about the creation of the Awards and the Academy itself, you’ll see that the reason it was created was “to improve the image of Hollywood to the public.”  Well that, and to beat down the unions.  The original Awards were an attempt at PR for Hollywood, as well as recognition for all those in the industry who had made any great achievements throughout the past year.  And that’s exactly what this ceremony was.  A return to what the true purpose of the Academy Awards is.  It was never meant as a highbrow ceremony aimed at those who had achieved the most "intellectual” movie of that year.  Not that we should sacrifice quality, but Louis B. Mayer, father of the Academy, purposefully fought against movie winners that weren’t crowd pleasers.    The Academy even dropped the award for best “Artistic Production.”  They were far more concerned with the best production itself. 

Bottom Line:  If you want artistic, go to Sundance.  I don't mind the musical numbers.

My Favorite Changes:
I have to say that I love the fact that the speeches this year were kept short and sweet.  The Academy asked the nominees this year to keep their speeches short and to save us the long lists of people that we neither know nor care about.  Thank your mom, fine.  Thank your associate producer’s best friend’s boyfriend?  Not interested.  Nominees were told that they would have time immediately after their award was given to go backstage and talk into the brand new “Thank You Cam,” which would then be broadcast on http://oscar.go.com.  The nominees, surprisingly, for the most part agreed.  They kept their speeches short and heartfelt, choosing to focus more on the emotions involved in winning an award than specifics.  (see Sandra Bullock below)

Another thing I appreciated?  For the best actor and actress categories, instead of showing clips of their nominated films, the Academy decided to choose one person for each actor/actress and have them give a short speech on that particular nominee.  For example, co-star and friend Stanley Tucci spoke for Meryl Streep, saying that she had better enjoy this now, because he was going to start a campaign for the Academy to put a cap on the number of nominations allowed per actress.  Cute.

Funniest Moment:
Who doesn’t love Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin?  As a comedy team they did a fantastic job, from the opening act to the small quips along the way.  (What was with the George Clooney stare though?)  I loved their jibes at Meryl Streep and other Hollywood bigwigs.  My favorite moment with them had to be their appearance in a two person snuggie. 
Amazing.

have to give it up as well to Neil Patrick Harris.  Boy, does that guy know how to make a comeback.  Another opening musical number for an awards ceremony, but instead of seeming overdone, it came off as fresh, funny, and self-deprecating.  And let’s not forget Tina Fey and Robert Downey Jr.’s presentation or even Cameron Diaz and Steve Carrell.  Both deserve a nod (and not just because I’m secretly in love with RDJ).

But hands down, the absolute funniest moment of the night goes to Ben Stiller.  There are no words.  So I will show this clip.  My friends and I were literally rolling on the couch with laughter.

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Incredible.   Perfect timing.  Good job Ben.

Most Awkward Moment:

Does anyone know who that woman is that jumped onto the Thank You speech for “Best Documentary?”  We all thought we had another Kanye moment on our hands.  Why is it that the award for "Best Documentary" almost always turns the podium in a radical, uncomfortable soap box?  I most enjoy the look of chagrin on the director's face.  See for yourself:

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Still have no idea.  Weird.  Get off the stage, crazy lady in the purple satin mumu.

Most Heartwarming:
I am SO happy Sandra Bullock won for "Best Actress".  I really thought she deserved it.  I got a little nervous when Oprah came out and spoke for newcomer Gabourey Sidibe, because obviously Oprah has the golden touch.  But to my happy surprise, the award went to the person I thought deserved it. 

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Beautifully done.  Funny, sweet, and heartwarming, this speech is also pure Sandra Bullock.  Fantastic dress too, by the way.  Quite possibly my favorite.  While I don’t know if this role was the most serious or the most taxing, Sandra Bullock became her character in The Blind Side.  I just hope she tackles more roles like this in the future.

Worst Academy Award Moment:
What was up with the dance troupe?  I’m sure that they’re a very good dance troupe.  But almost every number seemed the same.  I get Fantastic Mr. Fox…but how do you turn The Hurt Locker into a dance?  It was weird.  And lest we forget…why?  This is “Best Original Score,” not America’s Best Dance Troupe.  It was long, repetitive, and completely unnecessary.  I’m not even going to show a clip.  That’s how pointless it was.  I appreciate all the changes, but bring back the best song performances.  I actually enjoyed those.  And leave the dancers at home.

