Wednesday, March 28, 2007

"The Life Aquatic", Milena Canonero and other Film Ramblings

On Captain Luke's advice, I rented The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004). I should say, I finally rented it. For about two months, every time I went in the video store it was out! Grrrr. Well, here's the thing. I can't remember any other movie that I can say this about... but I can say it about The Life Acquatic: there was nothing predictable about this movie. I mean literally. There was no moment or scene or piece of dialogue I could have anticipated. It gets odder for me. I started watching and I was enjoying it fine. Then I got frustrated and actually turned it off about half an hour before the end. The next morning (Sunday) I put it back on and watched the end. And I loved it. I've thought about it a lot since then and still am, still thinking it through. I don't know yet why exactly I liked this movie so much, apart from liking things that are unpredictable. It's like seeing a movie and you don't know the actors. So there's no preconceptions, no personas that you have to get your head around.

No-one could have played Steve the way Bill Murray did. He's just magical. The whole cast - and what a cast - was a delight: Anjelica Huston, Cate Blanchett, Willem Dafoe, Owen Wilson, Jeff Goldblum, Noah Taylor, Michael Gambon. I love the way the director Wes Anderson has this rep company of actors he uses over and over. It's been a long time since I saw Rushmore (1998) and even longer since Barbara introduced me to Bottle Rocket (1996). Never saw The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), but I shall remedy that.

Anjelica Huston looked wonderful and I should have guessed that the costume designer was Milena Canonero. Everytime I've seen a movie and loved the costumes especially, it's Milena Canonero! She's won three Oscars (including last year's Marie Antoinette, which surprised me; I had seen pictures and it seemed busy, but I'm sure very appropriate; she also did Barry Lyndon [1975] for which she won her first Oscar; that was a stunning move: all that natural lighting.) My favourites of her costumes - in my mind - were the riding outfits for Meryl Streep in Out of Africa (1985), the red dress for Marisa Tomei in Only You (1994 - also worth watching for a travelogue love-in with Italy) and Sigourney Weaver in Death and the Maiden (1994). Now that was a movie.

Long story short: summer's day, a bunch of us were at a friend's house, and instead of being out in the sun and the water, we ended up sitting in front of the tv watching Death and the Maiden. It was an unusual choice (I think it was Dave's idea): Roman Polanski's film of an Ariel Dorfman play in which a broken and reclusive woman, a former political activist, is convinced that the man her husband has brought to their remote home (his car broke down) is her former torturer. It's set in an un-named South American country. So it's pretty grim stuff. And even though our mood had been very silly and noisy up till then, we all just clammed up. The movie was so engrossing, it drew us all right in. About half way through we paused the tape and Dave asked if we'd noticed how quiet we were being. I think we all nodded silently and restarted the tape. I never saw it again, but I think it's time to.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Next Big Cake Project - part eight

The cake was a hit and now it's eaten. Yay!

First picture shows the original stained glass designed by Burne-Jones and manufactured by Morris and Co. There is more information on this at the site of Tom Krepcio, a stained-glass artist. The window is part of the Delaware Art Museum's magnificent Pre-Raphaelite collection, currently touring (but returning home this September to be re-exhibited there). They have more information about the piece at this URL. On his site, Tom has a link to the iPod blurb on this piece.

On the right you have Laura's recreation in sugar. Isn't it amazingly close, and that's not a good picture of it as my flash washed out some detail. Below that you have the finished cake with the lettering, which we piped in lead colour outline, and flooded with a soft grey-green. The last image is a detail of the sugar glass (remember this thing is entirely edible).

The cake is eaten and we are already getting excited about our ideas for next year, which will all be revealed in good time. Thank you all for your interest!

Friday, March 23, 2007

The Next Big Cake Project - part seven

Laura arrived at 8:30 this morning and after some tea we continued work on the cake. With some lead-coloured royal icing, Laura painted the "lead" on the sugar glass panel (top two pictures). This brought the whole thing to life. The leading looks real!

She placed the finished sugar glass on top of the cake (left-hand picture, second row) and I piped on the wave/shell-like trims. We had some discussion then about lettering. We had thought maybe we'd leave it off and the cake looked elegant and simple without it. But it was niggling at us so we decided, even though it would have been simpler not to, to go ahead and do it. Laura then piped the outline (in the same lead colour) for the lettering (right-hand picture, second row, and left-hand picture, third row) and we went to have lunch and enjoy the beautiful sunshine while it dried.

