Category Archives: Movies & Meals
Someday, someday I say, I will learn how to type an accent with my keyboard and it won’t look like this: Les Mise’rables. That’s an apostrophe not an accent. Am I right? Am I blind? Am I hungry? Nope, I just ate a bowl of Les wonderful soup.
This is the second to last Best Picture nominee post and it has been a tough one! There were too many options for this movie and I couldn’t narrow it down to something easy and yummy without some contemplation.
On the way home from our weekend getaway, Jy (Mr. Movie Fuel) gave me plenty of fun ideas. My favorite? Les Fisherables. Really? Les Fisherables? After discussing the possibility of injecting a baguette with wine and brie, Jy stumbled onto the fact that French Onion Soup was too, a meal of the poor. Bingo! I’m poor, so it sounded like a match made in heaven.
As we all know, plenty of chefs have had their hands on French Onion Soup and have classed up the beefy pot quite a bit. I’m doubting the French who rose up against the aristocracy were preparing their soups with organic croutons, Gruyère and sherry. I’m thinking more along the lines of rotten onions and hopefully some bone broth!
Luckily, I found a recipe that is light on the wallet, good for the body and easy on the cook. I’ve added a slice of french bread into my soup, which is not done in the, as it is meant to be a “clean recipe”. The Gracious Pantry is an awesome site to read about clean eating and find almost any recipe to replace your old, dirty, fat food. Did I just make you drool there? Mmm, old, dirty fat food!
- 4 cups beef broth (I used the organic “Pacific” brand)
- 2 onions
- 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- Parmesan Cheese
- Clean and slice your onions. (Slice them thin!)
- In a soup pot, sauté your onions in the olive oil until they are soft.
- Add beef broth and vinegar to the pot and boil until the liquid has cooked down by approximately half.
- Serve sprinkled with approximately 2 tbsp. parmesan cheese sprinkled over the top.
Again, bread makes the world better, so I’ve added a slice to my soup. Yeah, I’ll suffer the gluten consequences, but who am I to talk of suffering? I never had to diet the way Anne Hathaway did for her role in Les Mis. That, my friends, is suffering. Although her millions of dollars may have soothed her hunger pains. Wait, does cash have carbs?
Before I get going, I’ll let you read about today’s Movie & Munchies film, it is a great Netflix choice!
Life in a Day (2011)
Directed by: You
Have you ever watched the people sitting across from you at a restaurant, hanging out at a park or shopping at the local grocery store? Sometimes, if you’re like me, you will listen to parts of conversations, pay attention to how they interact with others and even make your own assumptions about who they are and what their life might be like. People watching can be fun and fascinating. Discovering similar people and situations wherever you go can be a nice reminder that the world is much smaller than we realize. There are so many others that share the same types challenges, grief, monotony and excitement that comes with life.
In contrast, when we experience people and places that are drastically different from what we are used to, we are also reminded of how the world is much bigger than we think. Travelling out of our immediate community, especially to another country or even watching a movie about cultures different from our own can be a stark reminder that we are just a small being on a giant planet full of rich variety.
In 1992, Baraka, a documentary best described as a global moving painting, demonstrated the vastness of the world through voiceless images of nature and cultural tradition. Mesmerizing and epic, it could take several viewings to truly capture all that the film has to offer. Life in a Day, a new documentary also about life around the globe, has a similar feel. However, where Baraka was filmed by a professional film crew traveling the earth to capture amazing images over a year and a half, Life in a Day was all shot in one day by the subjects of the film, you.
Where Baraka reminds us of how massive the world is, Life in a Day attempts to make a more personal and relatable film. The producers challenged Youtube users around the world to shoot their life for one day and send in the results. July 24, 2010 was the day chosen, at least in part because it was right after the world cup, it was also a Saturday and a full moon. The overwhelming response led to over 80,000 clips that equaled an astounding 45,000 hours of footage from 192 countries, all of which was whittled down by director Kevin Macdonald and film editor Joe Walker to 90 minutes of viewing pleasure.
The theme of the film was simple, show us your life in a typical day. Three questions were also asked: 1) “what is in your pockets,” 2) “what do you love” and 3) “what do you fear.” At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be anything particularly special about the clips, just daily routine for the most part, however, there is something extraordinary about the ordinary. In 2011, with cameras on our phones, the internet at our fingertips and reality shows on every channel, arguably we live in a world where video is overused and people’s lives are overexposed.
Narcissism crosses your mind while watching some of the various clips here, but there seems to be something different about this film, something raw, unfiltered and honest. Life in a Day runs the gamut of some major aspects of life; birth, death, religion, politics, mundane daily rituals, love, loss, fame, violence, celebration, sadness, fear and much more.