Saddest Moment:

Obviously this is always when they do the tribute.  For John Hughes in particular, I was especially sad.  Ferris Buehler’s Day Off was part of my childhood.  For a lot of people of my generation who aren’t particularly film buffs, seeing that montage was a great way for them to realize just how many great movies he was a part of.  I wouldn’t have minded knowing exactly who every person giving the tribute was, although I will mention that Macaulay Culkin’s presence riveted every girl I was in the room with.


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Notable absences include:  Farrah Fawcett, Bea Arthur, Gene Barry, and former Oscar nominee Richard Todd.  The excuse given for the first three was that they were mainly television actors, and the salute to Farah Fawcett at the Emmy’s was more appropriate.  Really?  So that’s why Michael Jackson was honored?  Because of his incredible and Oscar-worthy performance in The Wiz?

Best and Worst Dressed:

Well I’m not People magazine, but I did have my favs.  Rachel McAdams, Sandra Bullock, Cameron Diaz and Penelope Cruz rank as some of my top dresses.  And though I wasn’t a fan of Meryl Streep’s dress, it did grow on me.  It seemed very her.  And designed by Project Runway alum Chris March!  Let’s be honest, Meryl could wear a potato sack and still be fabulous.  I think everyone was going in a very 1940s direction, apropos of the whole “old Hollywood” idea.  I think I like the Kathryn Hepburn/Lana Turner look.



Less impressed?  Jennifer Lopez-stop trying to have a comeback.  You look like you’re pooping pink organza.  I’m also less and less in favor of Miley Cyrus.  She looked like she was wearing a gold 1980s Madonna wannabe top.  Also, you can’t be a Disney star and show that much cleavage (plus tan lines).  Zoe Saldana would have looked less like a pom-pom if the dress hadn’t flared as much, and Sarah Jessica Parker looked cute from the front, but bizarre from the back.  What’s with those silver flowers?


The guys, as usual, don’t really count.  Sorry!

Finally…
A good time was had by all, even though the ceremony did begin to drag towards to end.  But with good stars, great writing, and a bathroom break during the dance troupe, my friends and I really enjoyed watching it.  And eating the wings.  JL’s feta puffed pastries were pretty great too.  Sorry WW, but I think we’ll have to try again with your cake balls.  I liked the wine though!

I’ve also decided that next year I’m putting money on the winners.  After all this researching, I’ve become eerily good with my predictions.  But I would have lost everything on Best Picture and Director.   I thought James Cameron would win “Best Director” for Avatar, and Precious for “Best Picture.”  Much to my surprise when The Hurt Locker won both!  It think it’s great for feminism and everything, but whether the movie deserves it remains to be seen.

Thanks it for now!  Comment please and get ready for The Broadway Melody..and sound…
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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Home Wings vs. Store Bought--The battle begins...

As anyone who knew me in college will know, I have an incredible fondness for wings.  Strangely enough, however, I hadn’t even considered it for a recipe until a good friend (thanks SFR*) recommended it.  I know, I’m slow on the uptake.  But I’d never considered wings because they seemed to me to be one of those things you just don’t make on your own from scratch.  Like pizza, or funnel cake.  But it turns out they are surprisingly easy to make, and just as delicious.  To make sure I didn’t end up hungry (and disappointing my hungry friends), I decided to make two different types of wings, and then order two types of wings from THE BEST WINGS PLACE EVER.  Yes, for those of you who went to college in Boston, you may have heard of Wing It, my absolute favorite place for drunk food.  Wing It has wings of any type or flavor, and amazing fries.  I’ve definitely spent the end of many an ill-advised night there.  Could my wings compete?  I’ll let my friends be the judge.

