All posts by mulholland

XL Popcorn – Adam’s Rib

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 664/1007
Title: Adam’s Rib
Directors: George Cukor
Year: 1949
Country: USA

Onscreen chemistry is hard to manufacture, which is why you find certain pairings (actor-actor, actor-director etc.) repeated multiple times. This appeared to be far more prevalent in Hollywood’s Golden Age with the Spencer Tracey and Katherine Hepburn films being some of the most famous. Adam’s Rib is the sixth of the nine films that they made together and arguably the most acclaimed.

Knowing how Hepburn and Tracey were already an item at the time of filming Adam’s Rib and the script was especially written with them in mind,  it is hard to not see to see a lot of their interactions in this film as a window into their private lives. It might be me projecting my own ideas here, but the tenderness and the joy in a lot of their scenes seems utterly genuine. Also helps that these two were among the best actors of their generation.

In Adam’s Rib we see Hepburn and Tracey take on the roles of Amanda and Adam Bonner – a pair of happily married lawyers who end up going toe-to-toe in court. The case? A woman who shot and injured her husband because of his infidelity. With Amanda on the defense team and Adam as the prosecutor Adam’s Rib becomes a classic ‘battle of the sexes’ film with the crux of the defense’s arguments being around gender equality.

As a film Adam’s Rib is an interesting look at gender dynamics in the 1940s with the central couple being depicted as incredibly equal. However, the views of the time about the places of men and women are still prevalent – which keeps ramping up the tension between this once secure couple until they reach breaking point.

Could this film be made nowadays? I’m not entirely sure. Equality between the sexes isn’t there yet, but it’s so much closer than it was back in 1949. An important thing to do when watching  Adam’s Rib is to remember that historical context. Both Adam and Amanda are at fault for their marriage splitting up, but as for who is more at fault… well that’s a debate worth having when you’ve seen the film.

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Level One – Mario Kart 64

List Item: Play 100 of the greatest computer games
Progress: 75/100Title: Mario Kart 64
Developer: Nintendo EAD
Original Platform: Nintendo 64
Year: 1996

At the end of 2017, I did a major update of the list on Play That Game which did alter a lot of the entries. As luck would have it, most of the games that left were ones I had not played yet (hurrah) so the number of games that I’ve yet to play remained the same. Sure makes my life a lot easier. Also means that I have a reason to play Mario Kart 64.

For a gamer of my age I think I am unusual in that my first exposure to the Mario Kart series was Mario Kart: Double Dash on the Gamecube. In my younger years I was a PS1 kid who got a Nintendo 64 towards the end of the generation and, at that point, had not developed a love for the Mario franchise. I did, however, have most of the N64 games for Pokémon.

As someone who has since become a huge fan of Mario Kart: Double Dash, Mario Kart Wii and Mario Kart 8 it was a weird step back to the original 3D Mario Kart. Not as big a step back as Super Mario Kart (where I think I said a lot of similar things as I have just written), but a step back nonetheless.

Compared to it’s SNES predecessor Mario Kart 64 feels like the better game. In fact, I would argue that this game is the Mario Kart franchise in purest form. A lot of the gimmicks we love in the later versions of the game just aren’t present and instead we have Super Mario Kart with better driving, better graphics and the addition of, what would become, the blue shell.

I turned on my N64 with the intent to play Mario Kart 64 for 20 minutes and ended up playing it for an hour and a half. There is something miraculously addictive in this game that can still be found in the later editions. In terms of console games I cannot think of a more consistently great franchise than the Mario Kart games and I don’t think it really gets enough credit for that.

 

 

Good Eatin’ – Hijiki Mixed Rice

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 698/751Food item: Hijiki

Before going into this food item I just want to touch on the warning that has been attached to this type of seaweed. There are a number of governments around the world that discourage people from eating hijiki because some of the crops have a rather high level of arsenic. I bought and ate this knowing this and pretty much not caring. After all, I can’t imagine a company knowingly selling toxic food.

Anyway, let’s onto less toxic matters. One of my Christmas presents this year was a rice cooker (it’s technically a multi-cook, but to me it’s my beautiful new rice cooker. This is a kitchen appliance that I have been wanting for years, but never bought because it felt a bit frivolous. It sound a bit strange to say this, but this may b one of the best Christmas presents that my husband has ever bought me.

