Films that feel like October, Part II

On Monday, I wrote about a few films that make me feel the shift in seasons and the cooler weather. With Halloween approaching, many would consider horror classics that should be in the mix of film viewing this time of year. While I enjoy a good scare, those films don’t necessarily feel like autumn to me. Around Halloween I gravitate towards Tim Burton’s Ed Wood or the classic animation special, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown brings back a sense of childhood and wonderment for me. I don’t remember watching it every fall, but there is something so feel-good and traditional about it. It makes me long for those evenings of innocent treat-or-treating, before girls suddenly dress in costumes that are suppose to be sexy. I’d be happy to eat some candy corn and watch it any day.

For something a little different though, there’s Ed Wood. I discovered this film while in college and became slightly obsessed with it at the time. Johnny Depp plays the overly ambitious, but troubled 1950s film director Ed Wood. The film is based in truth: Ed Wood was a Hollywood outcast and is often called the worst film director ever. (Perhaps you’ve heard of Plan 9 From Outer Space? That was him.) Wood befriends an eclectic group of friends including an aging Bela Leguosi -Hollywood’s original Dracula- to create his next “masterpiece” despite the consistent lack of support from the studio system.

Ed Wood is one of Burton’s less talked about films, but it’s one of my favorites. Depp transforms into Wood and it is a joy to watch. The film hosts another wonderful ensemble cast: Sarah Jessica Parker, Bill Murray, Patricia Arquette and Martin Landau, who one an Oscar for his portrayal of Lugosi. I’m drawn to comedies and this is partly why I love this film. There is a bit of insider film humor included, but there’s also Wood’s drive. The determination to make his dreams come true resonates with everyone. How you get there is half the fun. (Plus, there’s angora sweaters! #SweaterWeather.)

To add to the mood of this Halloween weekend picks, make some hot apple cider (and spike if you like!) Whether or not you’re handing out Halloween candy or eating it on the couch while watching either of these titles, the cider will make a nice pairing.

What’s your favorite Halloween candy? What film puts you in the spirit of tricks and treats? Let me know in the comments!

Hot Apple Cider
from Southern Living

2 quarts apple cider
1/2 cup molasses
4 lemon slices, cut in half
12 whole cloves
2 (2-inch) cinnamon sticks
1/4 cup lemon juice
Garnishes: cinnamon sticks, lemon wedges, whole cloves

Bring cider and next 4 ingredients to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally; reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes.

Remove cinnamon sticks and cloves with a slotted spoon; stir in lemon juice. Garnish, if desired.

Watch the films mentioned in this post:
– It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on Amazon, iTunes or add to Netflix queue.
Ed Wood on Amazon, iTunes or add to Netflix queue.
– Or even better, support your local rental store!

Films that feel like October, Part I

October has always been one of my favorite months. As a kid, I loved getting into the Halloween spirit and thinking of creative costumes. In my 20s, October seemed like the month when a routine for the season finally set in. I love that changes in temperature and maybe discovering a golden leaf. In the South, the break in the heat was a much-needed relief. In Los Angeles, the land of no-seasons, the change isn’t as clear. There are moments when the breeze comes through the window and we wake up to our apartment being chilly. Suddenly, autumn has arrived.

There are some films I revisit every October. They give me a sense of the autumn spirit and remind me of the passage of time no matter what the weather is outside. This is part one of two posts this week about films that set the autumn mood for me.

Good Will Hunting not only has the “back to school” vibe, but I feel the cool Boston air as the camera moves through the Harvard and MIT campuses. Robin William’s cozy sweater wardrobe can’t be ignored either. They are on point.

The story of When Harry Met Sally covers all the seasons, but the shots of Harry and Sally walking amongst those bright red and orange trees in New York City are saved like a screen shot in my brain. Watching that comedy is like preparing yourself for the oncoming holiday madness, no matter your dating or marriage status. As Sally mentions, you just have to get through Thanksgiving to New Years.

Days of Heaven‘s stunning cinematography reminds me of how the days are getting shorter. Set in the early 1900s on the panhandle of Texas, this Terrance Malick film was shot mostly during “magic hour”. The sky glows beautifully during the harvesting scenes and its easy to get lost in this love triangle story. (I may have to curl up in a blanket and write a longer post about this one.)

As soon as the weather turns slightly cooler here, I start baking. Because we don’t have central air/heat, we are particular about when we use the oven. The moment I realize I can turn it on and it wouldn’t make the house too hot, my mind and stomach immediately goes to baking. I’ve been on a low FODMAP diet for the last several months for health reasons and including gluten is still a little tricky at times. While deep in the recipe-rabbit-hole, I came across a recipe for Pumpkin Granola Bars. I’ve made it each week for the past month (despite a short heat wave last week). So yes, we’re now a little obsessed with them. It’s perfect as a snack or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream for dessert. And it “feels” healthy because OATS, so that’s good, right?