Wings Recipe # 1: Honey Mustard Wings


You’ll need:
5 chicken wings, rinsed and patted dry
1/2 cup mild honey
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 ½ tsp butter, melted
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. You can buy chicken wings already cut and ready from any major grocery store.  I got Perdue chicken, but it’s entirely up to you what chicken to buy.  Place the rinsed and now dry wings in a shallow baking dish.
  3. Mix honey, mustard, salt and butter together and pour over wings.
  4. Bake for 1 hour, turning them half-way through.  They’re done when they appear browned, but just make sure they don’t burn.  You can save the extra sauce and pour over the wings.
Wings Recipe # 2: Garlic Pepper Wings

You’ll need:
5 chicken wings rinsed and patted dry
1 egg
2 tbsp milk
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup canola oil
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tbsp lemon juice
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Set aside.
  2. In a small bowl whisk together egg and milk. In a larger bowl combine flour and 1 tsp salt.
  3. Dip wings in egg mixture then transfer to the flour to coat. Transfer to the baking tray and allow to set for 15 minutes.
  4. Drizzle the wings with canola oil. Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Turn and cook for another 15 – 20 minutes or until browned and cooked through.
  5. Meanwhile, while your wings are cooking, in a large bowl whisk together olive oil, white wine vinegar, minced garlic, pepper, remaining salt, lemon and garlic powder. Let sit at room temperature for about 25 – 30 minutes to let the flavors mingle.
  6. Once wings are cooked, use tongs to transfer hot wings to bowl with garlic pepper mixture. Toss to coat.
Who Won?
 
To be honest, they were all pretty good.  From Wing It, I ordered the old standby, Buffalo wings, and my favorite, Boneless Honey BBQ wings.  I do love my boneless wings, but because I baked rather than fried the other wings, I believe I like them better than the buffalo ones.  I served them all with Bleu cheese dressing and celery.  The Honey Mustard wings were simple, and so easy to make.  They also reminded me of how I have normally had wings in the past, with a different twist.  The Garlic Pepper wings were completely different, having been breaded in flour.  They scared off JC, who thought the garlic chucks looked a little weird.  WW was a little more open minded, and she actually thought those were her favorite.  I like the way they were crunchy and had some texture.

In the end, I learned that making wings is as easy as making a chicken breast.  And if I bake them I’m probably saving myself unknown calories (or at least that’s what I tell myself.)  Remember to bring the wet naps though, the Honey Mustard ones were particularly sticky!  And watch out for the bleu cheese, it tends to make a mess when you’re not paying attention…


*To protect their privacy, I’ll refer to my friends by their initials.
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Wings

 "Small town 1917 - Youth and dreams of youth."
-Opening Title Card from Wings

I take it all back.  No more silent films!  I actually prefer Sunrise now, after having seen Wings.  Okay, okay, it could have been worse.  The plot did move a lot faster than Sunrise’s did.  There were enough cheap thrills to keep me engaged.  But—I will explain myself.  Picture any generic war movie.  Saving Private Ryan, Braveheart, Top Gun even Forrest Gump will do.  In particular, I would like to use Pearl Harbor.  So, picture Pearl Harbor.  Now remove all the sound and color. Replace the sound with one continuous score where an organ is the only instrument.  And then, any time there is any narration or dialogue in the script, insert a title card.  Now drag it out for 140 minutes.  I don’t think I’m intellectual enough for this.

The Plot:
We begin in small town America, where two young men are getting ready to enlist in World War I.  Jack, played by Charles “Buddy” Rogers, is eager to leave, having wanted to be a pilot his whole life.  David, played by Richard Arlen, is more somber, but believes this is right thing to do.  Both are in love with the prettiest girl in town, Sylvia, though she has eyes only for David, who is from the wealthiest family in town.  Meanwhile, Jack’s neighbor, Mary, played by Clara Bow, is desperately in love with Jack, though he doesn’t realize it.  Before they leave Sylvia, played by Jobyna Ralston, is preparing to give David a locket with her picture, but Jack gets there first, tells her he loves her, and takes the locket, thinking she meant it for him.  Afterwards, Sylvia apologizes to David and explains that she felt bad for Jack.  But while he may have the locket, David has her heart.  Mary attempts to give her picture to Jack, but is saddened by the way he simply pats her on the head and waves farewell.