What isn’t seen may be the most compelling aspect of the documentary. We are introduced to so many different lives, we leave the film wondering about many of the people whose day is previewed and the outcome of their situations. Did she survive, did he find love, will they be ok with one less family member, what are the rest of their lives like? It’s ok not to know everything, in a way, that is the beauty of the film. While there is nothing groundbreaking here, there is something especially enjoyable about watching the reflection of life through the eyes and experiences of others and that is exactly what Life in a Day is, the ultimate people watchers movie.
I loved watching Life In a Day, it is by no means a perfect movie, but it is hard to stop watching. I actually didn’t plan to sit down and watch, but caught glimpses of the screen and heard some dialogue from my computer chair. I went for a quick seat on the couch to watch a minute or two and didn’t move until after the dvd extras were played at the end. Jy, I mean Movie Fuel, didn’t mention what I found to be totally interesting. That is, the idea for this film came to the director after learning about the Mass Observation Archive Project in Britain.
The Mass Observation Archive specialises in material about everyday life in Britain. It contains papers generated by the original Mass Observation social research organisation (1937 to early 1950s), and newer material collected continuously since 1981. The Archive is in the care of the University of Sussex and is housed in the Library in Special Collections.
It is a museum which holds notes from everyday observers on everything from soccer to Nazis. Really interesting.
For today’s munchies, I wanted to focus on a vegetarian recipe. We’ve all been encouraged to give Meatless Monday a try, an idea which began during World War I for the purpose of “saving for the Army.” Now we know that the mass amounts of meat we consume in the United States is putting serious pressure on resources. I had to close my eyes for a cow slaughtering scene in the film, thus…no burger recipe for this M&M. Instead, I looked to the staples found world wide. Beans, corn, raisins, pita, olive oil and cheese. Don’t fret, Chipotle Pitas are good, they are so good. They sound dull, but they are mind blowing and easier than Kraft Mac & “Cheese.”
- 8 oz. corn (frozen, canned or fresh)
- 15 oz. can dark red kidney beans
- salt & pepper
- garlic powder
- chipotle chili powder
- olive oil
- 1/2 cup shredded cheese (preferrably a white cheese)
- 1/4 cup raisins
- two pitas
Heat a skillet to medium high and drizzle in some olive oil. (If you are patient enough to saute some onions first, this would be where you’d want to do it.) Once the oil is hot, add the corn and beans. Add salt and pepper as you would normally (no measurements, just to your liking.) I used about 1/2 teaspoon of the garlic and chili powders, but again, sprinkle to your liking. If you like lots of spice, be liberal with the chipotle powder. Cook for about 5 minutes and add raisins and cheese. Cook another 2 minutes.
Scoop the mixture into toasted (totally makes a difference) pitas and enjoy!
My pitas were pretty spicy, so I whipped up a Dixie Peach Cooler to cool things down. The kids sucked these babies down, too!
Dixie Peach Cooler
- 1 cup frozen mango
- 1 cup frozen strawberries
- 2 T. ground flax seed
- 2 cups Trader Joe’s Dixie Peach juice
- 1 cup water
- (banana if you’ve got one, I didn’t)
I feel like I should apologize for not blogging yesterday, I was out couponing and catching up on chores. Today totally makes up for a funless Wednesday though! My mom came over to watch the boys while Jy and I hit a matinée showing of Mission Impossible 4. I had called it MI5 in a previous post, oops!
Crazy or not, no one can carry an action movie like Tom Cruise. Once again, he was amazing in this movie. Can you think of another action star as big as Tom Cruise? The only one Jy could think of was Matt Damon (a la Bourne Identity.) Damon just looks old and slow now (We Bought a Zoo). My palms were sweating the whole MI4 experience long, it was just so fun!
Now, on to today’s Movies & Munchies. I’ll let Mr. Movie Fuel do the talking here as we talk about Life Is Beautiful.
Life is Beautiful (1997)
Starring: Roberto Benigni, Nicoletta Braschi and Georgio Cantarini
Directed by Roberto Benigni
Life can be difficult, life can be spectacular. When life is good, we sometimes take much for granted. Moreover, only the most optimistic of us can take the bad times and turn them into something positive.
Perspective and attitude are two of our greatest defense mechanisms when times get tough. Movies for me, are a great source of perspective. During the winter holidays, we are reminded to pay attention to the fruits of life that aren’t materialistic with a film such as, A Christmas Carol or It’s a Wonderful Life.
A positive attitude, especially when faced with adversity, is a great attribute and source of strength in life. Jim Harbaugh, coach of the San Francisco 49ers, often tells the story about how growing up as a poor kid in a small town in Ohio, his father would always accentuate the positive. During the rare occasion when they did have a family car, it was usually a beat up old hooptie on its last wheel, but when they drove it, they got to all be together as a family. Jim’s father John always had a saying that he would yell out, “Who’s got it better than us!?!” and all of the Harbaugh kids would yell out in unison, “Nooobodddyyy….” Neither party said this with even a hint of cynicism, they truly believed that no one had it better than them, mostly because they were able to maintain an attitude of appreciation for what they did have. He’s used this as the mantra for the professional football team he now coaches, a team which was terrible the previous season before he became head coach, but is now being considered a possible super bowl contender after one year of Harbaugh’s contagious spirit and emphasis on being a team to the fullest extent possible.