What are some of your autumn favorites? Any non-horror films put you in the October mood for tricks-or-treats? Do you find yourself craving pumpkin (or do you hate the non-stop marketing and vow to eat all things non-pumpkin)?

Stay tuned for more autumn picks on Thursday!

Pumpkin Granola Bars
from The Well Balanced FODMAPer
*I have experimented a little with the amounts for this, using a little more pumpkin or adding ginger spice at times. It’s always turned out amazing, so go for it.

Should make about 10 smaller size granola bars. Serving size: 1 bar

2 cups oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup canned pumpkin
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon all spice

Preheat oven to 325°.
Blend all ingredients together. Press very firmly into lightly greased 8 x 8 square pan.
Bake for 40 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting.
Refrigerating will keep the bars firmer.

Watch the films mentioned in this post:
– Good Will Hunting – watch on Amazon, iTunes, add to Netflix queue
– When Harry Met Sally – watch on Amazon, iTunes, add to Netflix queue
– Days of Heaven – watch on Amazon, iTunes, add to Netflix queue (make sure you get the Blu-ray!)
– Or support your local rental store!

 

Sunday Mornings

I love autumn. I’m spending a few days in the beautiful Appalachians of North Carolina. Colored leaves. NorthFace layers. Cozy time sitting in a rocking chair by a fireplace. Cathead-sized biscuits. I’m in heaven.

Hope you are enjoying this beautiful autumn Sunday.
Here’s a slice of the internet for coffee time.

    • Margaret Brown (whose short The Black Belt I’ll be posting about next week) released a new short with the New York Times and it’s fantastic. Glenn Beck humanized. Well done, Margaret. Watch “Never Trump. But Then What?”
    • The man behind Twitter’s @ArthouseTrump reveals himself.
      This sounds familiar: “I noticed early on in high school that there is definitely a very ugly and petty part of the film community, especially online. It seemed like a lot of people use their knowledge of movies as a starting point to belittle others and brag about how much smarter they are than everyone else. It became a kind of boring contest to see who had seen the most obscure films, who could word the most persuasive argument, who could nitpick every word of someone with a different opinion who might not be as articulate.”
    • I’ve always loved Pete Souza’s behind-the-scene photos of the Obama administration on Instagram. With less than 100 days in office for the Obamas, Souza has been posting some of his favorite throwback photos.
    • I have a soft spot for ceramic mugs. Love the texture and shape of this one.
    • I would not be surprised if Chris Kelly’s past year on the festival circuit influenced the creation of this piece on SNL, but this skit nails it. Been there, both as moderator AND audience member. So good.
    • A beautiful tea towel with an important message.

Movie & Menu: Gosford Park (2001)

First, I must confess something.

It’s possible that the first time I watched Gosford Park, I fell asleep on the couch halfway through it. And it’s also possible that the last time I watched this great film, I also fell asleep. They were typically nights where I already had spent about 60% of my day watching films. It happens. But I’ve watched the entire film – which one of E’s favorites – without snoozing at least once. It’s a favorite in our household and he picks it often on his night.

Ok, now that my secret is out, let’s talk about Gosford Park.

Before “Downton Abbey”, there was Gosford Park. This 131 minute drama takes place in a lavish 1930s English country house. The McCordle family is hosting a weekend shooting party and their wealthy guests arrive with their servants in tow. Everyone has something to hide. Everyone is reminded of their “place”. At some point during the weekend, a murder occurs, startling the guests and servants. This upstairs/downstairs story transforms into a murder mystery as secrets are revealed and suspects are considered.

Robert Altman, who was in his mid-70s when he directed Gosford Park, was a remarkable filmmaker. His work is filled with amazing ensemble casting and performances (Nashville and M.A.S.H. are two that come to mind) and complex scenes. He was known to have natural dialogue in his films and when you watch these scenes unfold it’s like peeling back onion layers. Characters speak over each other, layering and weaving together context, clues and feelings. It’s amazing to watch as you realize how challenging this type of filmmaking can be to achieve.

This style plays out again in Gosford Park. To start, the cast is insane and far too talented: Helen Mirren, Kristin Scott Thomas, Bob Balaban, Michael Gambon, Kelly Macdonald, Clive Owen, Emily Watson, Ryan Phillippe and Stephen Fry. Our favorite, however, is Maggie Smith as Constance Trentham. Her sass and one liner delivery are the BEST. This ensemble perfectly crafts party conversations and gossip. The movement from both actor and camera are carefully staged revealing details and clues. Every time E and I watch this film, we find ourselves following a different character in a scene and (more so for me) catching something I missed before.