Both boys head to training, and though Jack hates David at first, they become best friends after they beat each other up.  Men.  Anyway, the two best friends fly through danger and death, honored with medals and becoming famous pilots.  Meanwhile Mary has joined up as well, and is driving a truck with medical supplies to the various camps in France.  While stopped in Paris, she hears that Jack is there on leave but that all the men are being immediately recalled for one “final push.”  Worried that Jack won’t hear and be court-martialed, Mary searches the bars in Paris until she finds Jack and David, drunk on champagne with their arms around loose women.  Jack doesn’t recognize her (because his vision is blurry and all he sees are bubbles) so Mary decides to change into a sparkly flapper dress and see if that will attract him.  It does and she manages to get him to his room where he passes out.  She unbuttons his shirt and sees the locket with Sylvia’s picture, which upsets her further.  She starts to change behind a screen back into her uniform, but his commanding officers open the door and see her changing, leap to all the wrong conclusions, and cause her to be discharged.


Later, it is the final push for the Allies, and David charges Jack with bringing his things home to his mother, convinced he will not make it.  He tucks letters into his jacket bearing love from Sylvia while Jack insists he is crazy.  Jack then says that he wants to be straight with his friend and shows him the locket, claiming that he and Sylvia are in love.  As he shows the locket, he drops it, and the picture flies out.  David hastily grabs it and asks to put it back in, so that Jack won’t see the inscription to David.  Jack refuses, and David rips it up rather than hurt his friend.  Jack runs out in a rage, angry at David.  They fly, and David is shot down.  Jack is riddled by guilt and sorrow and the next day hunts Germans with a fierce determination.  Unfortunately, he ends up shooting down his best friend, who, having survived his crash, had stolen a German plane and attempted to fly back to safety.  Jack cradles his friend in his arms as David dies telling him not to blame himself.

Jack goes through David’s possesions, realizes the truth about Sylvia, and heads home to deliver his things to David’s parents.  There is a parade in Jack’s honor, but the only thing he cares about is forgiveness from David’s parents, which they grant.  He goes home, finds Mary and realizes he loved her all along.  They stare up at the stars and kiss, planning their future.


The History:
Wings won Academy Awards for “Best Picture, Production,” and for “Best Engineering Effects.”  It is one of only three films in the history of the Academy Awards to win for “Best Picture” but not even be nominated for “Best Director.”  It was a major box office success at the time, largely because of a fad for aviation perpetuated by Charles Lindbergh.  The movie was praised for its realistic aviation scenes, and actually both actors flew their own planes in the movie.  Richard Arlen was a real pilot in World War I, but when he flew for the movie he and Buddy Rogers had to fly, act and operate the camera all at the same time.  Richard Arlen met and ended up marrying his onscreen love interest, Jobyna Ralston, in 1927.  Despite the number of air crafts in the air, there were only two incidents, one involving the injury of a stuntman and the other a fatal injury for a United States Army Air Corps consultant.  Wings has faded very far into the past, and is actually one of two “Best Picture” films that is still not on DVD.  Though it is now considered the sole winner of the “Best Picture” award of 1927 by most critics and historians, it is mainly remembered for launching the career of film star, Clara Bow.  The movie is also notable for its first onscreen male-on-male kiss (albeit in friendship) and for its nudity (you can see Clara Bow’s breasts for an instant while she’s changing.)

The Verdict?

Like Sunrise, I had to watch this film in 10 minute clips on YouTube.com.  Yes, someone actually found a way to upload Wings onto YouTube.  I would like to meet this person.  So that in itself is a little irritating.  On the positive side, the plot did move a lot faster than Sunrise.  I was slightly more interested in the plot line, and the love triangle was fun.  So was Clara Bow, and it was interesting to see one of the biggest sex symbols of the 1920s play the girl next door.  I can also appreciate, if you were in the audience in 1927, how exciting it would be to see actual planes flying.  It’s still exciting to realize that there are no green screens or computer effects, and the shots of the actors flying planes are real.

HOWEVER

This movie was over two hours long.  That’s over two hours of an organ playing.  Two hours of title cards instead of dialogue.  And this is also coming from the girl who fast forwarded through the battle scenes in Braveheart.  I’m not extremely interested in battle scenes.  In Sunrise, I believe that the silent film aspect actually added to the film itself.  I couldn’t imagine a talking version, or if I could, there just wouldn’t be that much dialogue.  But this movie would be so much easier to watch if there was actual sound.  I mean, picture a war movie without even sound effects!  But at least I have become very good at reading lips.  And the guys were cute.  So I guess that’s something.  But that’s it!  No more silent films.  My next movies with have sound.  And no organs.  Can’t stand the organs.