When we came back I flooded the lettering with some dark teal royal icing (right-hand picture, third row) and now the letters are drying. Tomorrow morning we'll gently push the finished letters into the soft buttercream on the walls of the cake, and transfer it to our venue! I'll also attach some lead-coloured ribbon around the edge of the cake board.

So that's it, we're nearly done. The last picture is a kind of teaser shot! Tomorrow we'll have the unveil. Stay tuned! And thank you all for your interest.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The Next Big Cake Project - part six

I was gnashing my teeth yet again when I realized that the second batch of buttercream would only really provide a crumb coating to the cake (this indicates an icing layer that just holds the crumbs at bay so the next layer can be much cleaner) and that I needed to make a third batch. So grumbling somewhat to myself I headed out earlier this evening to the store to get more stuff, and what luck that I did! The sky was magnificently dark, clear as crystal, and strangely lacking in ambient light... which set off all the stars. Orion was right there in front of me, complete with "belt." (Belt, schmelt.) Just north of Orion was the most beautiful crescent moon I'd seen in years. I dawdled all the way to the store. They don't carry parchment paper but the new clerk - with many conspiratorial winks - gave me some sheets of what they use in their baking section and told me I could get as many as I needed from him as often as I needed them. I wonder if he'll last the week. There's the cake with most of the third batch of buttercream on it (a lot of it is on me!)

The Next Big Cake Project - part five

What a good change from previous years when we brought our completed elements together to complete a cake in just a day. This time we have given ourselves two short days.

Laura arrived at 11 and we had some tea and caught up and then she started painting the glass sheet. She put the 100% colour printout below the sugar glass and began a simple tracing process, then worked on the colour and tones by referring to a small but accurate print of the stained glass window, as you can see her doing in the photograph.

I continued building the cake. The 20" square cake board had already been covered with white fondant by Laura. The first 16" square chocolate layer was placed on the board and brushed with raspberry liqueur and a layer of cooked buttercream. Same for the second layer. The third layer (which I am yet to place) will just be topped with buttercream as will the sides. Tonight I'm doing the lettering (royal icing outline with flooding to fill). Tomorrow we will pipe the "leading" that separates each pane of glass, the leading which surrounds the window, and some teal blue waves along the base of the cake, where it joins the board. At that point we'll see what else we need. Stay tuned! My place smells fantastico!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Next Big Cake Project - part four

The sugar glass onto which our image is being painted in edible paints is now complete. The idea of making individual pieces was impossible without custom-made moulds. The melted candy was just too quick to start solidifying as I tried to drizzle it into shape. After some gnashing of teeth and a quick phone call to Laura we decided to go with one solid piece of sugar glass. Here is the pile of Trebor's Glitter sweets still wrapped... half of them placed in the bottom of a aluminum foil-lined cake pan (12" x 12") ready to be melted in a hot oven... and the finished piece of sugar glass, which has a few bubbles but is otherwise in great shape and feels very sturdy (we have a backup sheet just in case!)

The Shift to the Dark Side

It all started about three years ago when a wonderful photographer sent me a box of Genevieve Grandbois chocolates from Montreal. Up to this point I had only eaten milk chocolate and was able to eat quite a lot at once... believe it or not! I sampled the GG chocs, reading the ingredients, and was delighted to detect the elements that made each chocolate different from the others. It was a taste revelation. And I appreciated at last the satisfaction in just having one or two really fine chocolates: the layers of taste and the richness of dark chocolate mean I am more than satisfied with just a little piece at a time.

A few months later I saw a feature on television of our own local chocolate master, Soma (their website is a bit iffy, but the shop and the chocolates are wonderful!), which is located about a 10-minute walk from my home. I bought their "truffles of origin" collection and did a taste test with a friend. The Madagascar was what captivated me with its dark red fruity undertones. The taste lingered and I was in ecstacy. I repeated the exercise a few weeks later with another friend and again, the Madagascar came out on top. They are currently in stock of the truffles but the Madagascar bars are sold out as they wait for the next shipment of cocoa beans.

Well dear Dr. M. came back from Montreal this week and has treated me to Grandbois' 4-chocolate Chuao tin. GG's chocs are decorated differently on top, with leafy sort of patterns, which is how you can tell the difference between them. The four truffles were: "Pure" (a pure Ghuao ganache), "Balsamico" (a ganache flavoured with 12-year aged balsamic vinegar), "Monte Cristo" (a ganache infused with Monte Cristo cigar leaves - and it was fascinating!) and "Truffe noire" (a ganache flavoured with black truffle oil). Here the tin is photographed when I had eaten two. Now there are none. I am feeling extremely good. Do you all know that dark chocolate contains a high dose of antioxidants? Yes! It's true!