The actions leading to murder are methodical and humor is sprinkled throughout, making this film elaborate both on screen and on the page. Gosford Park was nominated for a slew of Academy Awards in 2002, winning for Best Writing (Written Directly for the Screen). Screenwriter Julian Fellowes went on to write and create “Downton Abbey”.

As you may expect with a weekend long party, various scenes in the film involve food. One of my favorite moments is the Bloody Mary that drops during the post-hunt brunch: a great visual hint of the looming murder to come.

As I was thinking about what meal would pair nicely with this film, it seemed fitting to pick something as creative (and possibly complex) as the film: roasting a small quail (or dove or other small game bird). But if you’re like me and you’re stuck in a city like Los Angeles, where game hunting is not exactly the norm, AND you don’t have a slew of downstair servants, go pick up a rotisserie chicken at Vons or Whole Foods and make it easy on yourself. After all, you must make sure you don’t exhaust yourself beforehand. Otherwise you may not find out who dun’ it!

Roasted Small Game Bird
From Joy of Cooking

All small birds, except coots, should be dry plucked. To use the entrails after cooking, sieve or chop the intestines and flambé them briefly in brandy.
Small birds should be barded or you may wrap them first in fig or grape leaves. All lend themselves to roasting and skewering or broiling from 3 to 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450°
Bard, 6 small game birds
It is not necessary to stuff them, although a few peeled grapes or bits of celery or parsley may be tucked inside and discarded later. Place in the pan with the birds:
1 Tablespoon butter
Bake the birds about 5 minutes.
Reduce the heat to 350° and bake them 5 to 15 minutes longer, according to their size.
Timing in general varies from woodcock, 8 to 10 minute, to quail, unstuffed, 10 to 15 minutes; to stuffed, 15 to 18 minutes.

Have you seen Gosford Park? What movies do you ALWAYS fall asleep in? Did you try roasting a bird?

-Watch Gosford Park on Amazon, iTunes or add to your Netflix queue. (Support your local rental store if you can!)-

Shorts & Snacks: Bacon & God’s Wrath (2015)

Bacon is on the list of my favorite foods. A no-brainer. Breakfast, lunch, dinner or just a bacon snack. If I can include bacon in a meal I will certainly try. The how-much-bacon-is-too-much-bacon struggle is real.

So when filmmaker Sol Friedman created his last short film Bacon & God’s Wrath, I was immediately intrigued by the title. I’ve been a fan of Sol’s work for sometime now, sharing some of his unique blend of live-action and animation shorts at festivals over the years. Bacon is a turning point for his work however. It takes a personal story of faith, throws in some creative animation and becomes an exciting piece of documentary art. The Sundance jury that year thought so too, awarding it with the jury award for non-fiction.

Take a few minutes, take out a bacon snack and enjoy this short. I guarantee you’ll never think of bacon the same way again. Feel free to share you thoughts in the comments!

Bacon & God’s Wrath
Directed by Sol Friedman
2015 / 9 minutes / Canada
A 90-year-old Jewish woman reflects on her life’s experience as she prepares to try bacon for the first time.

Menus & Movie Queues

I love cooking, but often dread trying to think of what’s for dinner. Does that happen to you too? It sometimes takes me an hour to think through all my options and consider what my body craves. It tends to be something in the Southern or Mexican palate. And there’s typically a desire for carbs and/or red meat. Plus figuring out the matching vegetable side that I know should be more than the carb or protein. I also like to change it up – how boring to have the same 4 meals in rotation when there’s time to cook. Then it becomes going down the rabbit hole of food blogs. The choice to cook whatever I want is both a luxury and a curse. (I understand even a small complaint about this is beyond a first world problem.)

Here’s the thing: too many options causes decision paralysis for me. The struggle is real. I must feel out all the flavors before I even make it into the grocery store or we’re doomed.

The same is true for picking a movie.

As a fest programmer, there are days when I am watching 20 shorts or three to five documentary features in day (or a mix of both). At the end of the night, when most people come home from work to unwind by watching TV or a movie with little care, I am the opposite. When I’m in heavy screening mode, I am extremely particular in how I chose my “screen time”, as my husband can attest. This is precious, personal time we’re talking about. Two hours where I don’t necessarily have to have my brain “on” to critique or consider each piece of production value or whether the story has a loop-hole (or worse yet, if a story even exists). So even then, the options are endless. I hate that it takes so long to make a choice, but it seems I’m not the only one that is wasting away time on this act.

Let me set the scene for you:

After cooking a delightful meal with my husband, we discuss what the evening has in store as we settle into our living room.

“Do you want to watch something?” he asks, because while E works in film and has his own share of screen time during the day, it’s often watching the same thing over and over again (the task of an editor).

“Sure. Is it my night (to pick) or yours?” I reply.

“It’s yours. Think you can pick something in the next five minutes?” says E.