I mention my new rice cooker because, without this, I am not sure how I would have cooked the hijiki. I mean I know there would have been some way to do this as a soup, but it turned out so well this way:

To prepare the hijiki I took note of a recipe from Japanese Food Report for hijiki mixed rice. Since I didn’t have access to dashi stock I substituted in low-salt chicken stock. Other than that I had most things to hand… even the white soy sauce, which I am very happy to have found another use for.

The main thing that the hijiki added to the mixed rice was some saltiness and something I can only describe as minerally. Having eaten this delicious mixed rice I am very sure that I have already eaten this seaweed at some point in Japan. There is an odd umami flavour in this dish that you don’t get outside of Japanese food, and it might have been a mix of the shiro shoyu and the hijiki that given this flavour.

With the dried hijiki a little really goes a long way and I have so much of this left that I am probably going to be having mixed rice a few more times in the next few months. Who knows, maybe I’ll find a way to mix in some of the dried golden needles that I have in the cupboard.

(✿◠‿◠) Anime!!! – Shokugeki no Souma: San no Sara

List Item:  Watch the 100 best anime TV series
Progress: 34/100Title: Shokugeki no Souma: San no Sara
Episodes Aired: 12
Year(s): 2017

Okay, so I am writing this six and a half months in advance knowing full well that this may have left the list by the time this post is published. Also, the fourth season of Food Wars will have started (and possibly finished airing) – a concluding 12 episodes that this third season very much needed.

There really isn’t much for me to add to this season of Food Wars that I haven’t already mentioned in the first or second seasons. This is a food porn anime where the food-lover in me is satisfied on an episode-by-episode basis by watching some amazing cooking. Hell, I have even been inspired to make dishes myself (see pictured the ‘Gotcha Pork Roast’ from the first season) or use some of the acquired knowledge in my own cooking.

The issue that I have with the third season is that it feels incomplete. We end the run of episodes with the first wave of confrontations as the culinary school goes through a hostile takeover. It just feels like it ends abruptly rather than there being any sort of conclusion. I guess that this makes sense considering that there is a 3 month gap between this season and the upcoming fourth season.

Another problem is that it feels like the budget has been slashed for the animation budget. The number of tracking shots with minimal animation seems to have really increased this year and the weirder foodgasm shots has gone down… although I did enjoy the white knight in the forest surrounded by animals.

Still, this is not a serious anime nor should it ever be mistaken for one. It delivered a fun 20-odd minutes every week and let me enjoy some cartoon cookery. I know I’m going to happily tune into the next iteration of this series… so it’s really a job well done by them in that respect.

Good Eatin’ – Cooking With Jaggery

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 697/751Food item: Jaggery

It’s an odd experience to receive a block of unrefined sugar for Christmas knowing that you put it on your Amazon Wishlist. I mean it’s money I won’t have to spend later (which is good as I just spent £28 on some meat from a game supplier… more on that in a month as I need to find the nerve to behead a bird) and it comes from a place that is helping me to reach the next landmark as soon as possible.

So, what is jaggery? Well, it’s essentially a block of concentrated and unrefined sugar. The best way I can think of describing this is that it’s sticky and granular molasses. The taste of the jaggery is dark like muscovado, but it’s got a different mouthfeel to it.

As with most things, I can’t just sit here eating jaggery shavings. So let’s get cooking.

The first thing that came up when I searched for jaggery recipes was to make a sort of peanut brittle called peanut chikki. I’m not going to say no to something like that, so I followed the recipe here from Foodviva.

Looking at my picture versus the one on the website, I think I cooked the sugar for too long. I mean it’s definitely a darker shade so I wonder if I might have slightly burnt it. Still tastes good… although I wish I’d used salted peanuts so it would have been like a salt caramel peanut brittle. I still have most of the block left after making this so there’s always a next time.

XL Popcorn – A Hard Day’s Night

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 663/1007
Title: A Hard Day’s Night
Directors: Richard Lester
Year: 1964
Country: UK

So… the last film I watched was a bit serious, seeing how it was about the Butcher of Lyon n’ all. With that in mind I figured that A Hard Day’s Night would be a more lighthearted watch. Well, I wasn’t exactly wrong, but I was hoping for a better film than this.

I know, I know. Given that this is a 1960s jukebox musical featuring the Beatles there was no reason to expect something on the level of Citizen Kane. However, since this is one of those films that regularly ends up in lists for the best British films it would be fair to assume that this wouldn’t cause me to rewind at the end.