Excerpted from WebMD:

Dark chocolate - not white chocolate - lowers high blood pressure, say Dirk Taubert, MD, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Cologne, Germany. Their report appears in the Aug. 27 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association ... Dark chocolate - but not milk chocolate or dark chocolate eaten with milk - is a potent antioxidant, report Mauro Serafini, PhD, of Italy's National Institute for Food and Nutrition Research in Rome, and colleagues. Their report appears in the Aug. 28 issue of Nature. Antioxidants gobble up free radicals, destructive molecules that are implicated in heart disease and other ailments ... What is it about dark chocolate? The answer is plant phenols - cocoa phenols, to be exact. These compounds are known to lower blood pressure. Chocolates made in Europe are generally richer in cocoa phenols than those made in the U.S. So if you're going to try this at home, remember: Darker is better. Just remember to balance the calories. A 100-gram serving of Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate Bar has 531 calories, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. If you ate that much raw apple you'd only take in 52 calories. But then, you'd miss out on the delicious blood pressure benefit.

All I'm saying is, I can't go back to milk chocolate. My taste buds have made the shift - permanently - to the dark side.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Next Big Cake Project - part three: How it All Started

After taking all three levels of cake decorating classes at George Brown College, Laura and our made our first cake (left hand column of picture). It was based on William Morris' "Trellis" wallpaper pattern. It measured 16" x 16" and was about 4" high. At the top you see a sample of the actual wallpaper (visit the Charles Rupert shop either in person or online and attach drool cup); in the middle is an overhead of our actual cake; and on the bottom is a sample of Laura's delicate floodwork on the birds.

The column on the right of the pic is the "Fruit" pattern cake, also based on a William Morris design. We did a cake in between, based on "Daisy", but - I don't have any decent photographs of it. I shall try and track some down.

The Next Big Cake Project - part two

Here are the results of the melted sugar experiments. We want the design to lay flat on top of the white-fondant covered cake. We also want it to look like real glass. This was interesting. The bottom image is a rich caramel and not very see through. It's the result of melting plain granulated sugar. The middle image was icing sugar, which would work if you can keep it very thin (see the bit in the middle that's practically see-through?), but we don't want it to be too fragile. The top image is just melted plain transparent candies, in this case Trebor's Glitter mints. I think this is the one!

Here is the plan: Laura has purchased the 20" x 20" cake board and is covering it with fondant. I'm making the three chocolate layers (16" x 16" each) and also the buttercream filling. There is lettering to go around the sides of the cake board that will be piped and filled with royal icing and over the next two days I'll be making the individual glass pieces to be made up into the stained glass panel that sits flat on the top of the cake. On Thursday and Friday Laura and I will get together at my place to paint and assemble. I've no doubt Laura's James - who has been a vital part of the processes the last three cakes - will be there too at some point! Laura and James are both very fine artists and also great cooks, so the cake - once more - is in good hands.

The Next Big Cake Project

Expect several posts the next few days. Laura and I are doing another cake. This one is inspired by Burne-Jones' "Viking Ship" stained glass and will be entirely edible. The event is Saturday. Stay tuned.

Why in Sam Hill did I Post this Claptrap?

I just got curious about the etymology of this expression. And, I've been wrong lo these many years. I've been saying "What in Sam Hell..." as in "What in Sam Hell happened to all the chocolate?" or "Who in Sam Hell's been into the Cardhu again?"

Realizing that the "Fiction" part of my "Film, Food and Fiction" blog was a little thin, I decided to go all litchry on you and research the background of this expression.

First, I discovered that I hadn't even been saying or spelling it correctly. It's "Sam HILL" not "Sam HELL", and apparently is a euphamism for "hell". Well.

The online urban dictionary was totally useless, although I came across some other words and definitions that caused me to lay down with a cold compress on my forehead for a while. So I turned to Wikipedia and this is some of the information that came my way:

The usage of "Sam Hill" dates back to at least 1839. Its etymology is uncertain. Some have suggested that the "Sam" in the phrase derives from Samiel, the name of the Devil in Der Freischütz, an opera by von Weber that was first performed in New York in 1825. Hill is most likely just a play on "hell".

It was used in the 19th century America by frontiersmen, especially when they needed to clean up their language in the presence of ladies. It was first used in print in 1839, in a Seattle newspaper. Jim Hill, the legendary "empire builder", whose railroads - including the Great Northern - remained his last monument, was a man given to notable rages when anyone dared to oppose one of his grandiose schemes. So frequent were these tirades that the paper carried as a standing headline: "Jim Hill is as mad as Sam Hill." Other phrases include "go like Sam Hill" or "run like Sam Hill". In reference to Col. Samuel Hill who perpetually ran for office in the late 19th Century.

