Shorts & Snacks: Treevenge (2008)

In keeping with the holiday spirit here, today I’m highlighting one of my all-time favorite short films, Treevenge

This short, directed by Canadian filmmaker Jason Eisener, made a splash on the festival scene in late 2008/early 2009.  Eisener and his team take a twist on a tradition of Christmas, picking out the perfect tree, and give us a glimpse of the experience from the trees’ perspective. During this particular Christmas, however, the trees have had enough and decide to fight back.

I saw this film at Sundance seven years ago and every Christmas since, it pops back into my mind. I showed the film to my family the following holiday and now we share a laugh each Christmas as we admire the family tree. I recommend watching this with others if you can – the howl of an audience laughing and cringing together makes the film that much more fun. When festival programmers talk about searching for a film that has an original and creative idea, they are talking about a short like this one.

Treevenge is definitely NSFW. If you are not a fan of over-the-top horror films then, fair warning, this short may not be for you. But if you are in need of a good laugh (and who isn’t during the holidays?), then grab your favorite Christmas cookie, take a break and check out Treevenge below. I bet you’ll never be able to pick out a Christmas tree the same way again!


Treevenge
Directed by Jason Eisener
2008 / 16 min / Canada
After being cut down, shipped off to christmas tree dealers, and brought home and decorated in celebration of christmas, the trees are fed up with the humiliation and abuse, and take their revenge on humanity.

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Movies & Menu: Elf (2003)

Elf is definitely a “new” Christmas classic. It is one of those films that you can’t not laugh when watching. Buddy’s childlike Christmas spirit is contagious. After spending half an hour at the post office or navigating the lines in your grocery store, Elf is the holiday perk you need in your life.

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Elf (2003)

In Elf, Buddy (Will Ferrell) was raised by elves in Santa’s workshop in the North Pole. When he goes to look for his birth father, he is introduced to New York City and the human world. Most of those he meets lack Christmas cheer and don’t believe in Santa Claus. Buddy discovers his identity in this new culture and changes a few minds in the process.

I bet “Will Ferrell dressed in yellow tights” had to be part of the film’s pitch too.

One of my favorite scenes is when Buddy and his father (James Caan) visit the doctor (played by director Jon Favreau). The three men perform this moment with great comic timing. I especially love Ferrell’s layered reactions in it. He’s excited, serious (for Buddy’s character that is), playful, charming and curious all at once.

Since adding maple syrup to spaghetti is not really my thing, I think the perfect match for snacking on while watching Elf is your favorite childhood Christmas cookie.

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Decorating rich roll cookies!

For me, it’s a rich roll cookie. My mother would bake these with us every December. After cutting them into fun shapes, my brother and I would decorate them by painting on the icing. It’s a tradition that I continue each year now with E. They are buttery, sugary and delightful. Each bite brings back that little bit of childhood wonder. Buddy (and Santa) would approve.

What is your favorite Christmas cookie? Have you watched Elf countless times like me? What’s your favorite scene from the film? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!


Rich Roll Cookies
Recipe from Joy of Cooking

Makes about sixty 2-inch cookies

Cream:
1 cup butter
2/3 cup sugar

Beat in:
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Combine and add:
2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind

Chill dough 3 to 4 hours before rolling.*
Preheat oven to 350°.
Bake on a greased cookie sheet 8 to 10 minutes or until slightly colored.

*Chilling the dough is key. As you roll, use as little extra flour as possible. Sometimes a rolling pin cover (like a pantyhose or pastry cloth) will help. If you’re baking one sheet, stick the dough back in the refrigerator to get it cold again while you wait. Warm dough is not your friend here.

Icing: We typically used lime or lemon juice mixed powdered sugar. Mix in small bowls and add food coloring as you like! Start with a little bit of juice. It’s always easier to make the icing thinner than it is to make it thicker. Remember to let the cookies cool completely before adding icing!

Watch the films mentioned in this post:
Elf on iTunes, Amazon, Netflix
– Or support your local video store!
– Check for your local free screenings too!

Gift Guide for the Movie Lover

Earlier this week I shared some of my favorite gift ideas for the foodie in your life. Today, I’m back with ideas for your favorite movie lover.

For this particular list, I’ve included a few “experience” gifts. I think those are often the most fun to give to someone because it creates memories and stories to share later. Here’s a few ideas to help you find the perfect gift:

A membership or gift certificate to a local arthouse cinema. You may have heard a particular theater name dropped by your movie fan before, but in case you need a little help finding that arthouse theater check out the lists here or here. This is a great stocking stuffer!