Let’s talk some positives though. Whilst this film is, essentially, a feature length music video – we are talking about an era where there were no music videos. So if you wanted to see the Beatles performing you would either need to see them in person (like the many crying girls in the final ten minutes) or catch them performing on a TV show. With this in mind, A Hard Day’s Night was an interesting way to capitalise on Beatlemania in a way that fans could really enjoy and would pave the way for music videos in the future.

The biggest thing of interest here, which comes from this being an elongated music video, is the editing and the use of handheld cameras. It feels like a modern film with how it does some of the pacing and the quick cuts. The place where this most shows is where they inter-cut a bunch of different interviews for comic effect. It’s the only sequence that actually made me chuckle.

However, these things can’t cover two of the bigger issues with this film: 3/4 of the Beatles cannot act and the whole thing is a bit, well, juvenile. It probably doesn’t help that a number of the references have dated and that the band come across as likeable pillocks.  Also, the final ten minutes just feel as if they had run out of material and needed to make this 87 minutes.

Good Eatin’ – New Mexico Chiles

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 696/751Food item: New Mexico Chile

A big thank you to Wholefoods for providing me with a chance at trying New Mexico Chiles. This wasn’t even something I was going out of my way to find, it was just hanging there as we were purchasing rye bread on Christmas Eve. I guess this could be described as an early Christmas present. Well, it provided me with two for not only was I going to cross off this food item, but I was also going to try out cooking with whole dried chiles for the first time.

As a child I had a bit of a bad experience involving scotch bonnet chiles, residual juices on my fingers and one of my eyes. Needless to say, I was exceedingly careful with my handing of these dried chiles so that I could escape without the urge to flee the kitchen in floods of tears. Manly tears, obviously.

Since you can’t just eat dried chiles (which is a pity as they smelt like a mix of dried cranberries and red pepper) I made a Chile Colorado sauce as following the back of the packet:

Of course I had to add my own touches to this to make it my own. I swapped out a regular onion for a pink onion, added black lava salt in place of regular salt as well as some black olives, a bit of tomato puree and some ground cocoa nibs. By the time I was done with this, the sauce smelt smokey, earthy and of the colour red.

If I had to put this chile (and the sauce) on a scale it would probably be about a medium on the curry house/Nandos scale. It was warming with prickling on the sides and back of the tongue, but with enough of a savouriness to make me want to eat this as quickly as possible. Thanks to this dish, I think I understand more what a character was saying in the third season of Food Wars about spice being addictive.

 

Good Eatin’ – Coppa Piacentina and Maple Candy

Happy Boxing Day 2017 everybody. As this post is being written I am slowly digesting two days worth of gorging and listening to a best-of episode of the Comedy Bang Bang podcast.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You DieFood item: Coppa Piacentina

One night in Munich I ventured into a Lidl looking for food list items. I walked out with a bottle of Schwip Schwap and sadness that I’ll be unable to find Thuringer Leberwurst. During this trip I saw a pack of coppa piacentina, but I only fully processed that I had seen something interesting by the time I had been back in Britain for a few days.

Thankfully, I was able to find a pack of Piacenza meats on the Waitrose website and so this ham found its way to my plate in a matter of days. It’s times like this where I cannot help but wonder… just how far would I have been able to get if it wasn’t for internet purchases.

Compared to a lot of the cured hams I have tried for this list, the coppa piacentina is not salty. The production of this ham (which is a descendant of cured hams from the Roman era) uses less salt in the curing process. What this does is allow for the natural sweetness of the pork to come to the fore rather than salt, spices or smokiness.

Honestly, I am not sure if this is a ham that I would actively seek out. I guess that, because of the subtleties and because this is an early example of cured hams, this is something I have tasted shades of in many hams that have been developed since.

Food item: Maple Candy

With it being the holiday season, I put a bunch of 1001 food items on my Amazon wishlist. Here we are post-Christmas and I am the happy recipient of two more – the first being this plastic container of maple candy. For the sake of full disclosure, I have the hard version of maple candy rather than the soft one. However, since the book mentions this as an option, I still class this as a win.

Previously on this food list I have already had the pleasure of crossing off maple syrup (the main component of maple candy). I did not give maple syrup a decent write-up as I was back in the days of writing food posts with 5-6 items having mini-entries. So hopefully I will be doing better with the candy.