For those of you not keeled over from boredom, thank you for sticking it out! I salute you!

Flagrant Desires and Brief Encounters

Reclining on the sofa last night I was gazing upon my little chocolate basket when it occurred to me what delightful names were on the covers. It’s no wonder I cannot resist:

Ghirardelli’s “Twilight Delight” Intense Dark

Flagrants Desirs’ Dark Chocolate

(flagrant desires! gorrr!)

Soma’s “The Dark Fire”

And so I passed on watching The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (I have it for a whole week on Captain Luke’s recommendation… well, he is a man of the sea after all and when was I ever to refuse the suggestion of a master and commander?) and instead indulged myself in watching Brief Encounter yet again, and yet again, ten minutes in, when Celia Johnson begins her internal monologue on the train, I fell to sobbing and reached for the Flagrant Desirs chocolate. Not for me the dainty weeping or welling tear-ducts. No my friends, loud honking noises were to be heard emanating from my vicinity. It didn't last long. I was a bit like Homer Simpson in that episode where he cooks and eats his pet lobster. As he eats "Pinchy" he alternately drools and celebrates over the delectable flesh and then, turning on a dime, wails for his lost friend. And so between purrs of pleasure as I bit into the chocolate, I would well up as Celia walked the rain-slicked streets of London, torn between her family and her lover. Then back to the chocolate. Hmmmm... maybe for me chocolate is less a mood-enhancer than a mood-swing-enhancer.

Hee hee... sob.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Year of Living Dangerously

Ange reminded me last night that one movie I left off my top ten list was The Year of Living Dangerously (1982). My new top ten list is going to be kept on the right there, so I can keep it updated as it evolves.

The Veil Drops

Ange treated me to a lovely time at Cafe Maroc this evening. The lamb shank was so tender and tasty, it fell off the bone onto a deliciously Moroccan-flavoured couscous. The maftoul (little meat-filled, flaky-pastry cigars) were delicious dipped in a chipotle-flavoured mayonnaise, as were the spicy frites. Ange had the lamb burger which I've had before and that was delicious too. The decor is so perfect. I'd love my place to look like this. The front section (where we were) is the Cafe Maroc, redolent of Rick's Cafe Americain in Casablanca. At one point it got really bustlingly busy and I remarked to Ange that I expected any moment that someone would burst into the "La Marseillaise." The back section is the Sultan's Tent, where you eat from a prix fixe menu. The tables are set up under tents and it's there are gorgeous belly-dancers who do a series of sets each night. It's not as cheesy as I make it sound and it's worth a visit just for the decor, and if you go, check out the bathrooms, whether you need to powder your nose or not.

We returned here and watched - FINALLY - The Seventh Veil (see my post from Monday, March 5). It was so much fun, a classic, 1945 melodrama. Ann Todd was lovely as the tormented and brilliant, young concert pianist and James Mason completely scene-stealingly wonderful as her brooding and controlling guardian, complete with limp and cane. Herbert Lom, one of our favourites, was the psychiatrist. The name of the movie refers to Salome's last veil. See, apparently, the human mind is covered in... veils.... and when we first meet people we hesitate before removing the first. With good friends we might remove three or four, with a lover, the fifth and possibly - gulp - the sixth. But never do we remove that seventh veil!!! Unless of course we are under the treatment of brilliant Dr. Lom and his special "narcosis" injections.

I was fairly stunned about 15 minutes into the movie when Ange suddenly burst out: "I don't believe it! Seeing this movie is explaining more to me about you than has 10 years of knowing you!" Apparently this is the inspiration for all my dreadful romance-novel writings complete with surly hero and tortured heroine. I pointed out that these are fairly stock-in-trade characterizations for most bad romance fiction but she said, no, it told me all she needed to know about ME and we continued watching only to pause the tape several times to break into laughter at some of the most scene-chewing moments.

Biggest laugh: Ann Todd has just arrived at her guardian's home and is meeting him for the first time. She looks down at the cat in his lap which he has been stroking. The camera travels lovingly from the cat up Mason's body to his smirking expression. "Do you want to stroke him?" he says. We had to play that about five times.

