Brother, Can You Spare 3 Million Dollars?

November 20, 2008

I had forgotten how much I liked Rain Man. Dustin Hoffman, I can’t think of a better actor the last half of the 20th Century. Hoffman knocks it out of the park almost every time. Here his Raymond is a grand slam. Tom Cruise, whom I rarely like (I think this one, Jerry Maguire and his cameo in Tropic Thunder are the only times he’s not too insufferable) is terrific here. Cruise truly embodies the yuppie greed is good 80’s guy. I really love the scene where Charlie remembers who Raymond was. It’s a powerful piece of acting. Rain Man deserved to win. Lightweight year though: also nominated–Working Girl, The Accidental Tourist, Dangerous Liaisons & Mississippi Burning.

Rain Man the winner for 1988, is like the classiest road trip movie ever made. The car Raymond and Charlie take on the road is probably the coolest car ever. I kept wondering how much gas did it need to run. And would it run on unleaded? I don’t know a thing about cars except when they’re pretty. This one was pretty. But everything in this movie was pretty, even the twenty dollar flea bag motel had really amazing old-fashioned to die for wallpaper. The Babbitt’s hotel suite at Caesar’s Palace in Vegas is pretty snazzy. Gaudy, yes, but snazzy. The Vegas scenes were interesting too: probably every hotel/casino they filmed exteriors at in 1988 (only 20 years ago) has been torn down to build Bigger, Better, Bolder hotels.

It was clever of the screewriters to give characters the name Babbitt. Perhaps it’s an homage to the Sinclair Lewis novel of the same name (From Wikipedia: Babbitt, first published in 1922, is a novel by Sinclair Lewis. Largely a satire of American culture, society, and behavior, its main theme focuses on the power of conformity, and the vacuity of middle-class American life.) Somewhat fitting, no? The only scene in this movie that I don’t like is the rather famous coming down the escalator wearing matching outfits scene. It looks like an updated Diane Arbus photo, only creepier (if that’s possible). Oh, FYI, counting cards is not illegal.

Rain Man is set in many places, but two of the most predominant locales were Cincinnati and Las Vegas–specifically Caesar’s Palace, so for fun we made chili Cincy style and a nice lemony Caesar’s salad.

Cincinnati Chili Recipe

  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 1 pound extra-lean ground beef
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon red (cayenne) pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa or 1/2 ounce grated unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 (15-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water

1 (16-ounce) package uncooked dried spaghetti (I used corn spaghetti)

In a large frying pan over medium-high heat, saute onion, ground beef, garlic, and chili powder until ground beef is slightly cooked. Add allspice, cinnamon, cumin, cayenne pepper, salt, unsweetened cocoa or chocolate, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, cider vinegar, and water. Reduce heat to low and simmer, uncovered, 1 1/2 hours. Remove from heat.

Cook spaghetti according to package directions and transfer onto individual serving plates (small oval plates are traditional).

Ladle chili over spaghetti and serve with toppings of your choice. Oyster crackers are served in a separate container on the side.

Dont use this much cheese!

Don't use this much cheese!

for the salad:


  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 4 to 6 cups torn romaine
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese


For dressing, combine the first seven ingredients in a blender; cover and process until blended. Place romaine in a salad bowl. Drizzle with desired amount of dressing; sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and toss to coat. Refrigerate any remaining dressing.

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