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Castro Theatre, San Francisco

A next level gift to effect is buying a pass to a film festival they’ve always wanted to attend (or the flight that will help them get there). Sundance may be too hard to organize this late in the year (typically finding a place in Park City is difficult by mid-December), but there are several great regional festivals in the spring, summer or fall that are options too. Granted this particular gift may include a discussion before you buy a flight or pass for someone, but I promise this get-a-way trip will be an experience they won’t soon forget!

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SIFF Cinema Uptown, Seattle

A membership to a local film society. There’s not a full organized list online, so your best bet is to google the person’s city plus “film society” or “film festival”. That should help you find the non-profit in that area that has a mission to promote film and art. (If you need help finding a good one, email me.) This is a gift that’s both fun and feel-good. Many of these non-profit orgs do specials around the holidays for just such gifts!

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The Graduate (1967)

Blu-rays are always an option, but the trick is picking the right film. It’s all a matter of knowing taste, both yours a gift giver and theirs as a gift receiver. I think you can never go wrong with gifting a few classics like Casablanca,  Dr. Strangelove, The Graduate, or the James Bond collection.

An alternative to the blu-ray: a gift card for streaming service through iTunes, Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, HBOGo, SundanceNow (for the doc fans) or TCM/Criterion’s FilmStruck. Films are increasingly moving to these online services, so while it’s not the most fun gift to open it’s the reality of how most people are watching their movies.

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Napoleon Dynamite poster, Etsy

Film art and posters! The options here are endless. You could go with something classic like Sunset Boulevard or The Apartment. Or try something a little different, like a minimalist original design. Mondo is one of the more famous stores for this, but you can also find an assortment on Etsy: Ghostbusters, Funny FaceHarry Potter, Vicky Christina Barcelona, Napoleon Dynamite. Or even a “badly drawn” portrait of Orson Welles for that Citizen Kane fan!

Apple TV. We received this as a gift last year and it has been used far more than our blu-ray player ever since. The Amazon Fire is a decent alternative (though we rarely use the one I received for work). For someone that streams movies through Amazon over iTunes, it may be the one to get.

What have been your favorite movie gifts of the past?  What are you getting your movie lover this year? (Don’t worry, I won’t tell them!) I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Good luck with your holiday shopping!

Gift Guide for the Foodie

Holiday gifts. There are so many options to choose from. Where do you start? Well this week, you’re in luck. I’m here to help!

Today, I’m posting a Gift Guide for the Foodie: a few of my favorite cooking and food items that I’m sure will please anyone on your gift list. All (but one item, #2) are things E and I have either received as gifts in the past or have bought ourselves. Nothing but rave reviews here.

So without further ado, this year’s Gift Guide for the Foodie:

  1. Help save the environment while you shop for your produce! We made the switch to reusable produce bags this year and love these cotton muslin bags from Simple Ecology.
  2. For when you need meal planning inspiration, roll the Foodie Dice!
  3. The Toddy Cold Brew coffee maker is a definitely favorite in our household. Easy to make, sits over night and you have coffee good for a week!
  4. For the wino, Honig’s Sauvignon Blanc – Late Harvest is lovely. The Honig winery is one of my favorites in Northern California and this dessert wine is a highlight.
  5. pit mitt is a must-have for any BBQ-er in your life.
  6. For the foodie who is also a history nerd, I recommend: A History of Food in 100 Recipes by William Sitwell
  7. A stylish mortar & pestle is handy for every chef and doesn’t take up much counter space.
  8. A cocktail kit is nice to kick things up a notch while traveling and a perfect stocking stuffer!
  9. Give the gift of cheese. I promise, it will be their favorite gift. (Also if you want to send me something from Cowgirl, I’d be cool with that.)

Stop by on Thursday for part two of my Gift Guide, focused on the film fan in your life!

Have you started your holiday shopping yet? What are some of your favorite foodie gifts?

Sunday Mornings

Our small Christmas tree is up and decorated. We went with white lights this year, though I’m typically a colored-lights-on-the-tree fan. Most of our ornaments are from childhood, including E’s Star Wars Death Star which plays the Emperor’s speech each time the lights click on. So while working in the late afternoon, I’ll suddenly hear this speech coming from our Christmas tree:

“As you can see, my young apprentice, your friends have failed. Now witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle station! Fire at will Commander! (explosions)”

It takes a few days to get use to.

I hope your Sunday is filled with something calm and festive. Here’s a few highlights from the internet this week to read while nibbling a baked holiday treat or sipping a hot cup of cocoa (with extra whip cream, because #Sunday).

20 days until Christmas. We got this.