Ange was quite shocked by the end which delighted me no end. It is a shocker and yet perfectly logical, to my addled mind anyway. The picture is of Ann Todd and James Mason. I took it off the British Film Institute site. I'm not sure if that's wrong or right of me but I'm sure they'll forgive me.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

A Nice Cuppa

It's just one of those mornings where I was going about doing stuff and something was missing and then it struck me: oooh, how about a nice cuppa! I gave up caffeine about a year ago, but this was not by choice. It seemed I had developed a very powerful addiction to caffeine. I wasn't in the habit of having tea or coffee first thing in the morning, but if I hadn't had any by mid-afternoon, I was in big trouble: splitting headaches, nausea - horrible! So I decided to give it up entirely and ended up in bed, when I wasn't being sick, for two days. That was rough, but I wasn't going back.

I love tea: its golden colour, its fine fragrance, the ritual around making and sipping it and how it makes me feel good. I had to investigate a caffeine-free alternative. I had been very lucky a couple of years ago to have had a tea-tasting given to me for Christmas by Dave and Mario. At their home that spring, with James and Laura, we learned about tea from Catherine Lashko of The Tea Leaf in the Beaches. She showed us several types of tea. The one that captivated me the most was rooibos. Rooibos is Afrikaans for "red bush", and is not from the tea family, but from a legume plant. It's high in antioxidants, low in tannins (you can leave it to brew endlessly and it never gets bitter) and is lovely hot, warm and even cold. Its mild, tobacco-ey, herbal taste is slightly sweet, so it became my drink of choice last summer when I would brew a lot the night before and leave a large jug of it in the fridge to chill for the next day.

When I want regular tea, I have found that Stash's decaffeinated Earl Grey really flavourful despite being caffeine-free. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I'm not a collector of anything and I don't like accumulating too much stuff. Well, okay, I have too many books, double-stacked, etc. and have a lot of mugs and quite a few tea cups and saucers (not in a set, I just buy them when I find ones I like, usually in antique stores). A cup or mug might be dark on the outside, but I only drink tea out of it if the inside is white or at least very pale. Seeing the lovely colour is reassuring that the tea is brewed well and from good leaves. The flaring of a wide cup is ideal as the aroma is carried up to the nose easily.

Regarding the photograph above:

1. My favourite mug. It says "I care this much" under the image. I used to hold it up in front of my face during meetings at work, but then had to explain the joke (as usual, as I'm not good with jokes), so it lost some impact! Hee hee.

2. My favourite cup and saucer. The porcelain is very thin and tea tastes wonderful out of it.

3. This mug was given to me by Dave and Mario, the saucepots! I don't drink tea out of it as it's black, but will have soup from it.

4. A Chinese teapot with a mesh basket just under the lid. This is where I brew my rooibos. It's a delightful pot and the little matching cups are very sweet. I bought it in Montreal's Chinatown last year.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Sometimes the Spaghetti Likes to be Alone.

Yeah, the spaghetti, Greta Garbo.... and me.

Why do I seek to be alone? Well, for those of you who did not personally witness my shame on Oscar night, here is the low down:

First ballot: this is the one I filled in at work. Oh - hold it... that's right, I filled in two ballots at $5 each. I came in.... last. And lost $10.

Second ballot: this was a two-person ballot with Dr. M. I figured, hey, I'm a bit of a film nut and despite Dr. M.'s magnetic healing powers or whatever else he gets up to in St. Ciaran's, I thought this was a sure bet. Well, now I owe him dinner and a trip to Soma Chocolates. Not that I begrudge the prize, as he deserves it for the last rest-cure at the very least. But really...

Third ballot: this was the ballot that was held at my place while we watched the Oscars. Actually it was a really funny evening. The power went out just as the Oscars were about to start! We lit more candles and I made a few calls to my folks to get the updates on the awards as the minutes slipped by. When the power came back on an hour later, we still had two and a half hours of Oscars and that is absolutely plenty. It did give the proceedings a certain frisson of the unexpected. Well, the ballot prize traditionally is that all the losers cook the winner a dinner of his/HER choice of cuisine. As it turns out Laura and I co-lost to the guys... WHO ALL CO-WON. So... now the ladies are cooking the gentlemen dinner. Oh... did I mention their cuisine of choice? They want us to recreate the dinner at the centre of the movie Big Night (1996). Chuh! No big deal. Just that bloody big timpano thing, I think.