Attitude is also the title of my favorite poem by Charles Swindoll. The author emphasizes the fact that we can’t always control everything in life that happens to us, but we can control how we react to what happens. Swindoll states, ”I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”
One film that personifies that statement and somehow elegantly blends perspective and attitude into what would otherwise be considered a horrific situation is the Italian picture Life is Beautiful. Part love story, part historical film, part comedy, part family film, part tear-jerking drama, Life is Beautiful has just about everything.
Set in Italy during the 1930′s and 40′s, what begins as a sweet tale of a relationship between a man and a woman is quickly contrasted to a story about survival in a Nazi concentration camp. In an attempt to save his young son from their harsh reality, the same man creates the illusion that the holocaust is all part of a grand game created just for him and the prize for winning that game a real life tank to keep! The first line of the film sets the tone adequately, “This is a simple story… but not an easy one to tell.”
Roberto Benigni, the star, director and writer of Life is Beautiful has often been described as the Italian Charlie Chaplin and he certainly fits the bill. Gifted with both the art of physical comedy and the ability to do something completely unexpected at any moment, Benigni makes you forget you are watching a movie about atrocities in history and envelops your imagination for nearly two hours, while tears roll over your smiling face.
This is not to say that Benigni makes a farce of the holocaust, rather he takes on a daring subject matter and tells it in a way that hasn’t been done before. He manages to demonstrate how hope can exist during the harshest of situations. We also watch as Benigni shows love through self-sacrifice, the ultimate ”hats off” to parental love. Through one of the most extreme situations possible, Benigni uses a loving lense to see through the story of horror and find life’s most precious gift, hope.
In the new year, as we find ourselves in challenging situations, we can either try harder to make a bad thing better or when things become too hard, try not to control the situation and focus more on how we can have a healthy reaction to that which is out of our control. Just maybe, when things are good we can fully appreciate that life is beautiful.
Back to the food…
Have you seen this movie? It’s so wonderful and hard to watch, especially as a parent. Here lies the challenge. How do you pick a food to pair with such a movie? There is no special recipe to go along with a movie like Schindler’s List or The Pianist. I wouldn’t want to disrespect the whole story telling experience of these fwilms by likening them to any other drama you’d want to munch popcorn along with. They are entertaining, but these movies were not made with the sole purpose of entertainment.
Instead, I have pulled my “family” cookbook off the shelf. It is a cookbook that my Aunt Debi put together for Jy and I when we got married. It holds family stories and recipes collected from my Nana (as in banana) and my great grandma, Grandma Ann. They are my Jewish side of the family and the source of homemade and heartfelt, Hebrew recipes.
One of the recipes that has seen much light lately is the Mondelbroit card. My dad has been honing his Mandel Bread (what we call it) skills. Mandel Bread is similar to biscotti. I’d love to share Grandma Ann’s recipes here. While I have not made it yet, I hope you will join me in trying it out soon. According to my dad, it’s not too hard at all. According to me, it’s yummy.
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup sugar
- 6 T. oil
- 1/3 cup finely chopped walnuts
- 1/2 tsp. vanilla or almond extract
- 2 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 2 3/4 cups flour
- cinnamon sugar
Beat eggs and sugar until light. Mix in remaining ingredients. Add sifted flour with baking powder last. Dough should be very soft. Shape two long loaves (with floured hands) directly onto a greased cookie sheet. Loaves should be 3″ wide and only 3/4″ high. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40-50 minutes. Tops should be light brown.
Remove from oven and immediately slice diagonally into 3/8″ wide slices. Place the cookies back on the cookie sheet (cut side up) and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake in oven for 5-7 minutes more.
Come back tomorrow for some Friday food!
The ham is still in the oven, roasting away. I’ll let my very own Mr. Movie Fuel take it away with a modern Christmas-omedy favorite!
National Lampoon’s – Christmas Vacation (1989)
Writer John Hughes has a talent for creating characters that are perfectly imperfect. Their quirks and faults make them funny, but within each of his movies, he seems to create a world full of these people, maybe so they are not alone? There is a certain sentiment he has for the outsider that is most notably demonstrated in films like Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Sixteen Candles and Some Kind of Wonderful. But, I would argue that he is at his best when examining the family dynamic, especially because he has a gift for creating a family out of any group of people who grow to care for each other.
Films like Uncle Buck, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Home Alone and all of the Vacation movies. If you ask anyone, they will argue why one National Lampoon’s Vacation movie is their favorite over another; European Vacation, the original Vacation movie in which they travel to Wally World and some people even love Vegas Vacation(?). Needless to say, each movie has its moments and can be watched multiple times, still drawing out laughs throughout the living room.
