Archive for August, 2008

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Soul Man

August 26, 2008

1982 was a great year for movies, really one of the best.  It’s certainly up there with 1939 and 1994. Tootsie, An Officer and a Gentleman, ET: The Extra-Terrestrial, My Favorite Year, Sophie’s Choice–all of these great 1982 movies, any one of them would have been a decent choice for Best Picture.  But this was the year of the great man and the great performance: Mahatma Gandhi and Sir Ben Kingsley.  This is the first time I’ve seen this movie, and even though I’ve seen plenty of films with Sir Ben, Kingsley’s performance here is astonishing.  He really is Gandhi. And this is, and I’m surprising myself because I usually don’t like epics,  a really good movie.  I really wish that we could all practice non-violence.  Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Sigh.

Director Richard Attenborough really makes good use of the 3 hours and 20 minutes–that is, it doesn’t seem that long.  You also have to remember this if before all that computer generated wizardry they use these days for special effects.  Those extras are real people.  And there are a lot of extras. A lot.
It sounds funny because 1982 doesn’t seem that long ago to me but, they sure don’t make em like they used to. The massacre scene right before the intermission? Unbelievably good film making.  Attenbourgh deserved his directing Oscar.

One of my recent favorite things while watching these Best Pictures is trying to find a connection between the films.  For example Christopher Walken appears in Annie Hall (1977) and then The Deer Hunter (1978).  I think I discussed the french toast scenes from Kramer Vs Kramer (1979) & Ordinary People (1980) before.  Now with Chariots of Fire (1981) and Gandhi (1982) we have the appearances of Ian Charleson, and he plays religious characters in both films and Sir John Gielgud. –incidentally Gielgud won his Oscar the previous year–for Arthur. Actually Gandhi is pretty much a who’s who of British acting.  Along with Messrs and Sirs Kingsley, Gielgud and Charleson you will also find Trevor Howard, Edward Fox, Ian Bannen, Nigel Hawthorne, Richard Griffiths, John Mills and….as a bonus….One of my old favorite things is spotting actors before they became famous.  Watch the following YouTube clip (please do this, it’s my first one I’ve ever uploaded and it took me forever to figure out how to do it) and pay attention to the tall ruffian.  Who knew that one day that handsome lad would win 2 Oscars of his own, and make drinking milkshakes kind of creepy.

It was a difficult decision about what to make for dinner.  I half-seriously considered doing a fast a la Gandhi but three hours twenty minutes is a really long time for us to go without food and we really enjoy Indian food.  In fact I eschewed the cooking duties because we are fortunate enough to have a really superb Indian Food restaurant, Indian Palace, close by. So we did take out:  Chicken Samosas, Tandori Chicken, Kadai Lamb (my favorite) some spinach rich and some nan.  So I cheated a bit.  So what.  Sue me, put me in jail.  I’d do the same thing again. And again. And again.  Until you see it my way.

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Runnin’ Without the Devil

August 5, 2008


Talk about your good timing, the Olympics start later this week (August 2008 ) and Chariots of Fire takes place mostly during the 1924 Paris Olympics.

This is a very pretty movie, this Chariots of Fire: Great period costumes–I loved the Gilbert & Sullivan scenes, wish there had been more. A somewhat interesting story about two different runners and the path they chose to get to the Olympics and what being the best meant to them. And there are some bits about religion thrown into the mix. It’s based on a true story but after a while watching this movie is like listening to that damn Vangelis theme song( I dare ya to click this link Chariots of Fire) from the movie over and over again. Torture: It’s long and gets longer and its really not that long of a movie (it clocks in at about 2 hours). But the characters are agreeable and its well acted. But, still, another puzzling choice for best picture.

It is amazing though, how cliche that damn Vangelis song has become. You hear the first few notes and you know someone is going to start running:

1981’s other nominees: Reds (blech and talk about dull–I remember renting this movie when it first came out. It was so lengthy it had to put it on two video tape cassettes. I inadvertently watched the second tape first and thought it strange that the credits were plucked into the middle of the film. After figuring out my “mistake”, I watched the first tape. I was better off just watching the last half of the movie), Raiders of the Lost Ark (meh–I’m probably the only one who doesn’t get the whole Indiana Jones thing), On Golden Pond (oh, thank God this didn’t win), Atlantic City t (OK, that would have been a refreshing choice; loved Susan Sarandon with the lemons). There wasn’t anything stellar in the not-nominated category either. 1981 was kind of a boring year, so, I guess why not pick the most boring film as Best Picture. Wait a second, I see what you did there, Academy. Clever.

One highlight I do remember from the 1981 Oscar broadcast was Bette Midler’s presentation for Best Song. Hilarious. If every presenter were this funny, the Oscars wouldn’t be such a snore and/or ratings loser. I wish the clip was on YouTube or somewhere else, but alas, the Academy hasn’t posted it there, and they’re being a little stingy about clips–they removed my Rob Lowe and Snow White lip (but I got it back, for now). Stinkers.

For dinner we went healthy and English and a little Jewish. Yep, according to Wikipedia Fish and chips came to England with the Spanish and Portuguese Jews in the 17th and 18th centuries. But Fish & chips are not the most healthy of things to eat. Espcially not for runners or people watching a movie about runners, so, from Men Health UK a lightened up version of Fish & Chips

I didn’t use haddock, I used cod, which was really lovely.

MH fish and chips (serves 4)

You will need

A heavy bottom skillet and a cooking thermometer
175g all-purpose flour
3 tbsp cornstarch
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
200ml sparkling water
1 egg white
550g haddock fillets
4 Desiree potatoes
400ml grapeseed oil
A heavy bottom skillet and a cooking thermometer
175g all-purpose flour
3 tbsp cornstarch
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
200ml sparkling water
1 egg white
550g haddock fillets
4 Desiree potatoes
400ml grapeseed oil

Mix the flour, cornstarch and salt in a bowl large enough to accommodate the fish fillets later. Measure 3 tbsp of the flour mixture and stick them on a plate. Add the baking powder, cold fizzy water and egg white to the bowl mix. Stir, but don’t go mad on the mixing. Lumpy batter is fine. In fact, use a chop stick to stir so you don’t overdo it.

Pour the grapeseed oil into a heavy-bottomed pot. Make sure it’s no more than a third full. Now heat the oil to 190˚C degrees (use the digital thermometer). Pre-heat the oven to 180˚C. Rinse a fillet then pat dry with a paper towel. Season then coat with the flour you kept aside. Now dip the fish in the batter mix. You may need to add a bit more water to the batter if it’s too thick to coat the fish When the oil is at 190˚C, lower the fish in. It will spit, so wear an oven glove and use tongs. Fry the fillet for 4 minutes, 2 minutes each side. When it’s done, place on a greased baking sheet and tuck it in the oven to keep warm. Allow the oil to reheat for a minute before adding the next fillet. Reduce the heat of the oil to 175˚C then add the chips a handful at a time, frying for 4 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a bowl lined with a paper towel. Take the fish out of the oven and serve your culinary tour de force with a wedge of lemon.

We didn’t make the chips portion. Instead we grilled some vegetables (mushrooms, fennel, cherry tomatoes, zucchini & baby eggplant) on skeweres until done.