Monthly Archives: December 2015

XL Popcorn – The Postman Always Rings Twice

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 446/1007Title: The Postman Always Rings Twice
Director: Tay Garnett
Year: 1946
Country: USA

The title of this film makes no sense. I mean – I guess it makes some form of sense. It feels a little bit forced. A bit esoteric. But hey, I guess that’s why there was a bunch of speculation at the time of the book as to what it means. I mean, it doesn’t really make sense in the film when they try to explain the title in the final scene.

Anyway, aside from the strange title, The Postman Always Rings Twice is a solid noir film with brilliant performances from Lana Turner and John Garfield. Turner especially gives a knock-out performance as murderess Cora Smith.

The things with this film is that I feel I have been here before. In fact, I have been with Double Indemnity. I was beginning to think that this was because the success of Double Indemnity probably inspired this film, but both films were adapted from books by the same author – James M. Cain. In fact, The Postman Always Rings Twice was actually written first. So, what can I say, this man liked to mine particular tropes.

Still, this film was a lot easier to follow than The Big SleepI know that sounds a bit stupid, but it is a problem that I sometimes have with noir films. The motives behind sex and spousal murder is, somehow, a lot more comprehensible to me than the machinations of gangland culture. Each to their own I guess.

XL Popcorn – Journey To Italy

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 445/1007Title: Viaggio in Italia (Journey To Italy)
Director: Roberto Rossellini
Year: 1954
Country: Italy

Catherine and Alex’s marriage is in trouble. Neither of them really know this until they are thrown out of their regular lives back in London and are alone with each other for the first time in eight years in the beautiful surroundings of Naples.

Beauty. A concept that just runs and runs throughout this film. The aesthetic beauty of ancient ruins and sculptures, the natural beauty of the surroundings, the effortless beauty of Catherine (Ingrid Bergman), the sad beauty of a mourning prostitute and the darker beauty of rearraged skeletons in Neapolitan catacombs. So much beauty in the surroundings, it would be hard for any rocky couple not to re-evaluate their lot in live and decide that life is too short to maintain something that has not been working for years.

This is how effective (and affective) the use of camera shots is in Journey to Italy. Rossellini’s eye and pacing means that we have a film where not much really happens and yet we can be completely captivated by the images on the screen. So much of the story and the deterioration of their relationship would be easily understandable should this have been a silent movie. True, you would have missed some of their snipings and the slightly awkward dubbing over that all Italian movies of this era went through, but so powerful are the emotions.

However, it does not feel melodramatic at any point. As a viewer you find yourself veering between urging the couple to just stop hurting each other and the acceptance that maybe they should call it quits.

I have seen some comments online that have said that a minus point is the chemistry (or lack thereof) between Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders as the fighting married couple. The thing is, isn’t that the point? They’ve become strangers. They either need to rediscover what it was they made them work (and so reignite the chemistry) or just call it quits. There is enough underlying chemistry between them to make you think something could have happened in the distant past and, in the end that is all the chemistry you need for such a role.

Looking back on this film, since I do need to properly process before I get to writing, I realise that this actually stuck with me a lot more than I realised as I was watching it. It isn’t a five star film (I am rather stingy with that, as attested to by my IMDB rankings), but it’s definitely one for a re-watch now I know more of what it is about.

Acclaimed Albums – Merriweather Post Pavilion by Animal Collective

List item: Listen to the 250 greatest albums
Progress: 82/250Title: Merriweather Post Pavilion
Artist: Animal Collective
Year: 2009
Position: #184

It’s December! Like most people who are big music listeners it is time to think about the albums that are vying for the title of ‘Favourite of the Year’. I have to say, we had a lot of good ones in the first half of the year. Sufjan Stevens, Father John Misty, Björk, Natalie Prass, Jamie xx, Marina & The Diamonds – wow those were a really good bunch to get before we even finished June!

One my first favourites this year was Panda Bear’s most recent album: Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper. Thinking about this got me to thinking about Animal Collective’s much acclaimed album, so I had to give it a spin a little bit early and cover it for the blog.

Despite being released in January of 2009 Merriweather Post Pavilion really is a perfect album to be played in the summer. Much in the same way that Person Pitch by Panda Bear is a definite summer album. This isn’t just because of ‘Summertime Clothes’, which is my favourite track on the album.