My personal favorite is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. I love Christmas and I love the Vacation movies, so it’s the perfect match. And everything about Christmas seems to be included here; tree hunting, mall shopping, decorating the house with lights, the family dinner, advent calendars and gingerbread houses, even reading “The Night Before Christmas,” but of course these are all done in the special Griswold family style of Christmas time fun.
As usual, Chevy Chase drives the movie home with his deadpan expressions and innate ability to get into trouble. Chase’s Clark Griswold wants nothing more than happiness for his family and an ideal vacation. Griswold never fails to go about it the wrong way up until the very end, when he realizes his family loves him despite (and almost because of his) faults. However, it is the rest of the family that enhances his character this time. In this Vacation movie, we get to know the family members quirks at home, as opposed to their usual role of being a fish out of water in different locales. This time nearly all of their extended family come for a mostly unwelcome visit. The word dysfunction probably wouldn’t do this family justice, but the standout here is Randy Quaid as Clark’s hillbilly cousin in-law Eddie, who seems to live on another planet and is impossible to get rid of! ”Every time Catherine revved up the microwave, I’d piss my pants and forget who I was for about half an hour or so.” – Cousin Eddie
The movie as a whole is one segment after another that make up a giant circus of Christmas mishaps. We can all get frustrated over the holidays and can relate to issues like family pressure, shopping, money stress, decorations and a general sense of wanting everything to be perfect. And while this film dabbles with some of these themes, don’t kid yourself, this is all just straight laughs with a sprinkle of warming the heart. So, grab your popcorn tin (four flavors!) and let John Hughes entertain you for 90 minutes!
Now, on to the eats! My Griswold ham is the second big pig butt I have roasted in the past month. I have a newly found, firm belief that every mother needs to teach her children how to roast a large piece of animal. This would have come in handy during my slice of pizza or bowl of cereal college years. I found a ten pound ham at Fresh & Easy for .97 cents a pound. It wouldn’t have been that hard to scrounge up ten dollars between my roommates back in the day! What I love about roasting meats is the large amount of food I end up with. It’s not too often that there are more than one or two portions of left overs in my home!
The secret to roasting ham (and all meat really) lies not in the ingredients, but the oven! Just like turkey, I like to let my ham cook uncovered in a hot oven (400 degrees) for the first twenty minutes or so. After that, the heat goes down to 325 degrees and the meat is covered loosely with aluminum foil. Pre-cooked hams need around 15 minutes per pound. This is why roasted meats are the best rainy day meal, you’ll need to be home for at least three hours while it cooks.
The last ham I made was seriously juicy. I had doused little Wilbur in orange juice, syrup, brown sugar, pepper and honey. This go around, I was out of orange juice. I used instead, extra honey and then patted the whole thing down with all the apple sauce I had in the fridge. Apple juice works well, but we are out of that too. My only other options were Kefir or Almond Milk. Uh, no.
That’s it, that’s all I needed to do. Now we have ham for at least three days, so I had better get crafty! Now, if someone would only teach me to slice!
Movie Fuel is back with a review of the newest Sherlock Holmes movie. I’ll be waiting for this one to get to dvd asap! There are plenty of fun movies to go see right now and I am getting antsy! I have heard that the newest Mission Impossible (number 5) is the best MI yet, full of fun and action! I’d also love to get out to see the Charlize Theron flick, Young Adult.
On to Movie Fuel!
Sherlock Holmes – Game of Shadows (2011)
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams and Noomi Rapace
Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Three Stars (Out of Four)
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s literary character Sherlock Holmes has been adapted more than any other, an astounding 25,000 times. It is understandable, as the character is fascinating; a cunning know-it-all who has to always be one step ahead of his opposition, the grandest master of deduction.
Director Guy Ritchie has long been known as a rogue filmmaker who emphasizes style over everything else and knows how to please his audience. He makes unorthodox decisions that others wouldn’t, like telling stories about British Gangsters, using slow motion where it hasn’t been used before, hiring his friends as actors and of course his most questionable decision, marrying Madonna. But, there is no denying Ritchie’s signature style, you know when you are watching one of his films, which include: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998), Snatch (2000), Rock n Rolla (2008) and the first Sherlock Holmes (2009) film (no need to mention Swept Away (2002), with the aforementioned ex-wife).
He catches your attention early on, grabs you and pulls you into a free-falling chasm. And before you can decide whether or not you like what you are experiencing, you are pummeled over the head with a barrage of quick camera shots, fast action and clever narration. Needless to say, Ritchie can sometimes be a polarizing filmmaker, most audiences either love him or hate him. With the first Sherlock Holmes film, Ritchie took the best of a more recent bad adaptations like Young Sherlock Holmes (1985) and the less than stellar Jack the Ripper Tale, From Hell (2001) and added his own style to create a swift and entertaining film with enough twists to make you care all the way until the end.
With Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows, you get much of the same and you like it. However, there is at least a sense that the director is more in control of his craft and the film is driven less on action and more on a chess match of a story. Where the first film in the series concentrates on developing the title character and relies heavily on style more than story , the second installment feels comfortable and confident. Guy Ritchie’s signature is still evident and heavily stamped all over this version (yes, the narrated slow-motion action sequences are still intact, and this time with weapons!) This is all done within the parameters of a well written, cat and mouse tale which is like a puzzle with missing pieces that are only to be found in the exciting conclusion.
In this sequel, we are introduced fully to Holmes’ greatest adversary, Professor Moriart. Almost as clever as Holmes, Moriarty ups the ante and provides a fierce challenge for our hero. The real joy of both Sherlock Holmes films is the dynamic relationship between cohorts Holmes and Watson, played respectively by Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. Over two movies, Downey and Law have developed a friendly chemistry that is sincere and funny. When where every scene when the two are not verbally jousting, we feel like we are watching a filler leading up to the next time they can go at it again.
Game of Shadows takes place in the days and nights surrounding Watson’s wedding, which adds a new level of tension between the friends and partners and adds to the already layered storyline. While this is best described as an action movie, the film is at its best when we are witness to how Holmes mind works. Downey portrays him as a nearly clinically insane man whose ideas and true conspiracy theories constantly push him to the edge, where he prefers to be. Ultimately, Downey is what we paid our high priced admission for; his manic approach to the character is exciting and fun and seems like the perfect role that fits his personality. Early on, the viewer may feel as though they are in a maze leading to nowhere, but don’t be fooled, the filmmakers are fully in control the whole way through and by the end you feel smarter than when you walked into the theater and, as rare as this happens, like you got your money’s worth. -Movie Fuel 2011
Sounds like fun, doesn’t it! Now, what to eat?
- For the fish:
- 1 lb. white fish (cod, haddock or catfish work well)
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- ¼ cup corn starch
- dash cayenne pepper
- dash salt and pepper
- 1 bottle of beer (dark works well, but I used Pliny the Elder)
- 2 cups frying oil (canola, sunflower or safflower work best)
- For the chips
- 2 avocados
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- ⅛ cup corn starch
- 2 cups apple juice or cider
- dash salt and pepper
- Slowly heat your oil to around 350 degrees (use a thermometer) and plan to have a couple of pairs of tongs on hand, one for the raw fish and one to pull from the wok.
- Mix all ingredients in a shallow pan or large rectangle plastic container. Add the beer last and whisk until batter is smooth. Dredge one piece of fish at a time before allowing to fry for 2 to 3 minutes. Don’t hurry your fish by crowding the pan, it will cook best alone. Wear an apron, this dinner is a splashy one. Once your fish looks golden brown, pull the meat out of the oil with tongs and let drain on paper towels. I wanted to try using newspaper for that authentic feel, but couldn’t get over the idea of eating ink.
- The avocado batter will need to be mixed in another container to prevent cross contamination from the raw fish. If you’d like to use beer for this batter, you absolutely can. I chose apple cider to prevent any strong beer flavor for my kids.
- Homemade tartar sauce is super easy too. It’s just a blend of mayonnaise, vinegar, sweet relish, lemon juice and salt & pepper.
Yes, you read that right! Whole wheat flour for the batter and avocados for the fries! This is the Hollywood version of Sherlock Holmes, so I decided to fry California style. The wheat flour gives the batter a little bit of a heaviness to it, but it works pretty well! My husband was a hard sell on the avocado fries until he actually tried one. They were a success, nice and crisp on the outside and mushy goodness on the inside.
I fried my food up in a wok, since I don’t have a frying pan that is all that deep.
Please join me tomorrow to learn about a special family who could use your well wishes this Christmas. I’ll also be reviewing one of my favorite recipes, Pioneer Woman’s White Chicken Enchiladas. Thanks for reading!
The movie of the week is a modern Christmas favorite, Scrooged! Hmm, maybe I should rethink that definition. The 80′s aren’t really considered modern anymore, are they?
The movie munchies? Winter White Tea Cakes. These are pancakes made special by the addition of Numi Tea’s Winter Spice White Tea (found it at Whole Foods), which is also a superb tea for infusing into butter. I’ll save that for another day. I planned to make roasted chestnuts for this post, but that turned into a hilarious (well, not really), disaster involving canned bits of stink. Again, another day. I love the fairy played by Carol King, I think she would approve of a winter spice recipe, just look at the chick, she IS winter spice!
- 3 Tea Bags Winter Spice
- 1 cup Flour
- 1 T. Sugar
- 1 T. Baking Soda
- 1 T. Wheat Germ
- 1½ tsp. Cinnamon
- 1 egg white
- 1 T. orange juice
- 1 tsp. grated orange peel
- Steep tea bags in 1 cup boiling water for 5 minutes. Squeeze and remove bags. Combine dry ingredients and in a separate bowl, whisk egg white, orange juice, orange rind and steeped tea. Pour tea mixture into flour mixture. Lightly mix and cook as you would any other pancake.