Just by looking at the ones I have here, I can see that this is a darker maple syrup than I have previously had. This matches with the taste which, rather than being sickly sweet, has the richness of a dark brown sugar (like muscovado) with the slight smokiness that would be expected of a maple product. As hard candies go these are dangerously moreish so I need to stop eating them before I give myself a stomachache.

Progress: 695/751

What’s On TV – The Tractate Middoth / The Signalman

On Christmas Eve 2017 the good people at BBC Four decided to show a whole bunch of episodes of A Ghost Story for Christmas. I previously watched A Warning to the Curious as part of the 1001 TV list and now, thanks to this marathon, I have been able to watch the remaining two from the list.

I’m going to miss these easy crossings off.

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
Progress: 204/501
Title: The Tractate Middoth
Episodes Aired: 1
Year(s): 2013
Country: UK

The first one that I saw was the final episode of the revival series for A Ghost Story for Christmas. As with most of these, The Tractate Middoth is based off of a short story by M.R. James. By this point I think they’ve used all of the best stories as, in terms of pure storytelling, The Tractate Middoth is pretty useless as a ghost story.

I don’t want this to come off as a criticism of Mark Gatiss as a director or of Sacha Dhawan in his leading role. It’s just that the actual story of The Tractate Middoth is pretty lame. It feels as if there a beginning, a middle and that’s about it. You feel as if there is meant to be this big climax to make up for the cheer about of serendipity, but it just ends. We were literally sad in front of the TV looking each other at the end asking, ‘wait, that’s it?’

So yes, if the reason for the inclusion of The Tractate Middoth is because it is an example of a revival of the A Ghost Story for Christmas then they probably should have gone for Whistle and I’ll Come to You.

Progress: 205/501
Title: The Signalman
Episodes Aired: 1
Year(s): 1976
Country: UK

The second that we watched was an oddity in the A Ghost Story for Christmas series in that it is not based on an M.R. James story. I know I don’t have a lot to compare it to, but this is the best of the three Christmas ghost stories on the 1001 TV list. Maybe because this is a story written by Charles Dickens and he knew how to construct a good narrative.

Now, I know that I am overly critical when it comes to depictions of horror on television. It’s not that it is impossible for me to be creeped out by a television show (unlike video games where a surprise encounter in Fallout 3 can make be scream), but it’s far from a guarantee. The Signalman, regrettably, didn’t get me there.

However, I did enjoy this short. The story was interesting and it really worked to have a limited cast and few locations in order to ratchet up the tension. However, the tension wasn’t great enough to make me feel unsettled. It was still a fun ride while it lasted.

XL Popcorn – Hôtel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 662/1007
Title: Hôtel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie
Directors: Marcel Ophüls
Year: 1988
Country: France

Well that was a depressing film to watch in the run up to Christmas. I know that some of the interviews took part in front of a Christmas tree, but this is definitely not the best film to be seeing with the decorations up. Thing is, the Christmas break is one of the few times where I can fully justify spending four and half hours watching a movie that isn’t Gone With The Wind.

In a way you can see this film as being a follow-up to The Sorrow and the Pity  in that it continues the narrative of the German occupation of France in World War Two. It’s just that, in Hôtel Terminus Marcel Ophüls narrows the scope into looking at one commander within the Gestapo – the titular Klaus Barbie, also known as ‘The Butcher of Lyon’.

There is no denying that Hôtel Terminus and the life of Klaus Barbie is worthy of over four hours of exploration. The question is whether this would have worked better as a series of 8-10 half hour episodes rather than a straight four and a half hours. After all, the life and times of Klaus Barbie is a complex topic – as are the reasons for it taking decades before the powers that be went in to arrest him.

One thing that is interesting about the interviews in Hôtel Terminus is that you have a lot of evasion, a lot of contradiction and even a few altercations. The topic of Klaus Barbie and the other former Nazi officers who are still alive is clearly a sore spot – especially in the South American countries where a number of these men have taken up residence. Of course, this is further complicated by the fact that a number of these men ended up working for the US in the field of espionage.

It’s also interesting to note how this film deals with the contemporary ambivalence around the trial of Klaus Barbie. Some of these points are logical (i.e. this was done 40 years ago and aren’t there statutes of limitations on crime) whilst others veer towards the realm of antisemitism. Considering the way we are going with politics in certain parts of Europe, it is enough to make you shudder when you think that some of these views haven’t been left 30-odd years ago.