And that movie provided some great quotes:

"Bite your teeth into the ass of life."
(Ian Holm as Pascal)

"Sometimes the spaghetti likes to be alone" and "To eat good food is to be close to God."
(Tony Shalhoub as Primo)

Read it here: next year I am not entering any ballots! Honest guv.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Good Mistake

I think some of the world's great foods have come about by mistake. I don't have any actual examples here, but here's one of mine! I made my mum a birthday cake. It was supposed to be a date/chocolate cake and it involved four egg whites. I think I may have been too over-enthusiastic with the egg whites because when it came out of the oven, a crust had grown and lifted right up off the rest of the cake, and it was very meringue-like. There was no way I could cover it with ganache because this fine, thin crust began to crack and fall down. It was like a big chocolate meringue. Luckily I had some whipping cream. Whipped it up (no sugar needed), smeared a big thick layer of that on top, and then a fair bit of shaved dark chocolate on top of that. Well, I can't imagine it tasting better than if the cake had worked properly to begin with. A very lucky mistake that I will try and replicate. Just watch - next time that darned cake will work as the recipe intended. Although, you can't go much wrong with whipped cream and chocolate on top of anything. rrrrrrrrrRRRRRRRrrrrrrrrrr

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Son of "Top Ten Movie Quotes"

10. Lara Croft: "I expected more from a Scot."
Terry Sheridan: "I don't expect anything from an Englishwoman."
(Angelina Jolie as Lara and Gerard Butler as Terry in Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, 2003)

9. Tim Collin: "Mercy..."
Luther Whitney: "I'm fresh out."
(Dennis Haysbert as Collin, Clint Eastwood as Whitney in Absolute Power, 1997)

8. "Now I've kissed you through two centuries."
(Laurence Olivier as Nelson to Vivien Leigh as Emma, Lady Hamilton in That Hamilton Woman, 1941)

7. Jerry: "Okay, so I've sewn a few wild oats."
Carol: "A few? You could qualify for a farm loan!"
(Rock Hudson as Jerry Webster and Doris Day as Carol Templeton in
Lover Come Back, 1961)

6. Ali: "For some men, nothing is written."
(Omar Sharif as Sherif Ali in Lawrence of Arabia, 1962.)

5. Alvy: "Honey, there's a spider in your bathroom the size of a Buick."
(Woody Allen as Alvy Singer in Annie Hall, 1977.)

4. Tonetti: "Rodolfo Tonetti at your service."
Egbert: "Yes, well I am Mr. Fitzgerald."
Tonetti: "Oh, I'm delightful!"
(Erik Rhodes as Tonetti and Edward Everett Horton as Egbert Fitzgerald in The Gay Divorcee, 1934)

3. Mikey: "Think her family's gonna be okay that you're a white guy?"
Cliff: "They think any woman over 30 who isn't married is a lesbian. She figures, they'll be so relieved that I'm a man..."
Mikey: "Yeah, it's always heartwarming to see a prejudice defeated by a deeper prejudice."
(Stephen J. Lang as Mikey and Stephen Mendillo as Cliff in Lone Star, 1996)

2. Joan: "People around here are very poor I suppose."
Torquil: "Not poor, they just haven't got money."
Joan: "It's the same thing."
Torquil: "Oh no, it's something quite different."
Wendy Hiller as Joan Webster and Roger Livesey as Torquil MacNeil in I Know Where I'm Going!, 1945)


1. Alec: "Happy darling?"
Laura: "Not really."
(Trevor Howard as Alec Harvey and Celia Johnson as Laura Jesson in Brief Encounter, 1945.)

Friday, March 9, 2007

My Picks for the Top Ten Movie Quotes

10. Striker: "Surely you can't be serious." Rumack: "I am serious... and don't call me Shirley."
(Robert Hays as Ted Striker and Leslie Nielsen as Dr. Rumack in Airplane!, 1980)

9. "Oh... Where are you going?... Oh, you men are all alike. Seven or eight quick ones and then you're out with the boys to boast and brag. YOU BETTER KEEP YOUR MOUTH SHUT! Oh... I think I love him."
(Madeleine Kahn as Elizabeth in Young Frankenstein, 1974)

8. Sir Robert Morton: "Oh, you still pursue your feminist activities?"
Catherine Winslow: "Oh yes. Sir Robert Morton: Pity. It's a lost cause."
Catherine Winslow: "Oh, do you really think so, Sir Robert? How little you know about women. Good-bye. I doubt that we shall meet again."
Sir Robert Morton: "Oh, do you really think so, Miss Winslow? How little you know about men."
(Jeremy Northam as Sir Robert and Rebecca Pidgeon as Catherine in The Winslow Boy, 1999)

7. "If you really loved me, you would kill yourself."
(Marlene Dietrich as Countess Claire Ledoux, aka Lili in The Flame of New Orleans, 1941)

6. "I like being frightened... with you."
(Josette Day as Belle in La Belle et la Bete, 1946)

5. "How singularly innocent I look this morning."
(Clifton Webb as Waldo Lydecker in Laura, 1944)