Starring: Bill Murray, Karen Allen, David Johansen and Carol Kane
Directed by: Richard Donner
Holiday movies are fun! In fact, other than the Summer blockbuster season, Christmas time generates the most amount of high-end entertaining films of the year (Home Alone, Die Hard, Polar Express, Trading Places, The Santa Clause, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Gremlins, Elf, to name a few). Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has been told in so many ways and most of the film adaptations I’ve enjoyed. From Disney’s Scrooge McDuck in Mickey’s Christmas Carol to George C. Scott in the made-for-television classic to last year’s Jim Carrey 3D extravaganza. But, I have to say, my favorite is the 1980′s, Bill Murray driven, Scrooged. It’s not a perfect movie by any measure, but it does have Christmas spirit. Over the years Murray has created an iconic and unique style of comedy. You can’t see one of his films without receiving a piece of his personality; cynical, abrupt, fearless, sometimes obnoxious and always one step ahead of the audience. But most certainly Murray is always hilarious and timeless as is demonstrated in this modern holiday classic.
Here he portrays a television executive putting on a special presentation of “Scrooge”, a version in which he wants to staple antlers to mice and have scantily clad women dancing around (anything for viewers). He has shut-out anyone that cares about him and similar to the production he is putting on, is visited by three ghosts. Although, these aren’t the ghosts you would expect. Two of the ghost characters stand out in particular; Carol Kane plays the Ghost of Christmas Present as what can be best described as a fairy with anger management issues; she tries to beat the Christmas spirit into Murray’s character. David Johansen is spot-on as a chain smoking, cab driving Ghost of Christmas Past.
The best part of Scrooged is that it is not all just laughs and slapstick comedy. There is a heart to the movie that, because it is placed in current times (at least 1988 current), there is a modern sensibility to it which makes it that much more relatable. Some common themes of taking people and relationships for granted, bad behavior from big business and having perspective even within success, still hold true today. In each of our hearts is the desire to do the right thing, but as we age, we can tend to get caught up in our adult trappings and self-induced issues. Scrooged and the original A Christmas Carol demonstrate how we can so easily forget our youthful joy and idealism for the empty idles that we futilely chase. But, the beauty of this movie is that it can work on two levels, having both a serious side, but also serve as just a fun, laugh out loud experience. So, relax, watch a good movie with some munchies and, “put a little love in your heart!”
“All day long, I listen to people give me excuses why they can’t work… ‘My back hurts,’ ‘my legs ache,’ ‘I’m only four!’ The sooner he learns life isn’t handed to him on a silver platter, the better!”
“It’s Christmas Eve! It’s… it’s the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer, we… we… we smile a little easier, we… w-w-we… we… we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be!”
Don’t forget to set your DVR for the two Charlie Brown specials and another short Ice Age show!
The Family Stone (2005) and Home for the Holidays (1995)
Thanksgiving is often a reflection of what we are grateful for. It is also about food and is most certainly, family. Poet Robert Frost once said, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” The dysfunctional family has always been open game for movies, especially comedies. Because everyone’s family has some component of dysfunction (at times the tradition of getting together for the holidays can seem forced for some), we as the viewer can relate to other fictional families who love each other despite their faults. We don’t always get to choose our family, but we can appreciate them in their own unique way.
The Family Stone and Home for the Holidays are two films about family gatherings that emphasize that “unique” designation. In a nutshell, The Family Stone is about a man who brings his future fiancée home for the holidays only to find that his family doesn’t welcome her with open arms. At first glance, The Family Stone can seem awkward, a collection of bad behavior by unlikeable characters. The characters are less introduced to the viewer than just thrown at you right away, but by the end of the film, you get a feel for who everyone is and you are glad to know them. Some films are designed in a way for the viewer to take what is presented in its entirety; as a whole rather than in parts. It is too easy to be turned off early; the family with bad hospitality and two main characters that seem empty and misdirected make for uncomfortable viewing at times. But it is the story that, when allowed to play out fully, keeps your attention and captures a realistic picture of a family who has more going on than what is on the surface. Home for the Holidays is about a single mother, down on her luck, coming home alone once again while trying to put all the pieces together. The film has less depth and strives more for the humor within the quirks of the family dynamic. I would guess more people may see themselves with the family depicted here.
Common themes between the two films, touch on the overbearing parents and their children that are at a crossroads, seeking to create their own identity apart from their family dynamic. Both films also push the limits on the extreme stereotypical characters; the gay brother, the crazy angry sister, the old flame that’s also back in town, etc. Aside from the stereotypes, both films have similarities in style as well; they teeter between drama and comedy (similar to a real life family) and both start with the main characters as the children in the family, but the parents are really the center of the story.