When I listen to this album, I can not help but wonder if this is what The Beach Boys would sound like whether they started making music now. Pet Sounds really is a summery album after all.

Anyway, as a Panda Bear fan I might be fairly biased here when I say that it is the three songs where it sounds the most like him: ‘Summertime Clothes’, ‘My Girls’ and ‘Brother Sport’. The rest of the album is still great, but these three songs (aka the singles) are such stand-outs that I may have just played them most of the time and skipped the rest of the tracks. This makes it sounds like I think the rest of the albm is a bit pants – so not the case. It’s just that when you have an album with three obscenely great tracks, well, the rest of the album suffers by comparison.

Good Eatin’: Hot Enough For Coke Floats

List Item: Try half of the combined 1001 food books

Everyone remember how late June/early July of this year was really warm? How we were complaining how it was too hot. How many of us are wishing for it to come back as we descend further into December?

This selection of food was all eaten over the course of a week during which we had quite a bit of heat. Seeing how a lot of the foods here are traditionally from warmer climates, I can not help but wonder if there has been some form of subliminal influence.

Food item: Coke Float

I had never had a coke float before, and now I want more. For this we went to Snowflake on Wardour Street in London and instead of the regular vanilla ice cream I went for coconut and white chocolate. With the full fat Coke and the sweetness of the coconut I have to say that this was the perfect drink for a summer’s day.

I am glad, however, that I came across no wasps. They would have swarmed me.

Food item: Canneles

On the same day we ventured into Fortnum & Mason. It’s my favourite of the big London department stores because whilst it is beautiful and ornate it does not carry all the airs that the likes of Harrod’s do.

As luck would have it, Fortnum & Mason had recently introduced canneles to their range of pastries. So we walked off with two small ones (I’m not made of money, sadly) and ate them in Hyde Park. They were a lot springier than they looked with a custardy centre and caramalised outsides. Basically, now that I think about it, they were like if you could make small cylindrical crème brûlée cakes.

Food items: Tortilla de Patatas and Gambas al Ajillo (for some dumb reason this is on the list twice)

The next day we found ourselves buying tapas style food from the local Co-Op. I know that these things would have been better from Spain itself (or a Spanish restaurant), but we were hungry and it was on offer. Plus, like many things so far, these are things I have had better versions of in the past so this is just for the sake of the check off.

Food item: Leerdammer

Same idea as the above here. I am not exactly sure how often I have had Leerdammer since I started using the new list. It’s one of those old faithful cheeses I will buy for my work sandwiches because it’s on the cheaper end of the spectrum and comes in a light version (it makes for a mean toastie as well). Still, another easy check off.

Food item: Asparagus

Okay, so this is another easy check off because the original 1001 Foods You Must Eat Before You Die list is very specific about the types of asparagus that you need to try. In this instance I have been able to check off some rather generic asparagus by stealing some from my mum’s plate during a meal out.

Food items: Pistachios and Crème Brûlée

Another two grabs because of all the off-site meetings that I need to book. Since we were the only people in the meeting venue we got a three course menu meal rather than a buffet. I have previously been able to get quail eggs and Eton mess from this – today it was Crème Brûlée with pistachio shortbread.

Like every good person who has seen Amélie, I have come to adore the cracking the top of a crème brûlée with the back of a spoon. Yes, it is caramel and a thick custard so it tastes gorgeous, but the best bit is the satisfaction of that initial cracking. It is the main reason for my desire to get a miniature blowtorch for my kitchen… somehow I doubt the husband would trust me with a small fiery appliance.

Food item: Mutter Paneer, Garam Masala

Right, leaving one of the more interesting until last here. Well, it is for me since I actually cooked this one. I am never that keen on frying cheese, mainly because I am keenly aware that I am adding oil to dairy and that’s just adding fat to fat.

Still, it’s best not to think about these things, especially when you are about to enjoy a rather delicious paneer and pea curry… in a wholewheat tortilla! I had no patience on this night to make rice so wraps it was! It slopped everywhere and I got turmeric on my t-shirt, but it was worth it.

Progress: 625/933