5. "Nothing lasts really. Neither happiness nor despair. Not even life lasts very long. They'll come a time in the future when I shan't mind about this anymore. But I can look back and say quite peacefully and cheerfully how silly I was. No, no I don't want that time to come either. I want to remember every minute, always... always to the end of my days.
(Celia Johnson as Laura Jesson in Brief Encounter, 1945)

4. "Don't say another word. It's men like you who've made me the way I am."
(Marilyn Monroe as Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, 1953)

3. "I'll admit I may have seen better days, but I'm still not to be had for the price of a cocktail, like a salted peanut."
(Bette Davis as Margo Channing in All About Eve, 1950)

2. "I like a man who can run faster than I can."
(Jane Russell as Dorothy Shaw in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, 1953)


1. "Oh Jerry, let's not ask for the moon, we have the stars!"
(Bette Davis as Charlotte Vale in Now Voyager, 1942)

I'm sure I've forgotten lots of great ones!

Last Train from Gun Hill

Tonight we watched Last Train from Gun Hill (1959). I'd never heard of it, but it was directed by John Sturges, who also helmed Gunfight at the OK Corral, The Magnificent Seven and The Great Escape among many others. Kirk Douglas was in fine dimpled-chinned form as the heart-broken marshall, whose native Indian wife has been raped and murdered by a couple of louts. The father of one of the louts is Anthony Quinn, Kirk's old friend but a bit of a psycho dad. I won't ruin it for you, it's really worth catching if you see it come on late-night tv sometime. The scenery is wonderful and the shots of the wild west town are really interesting. Instead of a just a single road lined by clapboard buildings, Gun Hill is a more developed town with varied architecture. It looked so real! Beautifully photographed by Charles Lang, with costumes by Edith Head and a score by Dimitri Tiomkin.

Thursday, March 8, 2007


Jen helped me change my comments settings so that you don't have to be a registered user to comment on my blog! But no rude remarks please, or I might have to start doling out the smacked bottoms.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Pork Chops and the Pursuit of Happiness

Before Nigella, and after Elizabeth David, there is Delia Smith... mmmmmm... Delia, of Delia's Complete Cookery Course and her tv shows, which came well before the era of the celebrity chef. I loved watching her make mashed potatoes. She'd always add cream and butter (or was it creme fraiche?) and say, I'd rather have mashed potatoes only once a month but have them done properly. Anyway, tonight I made Delia's pork chops with sage and breadcrumbs, topped with some sizzled apple and onion rings. I think the aroma has infiltrated my entire head cavity and will stay there for several days. I sure hope so. Better that than this cold/allergy I'm still trying to shake. Last night I made a glazed lemon pound cake from The Silver Palate Cookbook. It's been years since I made it but it's my mum's favourite and my parents arrived today so... well, it's pretty much half-way gone!

My folks are currently watching a DVD of The Pursuit of Happyness, which we saw last week. Such a good movie and Will Smith is moving and inspiring. Remember him in the 80s as a rap star? He's done it all and he still looks so young. I love him as an actor - he has old-world charm, lanky handsomeness and wit and can be vulnerable at the same time. Kind of like a modern day Gary Cooper. Will for President!

Monday, March 5, 2007

My Top 10 Movies... the Current List

Swing Time (1936)
Now Voyager (1942)
Brief Encounter (1945)
Pillow Talk (1959)
Young Frankenstein (1974)
Days of Heaven (1978)
Airplane! (1980)
Hannah and her Sisters (1986)
Lone Star (1996)
Casino Royale (2006)

How it breaks down:
Comedies: 5
Heart-rending romances: 2
Texan sagas: 2
Bond: 1

Chuh... that's odd.

So what would be on your list?

Gob-smacked, Monkalicious, and Brightly Woven

Two friends of mine in the same fortnight recommended (unbidden) Ken Follett's The Pillars of the Earth. Not believing in coincidence, I felt it had to be read fortwith! So now I'm reading it. It's quite long and I'm easily distracted, so I found the first hundred or so pages a bit of a slog. It seemed to be an endless description of monks travelling from one monastery to the other, only to be denied a hot dinner and a bubble bath, which I truly longed for, for all of them. So for a few weeks I'd get into bed, get the book out, read about Father so and so and his bowl of gruel and how his sandals chaffed him and I'd be asleep within seconds. But... I hung in there and am so glad I did. The story is set in 14th. c England and quite the sweeping epic. A monk and a mason both have the same dream: to build a great cathedral. It has magnificent heroes (men and women) and some really nasty types and all the characters you can imagine in between. There's tons of violence, a bit of sex, and a lot of detail. Some years ago I visited the Gothic cathedrals of northern France and that really haunts me still: the idea of having a dream and knowing you might not live to see it completed. The engineering and workmanship and craftsmanship that went into these glorious buildings is truly g0b-smacking, so if you have any interest in what might happen around such a construction, then this is your book.

