Archive for the ‘old movies’ Category


He’s the Rootinest Tootinest Cowboy in the Wild, Wild West

December 28, 2008

unforgivenI’m mad at Clint Eastwood. I’ve gone on record as being non-western loving. Never saw one I really liked. Certainly not 1931’s snore-fest Cimarron or 1990’s new-agey fakery that is Dances With Wolves. And when it comes to answering movie trivia questions, be it the cool game Scene It or the quiz show Jeopardy! I always cross my fingers and hope that it won’t be a question about westerns, because I don’t like them, so I don’t know much about them. And I know everything about movies (so people who play these games with me think). Well, along comes 1992’s Unforgiven. And, take a deep breath, I liked it. A lot. Clint Eastwood spins a damn good yarn. I think it helped that the women in the story weren’t so school marmy. These prostitutes were the straw that stirred this drink. And the acting was great, too. Morgan Freeman is wonderful, as always. And nobody plays a better more evil, more fun villain than Gene Hackman –see Bonnie and Clyde or, especially, his Lex Luther in the 1970’s era Superman. He won a best supporting actor Oscar for Unforgiven bravo, Gene!. So now there’s a western that I like. Thanks, Clint.

Also nominated in 1992: The Crying Game, A Few Good Men, Howards End (great movie), Scent of a Woman (winner of the Golden Globe for best picture that year. Snerk. Foreign press guys who rule the Golden Globes, you slay me.)

I also should take the time to thank Clint Eastwood for his marvelous Mission Ranch Inn in Carmel, California. We stayed there on our San Francisco trip about 3 summers ago. It’s a great place to take the kids. Old fashioned, rustic and beautiful. Great piano bar, too.


In honor of our first Clint Eastwood best picture (Million Dollar Baby is coming up) we went with his old genre for dinner. The Spaghetti Western. And for dessert, in honor of the prostitutes, we had lemon and cranberry tarts.

Spaghetti Western

  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • Salt
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan
  • 3 slices smoky bacon, chopped
  • 1 pound ground sirloin
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 to 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • Ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 cup beer
  • 1 (14-ounce) can, chopped or crushed fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 (8-ounces) can, tomato sauce
  • 8 ounces sharp Cheddar
  • 4 scallions, chopped


Heat a pot of water to a boil. Add spaghetti and salt the water. Cook to al dente or with a bite to it.

Heat a deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil and bacon. Brown and crisp bacon, 5 minutes, remove with a slotted spoon. Drain off a little excess fat if necessary. Leave just enough to coat the bottom of the skillet. Add beef and crumble it as it browns, 3 to 4 minutes. Add onions, garlic and stir into meat. Season the meat with salt and pepper, hot sauce and Worcestershire. Add 1/2 cup beer and deglaze the pan. Cook 5 to 6 minutes more then stir in tomatoes and tomato sauce.

Add hot spaghetti to meat and sauce and combine. Adjust seasonings and serve up pasta in shallow bowls. Grate some cheese over the pasta and sprinkle with scallions. Garnish with crisp bacon


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.


The Big Nipple

November 11, 2008


“If New York is the Big Apple, tonight Hollywood is the Big Nipple.”–Bernard Bertolucci on being presented with an Academy Award for The Last Emperor.

So, no, I’m not pandering for more blog hits (ok,maybe, I am, a little) by having a salacious title, I’m just quoting the film’s director.

The Last Emperor looks and feels like the prototypical Oscar winning movie: it’s quite beautiful to look at, lots of different stuff happens over a long period of time, it examines a life of someone who sounds important. But Pu Yi (the last emperor of China) wasn’t important. He was just the last guy. He was somewhat puppet-like. And kind of dull. And mean to mice. But the 60 year old cricket was cool. The film opens in the location of Manchuria, right near the Russian border. I couldn’t help but think that the Chinese could see Russia from their backyard and what a difference that makes. You betcha, just ask Sarah Palin.

The Last Emperor has a plus for every minus. It was filmed in The Forbidden City (the first Western movie to have that honor) It’s long (almost 3 hours). Peter O’Toole shows up for a while and that’s nice. The film looks like it was edited with an Ipod shuffle: the time sequences go back and forth too much. I like my movies to be a bit more linear. I’m looking at you La Vie En Rose.

