Sunday, April 15, 2007

Cooking, Movies, Cooking for Movies, Cooking to Movies, Movies to Cook By

It's been decided. The Oscar Ballot winners have asked the... runners up... to cook a meal inspired by the movie Big Night. Stay tuned for all the laughs that will ensue. I am half-thinking of suggesting we just recreate the final scene with the cooking of the omelette. But my guess is we won't get away with that and that timpano and risotto will somehow be involved.

Yesterday I had some friends over and we watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975). Yes, I have to admit, it was my first viewing. Now, I didn't fall about laughing very much, but I think that was because I was feeling stunned by it all. But today I kept laughing out loud as things came back to me (don't send the men in white coats). I think what I need is at least one more viewing to really appreciate the dialogue. I loved Graham Chapman playing King Arthur absolutely straight up, with a sort of WWII British war hero voice. And the grenade of Antioch bit, with Michael Palin as the cleric reading:

"And the Lord spake, saying, 'First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who, being naughty in my sight, shall snuff it.'"

The scary Tim, Brave Sir Robin, Anthrax Castle ("Oh! The spanking, the spanking! And after the spanking comes the oral sex! Yes! Yes!") I know the other Python movies well, but for some reason never caught this one. How embarrassing. But now I have embraced my heritage properly. No more quizzical looks about the Knights-who-say-Ni! The DVD has lots of extras. We just watched the coverage of Michael Palin and Terry Jones going back to the Scottish locations where they filmed. They are such charming men and met some equally charming locals. I have decided for my next career move to get a job working in a gift shop in a remote Scottish castle. Somehow, I believe this is my calling. Caroline warned that the castles are cold and drafty so I shall stock up on big sweaters.

Earlier in the day I had to get some work-work done and also cook for the evening. I usually cook to music only, and would pick the most inspiring for whatever dish I had to make (usually opera for Italian, etc.) But yesterday I had the tv on in the background, tuned to Turner Movie Classics. A miasma of movie magnificence! (Jen, that's for you, if you're reading this.) Citizen Kane (1941), followed by King Kong (1933), The Big Sleep (1946) and Philadelphia Story (1940).

As I heard Citizen Kane announced, I thought (it had been many years since I saw it): "Gor blimey, I mean, what makes it the best movie ever for so many people?" But just listening to the sound alone was mesmerizing. It's a brilliant script, flawlessly cast and with choices about pace and interpretation that leave me completely gob-smacked. I have to get this on DVD, I bet Criterion has an edition.

Mark told me a while ago that for him the original King Kong, and especially Fay Wray, was the best. I waffled on a bit in disagreement, but I'm eating my words (and left-over lasagne). I'd forgotten how enchanting Fay Wray was - and what a screamer! The stop-start animation is incredibly primitive but the other effects were amazing for the time, like Kong climbing the Chrysler building, and the planes coming right at the camera. And ultimately it's suspenseful and moving.

I took a break to watch the start of The Big Sleep. The titles are hysterical. The entire sequence is overlaid with wafts of cigarette smoke. You really have to see it to believe it. It's like an homage to smoking. Each name is sort of blown away with it. I wish smoking were healthy for you and smelled good. It looks so sexy. Remember Paul Henreid lighting up in Now Voyager and Liam Neeson (in glorious black and white) at the start of Schindler's List? The Big Sleep is completely incomprehensible. Apparently when Raymond Chandler was consulted on a plot point, he - too - was unsure of what actually happened. I've seen this movie five times and never figured it out. But that's not really the point. The point is to let it wash all over you with it's noirish style.

The Philadelphia Story was on when Barbara and Christine arrived and they picked up their cues magnificently, doing fine Katherine Hepburn impressions: "Hellooo you." Hee hee!


Jen Star said...

How miasmatic of you!

(And I have seen Citizen Kane. In Grade 13 film class. Rosebud is his sled. Or was that his bear? . . .)

Blog Princess G said...

Rosebud was the sleigh. In the Simpsons' take-off episode, a stuffed bear played a similar role for young Mr. Burns.

BUT... the tale of Rosebud goes further. You probably know that Randolph Hearst was infuriated with Orson Welles because he recognized Citizen Kane as a depiction of him. The final insult behind "Rosebud" was that apparently it was Hearst's pet name for his lover Marion Davies' naughty bits. He offered RKO a huge amount of money to destroy the finished film. When they refused, all his newspapers tore the movie to shreds and refused to carry any advertising for it.