I read Daniel Deronda again this year. What a joy that is. But forget trying to do my own writing when I'm reading George Eliot. I'm more likely to be found in a corner flagellating myself like that naughty albino monk in The Da Vinci Code, screaming "I'm not worthy." George Eliot truly does leave me gob-smacked.

My chief advisor in literary matters of late is Jen, who - a few years ago - introduced me to the joys of Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series (Jamie Fraser.... rrrrRRRRRrrrr). In fact she moved like a lethal super-missionary through our workplace, strewing copies of Outlander left and right, and converting our heathen souls, turning us to the light of kilted Scotsmen and the exquisite pleasures to be found frolicking with them in the heather. But this year, she lent me her Fionavar trilogy, by Torontian Guy Gavriel Kay, for which I am most grateful. It was the first fantasy work I could get through and more than that, it's really so beautifully written and not what I had expected at all: poetic and powerful. Ooh! There I go with the adjectives. To lighten the mood she then lent me Dead and Unwed and Dead and Unemployed, two chick-lit vampire stories, which were so much fun! So many books... so little time. Sigh.

Recent Movies

Last Thursday, I turned on the tv just as a movie was starting on the Turner movie channel. It was The Seventh Veil!! I hadn't seen this for years, and at that time I was a highly-impressionable youngster. Now I'm just highly impressionable. Ann Todd as Francesca, the orphaned pianist... Herbert Lom, the psychiatrist determined to understand the nature of her torment... they seemed to fade into the background... it was James Mason at his best who really remained in my memory. His fabulous sybillant "s" as he said "Francesca" in his mildly threatening tones... "If you won't play for me, you'll play for no-one!" Women everywhere sighed in 1945 as James Mason brought his cane down on the piano keys and Francesca's dainty digits. Disconcertingly controlling, cruel and manipulative, and utterly irresistible as only James Mason could be. rrrrrrRRRRRRRrrrrrrr...

Then two weeks ago it was The Rains of Ranchipur (1955). This starred Lana Turner as the rich wife of poor-but-titled Michael Rennie who goes to India to buy a stallion... and finds a handsome Hindu doctor instead, played by Richard Burton in bootpolish and some fancy turbans. Indeed, as the tagline stated on the original posters: Theirs was the great sin that even the great rains could not wash away! Ange and I watched it together and had to keep pausing the tape so we would miss nothing as our hysterical laughter drowned out the priceless dialogue. "There are some men who have a rendezvous with destiny."

This weekend I saw The Prestige (2006) with Mark. At first I found the jumping back and forth between times and also who was reading whose notebook a little worrying and I felt kind of alienated from it. Then - whoomph! - it got me! What a movie! I highly recommend this. Yes, this gets 10 exclamation points! Hee hee! M. enjoyed it very much as well (we even managed to create some Simpsons references which is not difficult as we manage to relate almost anything to a Simpsons episode) and I think we're going to watch The Illusionist at some point soon.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Blowing Giraffes

I was watching the Food Network tonight and there was one of these sugar showdowns where pastry chefs have to build very tall sculptures using sugar. There's a lot of experience and skill at play here. And unlike other cooking showdowns, the chefs were being eliminated round by round. One of them was describing his piece and it involved creating two blown sugar glass giraffes, actually two of them. He said, "I've never blown a giraffe before." Luckily for the chef, he was eliminated after round one so, chances are, he'll never have to face that particular challenge.

Scones: an official food group

To do my power walk on such a chilly day in Toronto, I really needed a carrot on a stick, except... they aren't carrots, and they're in a basket cooling off - the warm baking smell is driving me mad - mad I tell you! Mwah-ha-ha-ha-haaaaa. And no, I'm not eating them all. They freeze well.... yeah... that's the ticket. By the way, I first made these from a baking course I did at George Brown College. The teacher, Pat, was one of the best teachers I've ever had anywhere. She's a professional baker, gets up at some crazy hour, like 3 a.m. By the time our class started at 6 p.m. she was still full of delightul energy and just a joy to learn from.

Hello there

I needed an outlet for my musings, so here it is: my first post on my first blog. I have no idea what to expect, except some trepidation (being a very private person) that the whole world potentially could be reading me. Not that... you know... anyone would want to... but - well you know what I mean. Chuh!