Is The Last Emperor somewhat overblown? Yep. Should this one have won the top prize for 1987? Probably not. I would have given it to Moonstruck. Or Hope and Glory. Or Broadcast News. But not Fatal Attraction : talk about being overblown.

For dinner we went with a tried and true Sweet and Sour Chicken Chunk recipe that I’ve made for years. This is from a Reader’s Digest cookbook my mom gave to me when I was first married. I always wondered if they condensed the recipes and if so, what did they leave out? Anyway this is one of our favorite recipes and so easy!

  • 1 pound of boneless and skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
  • 1 egg white
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (1/4 teaspoon table salt)
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 10-ounce can pineapple chunks (reserve juice)
  • 1/4 cup juice from the canned pineapple
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2-3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon peanut oil
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrots
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1 In a bowl, combine the chicken with the egg white, salt and cornstarch. Stir to coat the chicken evenly. Let sit for 15 minutes at room temperature or up to overnight in the refrigerator.

2 In the meantime, whisk together the pineapple juice, vinegar, ketchup, salt, and brown sugar.

3 Heat a large frying pan or wok over high heat until a bead of water instantly sizzles and evaporates. Pour in the 1 tablespoon of peanut oil and swirl to coat. Add the chicken and spread the chicken out in one layer. Let the chicken fry, untouched for 1 minute, until the bottoms are browned. Flip and fry the other side the same for 1 minute. The chicken should still be pinkish in the middle. Dish out the chicken onto a clean plate, leaving as much oil in the pan as possible.

4 Turn the heat to medium and add the remaining 1 teaspoon of peanut oil. Let the oil heat up and then add the vegetables and ginger. Fry for 1 minute. Add the pineapple chunks and the sweet and sour sauce. Turn the heat to high and when the sauce is simmering, add the chicken pieces back in. Let simmer for 1-2 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Timing depends on how thick you’ve cut your chicken. The best way to tell if the chicken is done is to take a piece out and cut into it. If it’s pink, add another minute to the cooking.

Serve with Jasmine Rice


Hearts of Darkness, Faces of Babies

November 3, 2008

I can’t tell which kind of movie the Academy preferred more, war movies (All Quiet on the Western Front, From Here to Eternity, Patton) or movies with no female speaking parts (Lawrence of Arabia) I’m guessing that the Academy must have done cartwheels when Oliver Stone added 1986’s. Platoon to the war waging and no English speaking female parts pot. And they should have. Platoon is very good, very brutal, very well written (well, Oliver Stone has been generously rewarded for his talent of spinning a pretty good yarn) and excellently cast: Willem Dafoe and Tom Berenger are both superb–and both nominated for the best supporting actor award (losing out to Michael Caine in Hannah and Her Sisters) as the Sgts. of good (Dafoe) and evil (Berenger). I love that Stone later cast them both in his Vietnam follow-up film, Born on the 4th of July only with Dafoe being the evil character and Berenger being the good. Also in this cast is 2006’s best actor Academy Award winner, a baby faced Forest Whittaker, also major motion oicture star, super baby-faced Johnny Depp and a whole lot of actors who we now see regularly on American TV: baby-faced Charlie Sheen (Two and a Half Men), a youngish John McGinley (Scrubs), a baby-faced Kevin Dillon (Entourage) and an even more baby faced Mark Moses (Mad Men). It was quite the treat for me to see Mark Moses, too. Mad Men is my absolute favorite show right now. It’s sooooo great. If you haven’t seen it yet, try to watch it–it’s on Sunday’s on the AMC channel.

Unfortunately, last night my copy of Platoon was not working properly in my DVD player so Jim had to go out to, ew, Blockbuster and rent the DVD. Coincidentally while I waited for him to come back, I watched the tail end of the aforementioned Born on the 4th of July.

Platoon also marks a somewhat important personal milestone for me. This was the first Oscar winning movie I saw in a theater–or more correctly since I’m now dating (later to marry) a true Chicago guy –at the show with , that much beloved last minute Blockbuster DVD fetcher and semi-irregular commentator, Jim. Either I’m getting old or this project is almost finished. Ok, both. Sigh.

For dinner I attempted to cook a Vietnamese pork thing that I found at the Food and Wine website, But it turned out horrible and too hot so I’m not going to post the recipe. All told this really was not a good night for the Oscars in Order crew. Although giving credit where credit is due, Jim did grill the pork chops perfectly. So, kudos to him. What he wont do to watch a brutal war movie…..or eat pork.