Just like we cringe sometimes at the idea of family plans, in the end, we like the company of someone or something familiar and welcoming. So, this holiday, hug your family, savor the rich calories and of course, enjoy a movie with that meal.
Thanks Mr. Movie Fuel and Happy Thanksgiving to you! You know what you forgot to mention? Claire Danes shows up in both movies!
One of the reasons we disagree on The Family Stone can been read within Mr. Movie Fuel’s film comparison. Where he sees Stone as a dysfunctional family movie, I see it as a movie about a family’s love for their mother. Diane Keaton’s character is sick and each member of the Stone family uses the strengths and weaknesses of their own personality to deal with the inevitable future. I believe this is a story about finding love in unexpected ways.
Small Home Big Start has a great tutorial on the Morton Family Strata that Sarah Jessica Parker’s character makes. I think a wheat bread version would be fun to try. Home for the Holidays is great to watch with Thanksgiving leftovers. Wondering where all my recipes are? I am taking the day off of cooking!This is the first year in many that I have not been slaving away.
Dallas and I took a morning trip to Starbucks and I ate cereal for lunch. So today is just really a double feature movie review, I’m not cooking, just eating. Alas, recipes will be back again tomorrow!
Don’t forget about posting a comment on yesterday’s 100th post. You have until tonight at midnight to try and win a $20 gift card to either Peet’s or Starbucks. That’s one good Black Friday (with cream and sugar) deal!
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Enjoy your day and dinner and come back tomorrow for some fresh eats!
As I figured it would go, we devoured yesterday’s turkey before photographing it. Here are the sad remains of the juicy gobbler.
Jy and I have a long standing conflict with some a good friend of ours. (Hi Kevin!) He believes the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1994 should have went to Pulp Fiction, while we standby the actual winner, Forrest Gump. Where do you stand? Here’s what Mr. Movie Fuel has to say…
Forrest Gump (1994)
Starring: Tom Hanks, Gary Sinise, Robin Wright, Sally Field
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
When I was younger, I always sat really close to the screen (fourth row, four seats in), I never understood exactly why, but I remember years later a professor in a film class I was taking mentioning, “movies are like your dreams and you wouldn’t want anything to come between you and your dreams,” and it just kind of all clicked.
Growing up films were my great escape from reality, so going to the movies played a significant part in my life early on and sometimes still does. Every person who enjoys viewing films on a regular basis has a set standard of criteria in which they base their viewing experience on. My personal criteria for evaluating the quality of a film is simple; how well did I relate to the film and did it meet the standard in which it set based on its genre. For example; Did the comedy make me laugh? Did a horror movie scare me? Did the mystery make me think?
The best films are often the ones that more people can relate to and succeed at many levels with many age groups and serve the ultimate purpose, which is to entertain. This is the type of film that is universally praised and enjoyed, Forrest Gump is one of those movies. Spanning over thirty years of the title characters life, from the 1950′s to the 80′s, we are treated with action, comedy, drama, romance and so much more. On the surface, this is a fantastical film where a simpleton changes the course of history through his achievements; both intentional and accidental. Widely entertaining, with an array of fun special effects, catchy music that communicates time and place and perfectly placed humor throughout, elevates the film to a short list of movies I could watch multiple times with the same enjoyment.
Digging deeper, Forrest Gump is a story about trust, love and the loss of a generation’s innocence through the childlike eyes of our main character who maintains his throughout. It is also about finding our way in life and having a purpose greater than ourselves and our achievements. Whether you are viewing it for the first time or the seventeenth, for pure entertainment or nostalgic purposes, Forrest Gump is the perfect heartwarming film that meets everyone’s criteria.
Forrest’s “Mama” always said, “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get.” Well, let me tell you what I got when I made this parfait, two kids going ape-poo-poo. They were both freaking out, yelling and asking to eat my creation. Max (my one year old) was shouting, “Nummanoes,” his toddler word for food. This was an accidental parfait. It was supposed to be chocolate cranberry chunky bars.
I had heard about chunky bars on Martha Stewart’s Sirius station. Sandy Gluck, the host for Everyday Food passed the recipe off as it was so simple. Perfect, I’d just look up the recipe when I got home. One problem, it was nowhere to be found on the internet! If you can’t find something on the internet, then it just may not exist. So, I recreated from memory and was planning to come out with something that looked like this…
How fun I thought, little chocolate bars with a surprise inside, cranberry. Yummy and in-season. Let me show you what happened instead, mkay?
Looks okay so far, right? Guess what? It tastes pretty good too.
I remembered to bake at 350, just like Sandy said. Twenty minutes later, I thought I would freeze the pan for a bit. Then, off to the fridge it went.
Thirty minutes later, I was peeling ooey gooey sludge from a baking pan and off parchment paper…with a knife. Still tasty, but not in photographable form. When dessert goes wrong, throw it on ice cream or with yogurt. I piled on the whip cream for show and to taunt my kids a bit. The three of us went out back and ate half the cup up. Messy and delicious.