The bright side would be the food I got to make for this movie…

PS:  And this is a side note:  Can anyone else who's seen this movie comment on whether you thought the bro-love was a little intense?   I mean I understand David is dying, but the mouth on mouth was a little much.  And look at that picture up there.  Don't just think the two guys have the best chemistry over all?  Just saying.
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Monday, March 8, 2010

What else...Popcorn!

What’s the best movie snack ever?  Day old rotating pretzels? Nope.  Gross nachos with artificial cheese?  Absolutely not!  I think you know where this is heading…Popcorn!

Popcorn actually became popular around the turn of the century because it could be bought so cheaply.  People would buy popcorn from street vendors and attempt to sneak the food into the movie theaters to enjoy during the movies (clearly not much has changed.)  Movie theater owners did not appreciate this, but popcorn was difficult to make as it required the corn to be popped in a wire cage over flame.  A man named Charles Cretors, however, came up with a solution.  He created and patented the first portable popcorn machine utilizing a steam engine in 1893.  After 1912, popcorn was the staple snack food in movie theaters across the country.

Movie goers be warned—popcorn at theaters is not the healthy snack it is at home.  According to a study done by the Center for Science in the Public Interest in the mid-90s, “Movie Popcorn” is incredibly bad for you.  Because they use coconut oil to pop the corn and then top it with butter or margarine, “a medium size popcorn contains more fat than a breakfast of bacon and eggs, a Big Mac and fries, and a steak dinner combined.”  A large popcorn contains as much saturated fat as six Big Macs and with butter, eight.  Anyone else hate themselves right about now?

Luckily for us, there is a solution!  Sneak in your own popcorn!  Well…maybe not.  But if you want to have some at home try these recipes for a twist on an old idea.  Also—pop your own popcorn!  I swear it’s so much easier than it sounds!

First Step:  Pop the Corn.

I know, I know, this is what microwaves were made for.  But humor me for a second.  If you are still inwardly cringing at the nutrition facts above, popping your own corn allows you to decide just how many saturated fats you are letting into your snack.  And it’s actually surprisingly easy.

You’ll need:
½ cup of popcorn kernels
3 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
  1. Grab a large pot with a lid, and add the oil to the bottom.
  2. Turn the heat on high, and put three kernels in the pot.
  3. When the first one pops, add half a cup of kernels and put the lid on.
  4. Wait until there are 2-3 seconds in between pops before taking the popcorn off the heat.  Enjoy!

Cheesy Popcorn
For something different, try this trick.

You’ll need:
Around 8 cups of popped popcorn
1-2 tbsps olive oil
1/3 cup finely shredded parmesan cheese (think the powdery kind)
Kosher Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste.
  1. After you pop the corn, drizzle the oil and toss to coat.
  2. Add the cheese and toss again.  I find it helps if you use a bowl with a lid and shake it up.  Tin foil works too.
  3. Add kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper if you want a little kick.  That’s it!  Pretty easy, huh…

Black and White Popcorn
I got this recipe from http://thewholekitchen.wordpress.com/2010/02/20/black-and-white-popcorn/.  I thought it might be fun to try something new, and I love anything covered in chocolate.  I would be careful though, this popcorn is very rich; I could only eat a little at a time.  So enjoy with friends!

You’ll need:
Around 8 cups air popped popcorn
3 tbsps butter
2 ½ tbsps brown sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon
1 ½ tbsps good quality cocoa powder
¼ tsp kosher salt
  1. Melt the butter, cocoa powder, brown sugar and butter in small bowl in the microwave on low. Watch it carefully so that it doesn’t burn or bubble over.
  2. Stir with a spoon to meld everything together. When the sugar and butter have melted together, drizzle over the popped corn, and toss quickly to coat.

My favorite recipe?  A little oil and a lot of garlic salt.  Low in calories and super yummy.  But the lesson here:  definitely pop your own corn.  And avoid movie popcorn unless you want a heart attack.
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