I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Into My Hair

October 15, 2008

1985’s best, Out of Africa is the first female driven epic best picture since 1939’s Gone With the Wind. And, boy is it ever girly. The costumes are beautiful: they look like they’re straight out of a J. Peterman catalogue. Meryl Streep is at the height of her beauty and her accent derring-do. Out of Africa came after her spot-on Polish accent in Sophie’s Choice, her spot-on English accent in Plenty and a couple of years before her spot-on dingo-eating-baby Australian accent. Her Danish accent here is, shocker, spot-on (add a little German to a little Swedish and you’ve got Danish, I think).

Oh my God, according to this movie, did Isak Dinesen ever have a great love like. Ok, sure her philandering husband gave her syphilis and rendered her barren, but what does she get as a reward? dreamy Robert Redford adventurous Denys Finch-Hatton who not only didn’t care about the syphilis but also in what is–according to me– one of the most sensual scenes ever, washes her hair for her. Yowza.

This whole movie is visually stunning: the aerial photography is goose-bump inducing. The recently departed Sydney Pollock definitely deserved his director’s Oscar for this. 1985 was a pretty good year for chick flicks from manly directors–John Huston gave us Prizzi’s Honor (tough killer chick) and Speilberg went all serious with his The Color Purple (don’t get me started on how much I hate this movie. Long story short: Great, great book–crappy, crappy movie. But props to Whoopi Goldberg for a nice job as the abused and then empowered Celie).

Great bit of dialogue from Out of Africa: “It’s too cold for champagne.” “It’s too cold for anything else.” So, we sipped some champagne while watching Meryl weave stories, plant coffee trees, wear amazing dresses, tote around her best china and stemware, avoid getting attacked by a girl lion, and everything else.

Out of Africa was kind of a food dilemma for me. Danish cuisine? Kenyan cuisine. We did both and we had ourselves an intercontinental feast. We ate:

Duck Confit Nachos:

very easy and elegant appetizer. I bought some frozen Charlie Trotter (fancy!) duck confit legs from Costco and prepared them according to directions (boil for about a half hour) and used some Harvarti Cheese (it’s Danish!)

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Arrange the chips across a large ovenproof platter or baking sheet. Top with the duck confit and cheese. Arrange the onions and jalapenos over the cheese and bake until the cheese is melted and bubbling and the mixture is hot, 6 to 8 minutes.

Remove from the oven and top with Salsa and sour cream. Garnish with additional cilantro and serve immediately with lime wedges.

For dinner Jim grilled chicken legs with his version of Morroccan spices (salt pepper, cumin, cinnamon). For a vegetable we prepared a Sukuma wiki, Swahili for “stretch the week,” is a ubiquitous Kenyan dish. Nutritious and tasty.

4-6 portions
  • Oil or fat — 3 tablespoons–I used Danish butter
  • Onion, chopped or minced — 1
  • Kale or collard greens, destemmed and finely chopped — 2 pounds
  • Tomatoes, chopped — 2 cups
  • Water or stock — 1 cup
  • Salt and pepper — to taste

for dessert we had these tasty cookies



Eat My Pantaloons

September 17, 2008

What a treat for the senses is Amadeus.  Beautiful to look at: Amadeus was filmed in Milos Forman’s home country, Czechoslovakia–mostly in Prague.  Because preserved examples from all periods of its history were readily available–other European cities had become too modern.  An old European city is a beautiful thing.  Plus there are  some scenes filmed in the actual opera houses that premiered Mozart’s operas.  Speaking of which,  the music is just completely gorgeous to listen to–Obviously I’m not the biggest classical music fan,  just a taste of it is great. The taste here is a feast.  We pretty much spent most of the day listening to our one and only Mozart cd.  Which we got for free.

Great acting in this movie. Milos Forman did a great job of casting some semi-obscure American actors who do a bang-up job.  The only one who had any sort of prior major screen role was Tom Hulce, who was Larry in Animal House six years prior. Hulce’s Mozart laugh is completely contagious; his bratty behavior, wonderful.   Elizabeth Berridge who played Constanze,  was a last minute replacement for Meg Tilly, was a complete film novice.   My Facebook friend, a very young Christine Ebersole makes an appearance as Salieri’s and Mozart’s Diva.  And although he is the guy hung from the helicopter in the Brian DePalma Scarface F. Murray Abraham (Salieri) was perhaps best known as TV commercial actor (he wasa talking leaf in a series of television commercials for Fruit of the Loom underwear). Thanks to Amadeus, he is an Oscar winner. Interesting lives these actors have.