I wish Mama would have said something about recipes. Maybe, “Recipes are like perms, sometimes they turn out beautifully and sometimes everything just goes to crap.” Ah, Mama has a way with words.
The next time you see Forrest Gump in your TV Guide, I suggest you go get yourself some nice southern sweet tea, a box of tissue and just buy the box of chocolates. One of my favorite expressions I have learned from Facebook, le sigh.
Next Thursday is special at FoodItForward! It’s Thanksgiving, it’s a DOUBLE FEATURE Movie & Meals day, but most importantly it is my 100th post and I have something special for you! Happy Black Friday Eve-eve-eve-eve-eve-eve-eve-eve.
Let’s head back to ABC Family this weekend for multiple showings of the first four Harry Potter films.
What a perfect time of year to revisit the start of Harry’s adventures. As we quickly pass through November into December, we delve into the most magical time of the year. No movie magic can match that of Potter’s, so set those DVRs. Check ABC Family’s schedule today through Sunday and start recording! For those following yesterday’s clue, HP was published in 1998, which is the same year the story finds itself at an end.
There are loads of websites with specific HP recipes and foods that are eaten at Hogwarts or drinks served somewhere in Potterland. I’m not a HP expert, I haven’t read the books (yet), nor have I seen the last two movies released. It’s not that I don’t want to, I just haven’t got to it yet. At this rate, I figure I’ll read the books along with Dallas in a few years. When should kids start reading Harry Potter? Is seven too young?
I whipped up two snacks that make for fun movie munching. Golden Snitch Meatballs are a take on the Snitch, or the golden ball which is the game clincher in the fictional game of Quidditch. The second is a kid friendly pumpkin smoothie. Have you ever noticed that sometimes the idea of a pumpkin flavored drink outweighs the actual pumpkin flavor? Not this time! The Potter crew drinks pumpkin juice throughout their story. A pumpkin smoothie does require a bit of sugar, but don’t forget that pumpkin is a vegetable, folks!
You can either roll meatballs from scratch, or cheat like I did and use premade! Trader Joe’s and Fresh & Easy both have frozen turkey meatballs, I used F&E’s variety and baked them to soften. Either way, you’ll need to dip your balls in a beaten egg with a bit milk, before drenching in your golden crunchy mix.
- 6 cups Corn Flakes
- ¼ to ½ cup shredded parmesan Cheese
- Homemade or frozen meatballs – about 1 pound
- Seasoning mix of choice – Italian, Garlic Powder with Salt & Pepper or the easy one to remember, Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme (sing it with me!)
- Smash it all up into bitty crumbs via blender, food processor or angry housewife rolling-pin style
- If you fry the meatballs, they will gain some flavor, but lose the gold. For this recipe, I say bake at 375 for 12-15 minutes for premade meatballs. More like 40 minutes for homemade, or until inside reaches 160 degrees. Use flat parsley to create wings.
My kids ate these for breakfast and let out a bunch of mmm’s!
- 2 cups canned pumpkin (not pie mix)
- 2 cups almond milk (almond milk works really well in smoothies, I prefer it over regular)
- 1 banana (frozen works perfect, if you have one)
- ¼ tsp. pumpkin pie spice
- 2 T. real maple syrup
- 1 T. sugar
- ¼ cup orange juice concentrate
- Blend up well and pour over ice.
Blend up well and pour over ice. This also received two kid thumbs up! Bonus: If you look closely at this photo you will see my toddler rocking out in his sweats. Hurray for morning bloggin’!
Now, to get you rolling, here’s your weekly wording from Movie Fuel!
November 2001, there was movie excitement in the air. Not one, but two new fantasy series were coming out for the holidays; the Lord of the Rings Trilogy and Harry Potter! And, while the Lord of the Rings Trilogy will live on in infamy, it was the Potter series that evolved over time and nurtured a generation of young children into preteens and then full blown teenagers, as well as the rest of the young at heart. Who better than Chris Columbus (Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire) to helm the first two installments? Other famous directors would also contribute over the years; Mike Newell (Young Indiana Jones, Four Weddings and a Funeral) and Alfonso Cuaron (Little Princess, Great Expectations), ending with a newcomer, David Yates, who would go on to complete the last four films.
Lessons on relationships, disappointments and loss spoke volumes to the primary audience of both the books and films. Adolescents crave someone they can relate to and the Harry Potter universe supplies ample examples of righteous, yet imperfect characters with plenty to say; don’t undervalue others, be true to your friends, get help when overwhelmed and ultimately, love is stronger than death.
What makes Harry Potter special is that all of this is packaged in an entertaining volume of adapted films. Action, suspense, fantastical special effects, humor. When viewing each film, there is a sense escapism and confidence that you are “getting your money’s worth”. So, as a life lesson or just a journey to another land, you are sure to have your imagination fired up and will be thrilled by any of the eight Harry Potter films that have spanned this past decade.