“…hmm… yes?” Though we both know this is probably not true.

There I am, scrolling through the Netflix app, the iTunes app, and scanning our perfectly organized collection of physical movies. I think. And ponder. And think.

netflix-streaming

If we’re currently in the middle of a TV series, that often is the easiest choice. If we are not, the situation is more complicated. Something new? Something old? New to me? Or an old-tried-and-true?

Drama? Noir? Action? Documentary. No probably not – too much like work.

Comedy. After watching so many real-life stories of human right struggles, conflicts or the issues of the world, comedy often restores my film energy.

Ok, comedy. Romantic? Screwball? Classic? 80s?

“How’s it coming?” E says.

“…Debating between two” I lie.

The standards run though my head: Clueless? Mean Girls? The Apartment? Raising Arizona? Office Space? Animal House? The Blues Brothers? Some Like It Hot? Ghostbusters? Anchor Man? On the scale of “how many bad movies did I already watch today and do I need Paul Rudd in my life”? I know that any of these choices will likely make E roll his eyes (out of love of course), but it’s my night to pick after all. He can watch Gosford Park another night.

“Ok, I got it.” I perk up.

“Great! What are we watching?” E asks.

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid… Or The Sting…. ” I reply, surprising myself a little by my sudden half-decision.

E smiles. I let him pick from there because either way I get what my gut wants: Redford and Newman in their prime.

Please tell me I’m not the only one that has choice paralysis when it comes to food and movies. What’s your go to genre to watch or meal to eat after a long day? Let me know in the comments!

Films & Food: New Orleans Film Festival

The New Orleans Film Festival kicks off its 27th annual event this week, running from October 12 to 20, 2016. I was privileged to attend this festival three years ago as a Juror and had a blast. The NOFS team, led by Executive Director Jolene Pinder, knows how to put on a show and treat filmmakers well. Between the creative and very New Orleans-based parties, the community of filmmakers and the many local film fans this is a wonderful, festive atmosphere to eat, drink and happily sink into film screenings for a week.

If you are lucky enough to attend NOFF this year, here’s a few of the programs I recommend checking out:

  • Opening Night & LBJ: Coming off its premiere at TIFF, Rob Reiner’s latest film about President Lyndon Johnson (played by Woody Harrelson) will kick off the festival. NOFF had by far one of the best Opening Night events I have attended. They fully embraced and celebrated the local scene, having a second line parade from the film to the party, where live jazz and brass band continue to play throughout the evening.
  • FARMER/VETERAN: I was honored to host the world premiere of this intimate documentary at DIFF earlier this year. It follows Alex Sutton, an Iraq vet with PTSD, as he attempts to rebuild a life and family by creating a farm at home. It’s a haunting and honest portrait of a soldier.
  • WHITE GIRL: Filmmaker Elizabeth Wood is a force. She’s definitely one to watch and this feature is proof.

    contemporarycolor-1-1474344272
    Contemporary Color
  • CONTEMPORARY COLOR: The Ross brothers’ latest captures a rare and unique live event with performances by David Byrne, Nelly Furtado, St. Vincent, Ira Glass, tUne-yArds and others.
  • Short films: Short films are always a treat and important as I’ve mentioned before. NOFF has a great lineup of shorts this year. While I haven’t seen it yet, I must highlight THE NEW ORLEANS SAZERAC in the “Louisiana Stories: Act Three” block. I am so intrigued and love the synopsis (and the cocktail)!

In between films and festival parties, be sure to check out a few of my favorite spots for a taste of New Orleans. (Plus, there are things to do beyond Bourbon Street y’all.)

  • Treat yo’self to an amazing meal at Cochon or Herbsaint. You won’t regret it. I’m drooling just thinking about it. (Reservations encouraged.)
  • Speaking of Sazeracs, sip one at the beautiful Sazerac Bar inside The Roosevelt. #NewOrleansClassyDrinking #Adulting
  • If you can manage to get a seat, take a spin on the Carousel Bar & Lounge at Hotel Monteleone and order a Vieux Carre.
  • Don’t miss the amazing fried chicken at Willie Mae’s.
  • If near the French Quarter or Central Business District, you can’t go wrong with brunch at Palace Cafe or Mother’s.
  • Looking for a dive? Try a frozen irish coffee at Molly’s at the Market.
  • Po’boys and beignets (and cash). That’s really all you need in life.

Congratulations to Clint Bowie and the programming team on a great lineup! And best wishes to Jolene as she moves on to new and exciting work after this year’s festival. It will be strange not to see her at the helm of NOFS, but I’m looking forward to what the future holds for her and the film society.

Have you attended NOFF before? Are you excited to see any films in their lineup? What’s your favorite restaurant in New Orleans? Tell me in the comments below.