For dinner we went with that other Wolfgang, Wolfgang Puck (he’s also Austrian) and a classic–Goulash with spaetzle( little Austrian dumplings)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 cups onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sugar
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon caraway seeds, toasted and ground
1 1/2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 teaspoon spicy paprika
2 tablespoons minced fresh marjoram leaves
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 cups chicken stock
2 1/2 pounds beef shank, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1. In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the onions and sugar until caramelized. Add the garlic and caraway seed. Cook another minute.

2. Add the sweet and sharp paprika, marjoram, thyme and bay leaf. Sauté another minute, until fragrant.

3. Add the tomato paste. Deglaze with the vinegar and the stock and add the pieces of beef shank, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook until very tender, about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

4. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.

Prepare Spaetzle according to package directions

Serve with spaetzle on the side

For our choice of beverage we had a nice Weiss beer from Austria and a Czech beer called Rebel.  Very nice

While out shopping for the spaetzle I found these Mozart chocolates at a local European market.  They’re not exactly the “Nipples of Venus” Salieri feeds to Constanze, but they were close.


Houston, We Have A Female Problem Here!

September 8, 2008

I loved, loved, loved Terms of Endearment when it came out in 1983. I laughed, I cried, I cheered when it won Best Picture and Best Actress for Shirley Maclaine (but I thought at the time that the award should have gone to the “turbulently brilliant” Debra Winger: I still do). and all it’s other various and sundry awards.  James L. Brooks! Jack Nicholson! Time,  however, has not really been that kind to Terms.  It kinda looks like a “women’s picture” from the 30’s or 40’s.  Sort of a tragic Awful Truth or a comic Now, Voyager.  Something that a Bette Davis or Irene Dunne would have, um done.  But this is the 1980’s and Terms of Endearment is the ultimate Chick Flick.

Other films from 1983:  The Right Stuff (probably should have won), The Big Chill (blech), Silkwood (meh). A slim year, that’s for sure.

One of our new traditions is before watching the movie we watch a “Simpsons” episode that references the film.  We’ve done this for pretty much every movie since 1970’s Patton.  And I should have been writing these down–but there is a great handy dandy website–Actualidad Simpsons where you can find them. Now you would think that with Terms of Endearment being directed by Simpsons executive producer James L. Brooks, that coming up with a Terms reference would be easy.  Alas, it wasn’t.  We watched an episode that showed a Springfield porn theater marquee displaying “Sperms of Endearment.” Slim reference pickings.

We had a pretty busy day watching the White Sox lose to the Anaheim Angels from Los Angeles California of Anaheim, or whatever their stupid name is, damn them, so we made a pretty easy dinner this time.  with a Texas brisket and some corn on the cob.

3 oz. bottle liquid smoke
5 to 6 lb. beef brisket
1 bottle “Cooks BBQ sauce”
Celery salt
Onion salt
Garlic salt
Salt and pepper
Meat tenderizer (optional)
Worcestershire sauce

Pour liquid smoke over brisket and rub on all sides. Sprinkle with celery salt, garlic salt, onion salt and meat tenderizer. Place brisket in refrigerator covered with foil. Leave overnight. When ready to bake, sprinkle both sides of beef with salt, pepper and a little Worcestershire sauce. Bake covered 5 hours in 275 oven. Uncover meat and pour about 1/2 bottle BBQ sauce over it and continue baking 1 hour uncovered. Remove meat; remove fat from juices. Add flour to thicken the juice. Then add more BBQ sauce, if desired. Serve with the sliced brisket. Allow brisket to cool before slicing; slice thin across the grain.

And we just roasted the Iowa-representing corn, in foil for about 1/2 an hour. A quick word about the corn: We picked it up a Chicago’s great Green City Market, the best farmer’s market, ever.  We went there Wednesday to see the Top Chef tour.  We saw Dale (season3) and Stephanie (season 4) cook! live! in a trailer!