Who Am I?


Posted: June 15th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Movie Reviews | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on Bernie

BernieBernie is retelling of the story of a murder in 1996 in Carthage, TX. The film flips back and forth between a narrative storyline and faux documentary style interviews with Carthage residents about Bernie and the crime. I was impressed by how well the director meshed the two forms together to create what feels like a seamless flow.

The actors, of course, are top-notch and don’t disappoint, but I found the way they captured East Texas life (which is more like the northern Louisiana where I was born and spent about a third of my childhood than it is the rest of Texas) in the interspersed fictionalized interviews with Carthage residents even more entertaining. I think anyone who has ever lived in a small Southern town will immediately recognize in those residents some of the same sort of people they have known.

Despite its subject matter, the film is hilarious. Anyone who can get through the film without cracking up at least a few times might just be a Marjorie Nugent. It’s an independent film, so it’s not going to have the distribution of a major blockbuster, but if you can see it in a theater, I recommend doing so. If not, I suppose there’s always the DVD.

Pay attention early in the film to the description of the regions of Texas by the Carthage resident. If you know Texas, you’ll smile knowingly and at least chuckle at a few points. If you don’t know Texas, it will give you some insight into our state.

Enjoy the trailer and see the movie. Bernie gets two thumbs up!


Whip It

Posted: October 17th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Movie Reviews | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on Whip It

Whip_itI took my youngest daughter to see Whip It this past week. We live in the Austin area and have even been to some of the Texas Rollergirls flat track roller derby games. (Their games are held at the skating rink where my daughter has had her birthday parties for years and where we regularly go skating.) The movie involves the banked track league in Austin rather than the flat track one, but we’re aware of them as well. My daughter loves to skate and has enjoyed the games we’ve gone to see, so she was looking forward to the movie.

All in all, Whip It is a fun movie to watch. (The title refers to a particular roller derby move.) At its core, the movie is a coming of age film with the classic elements. Parents haunted by their own lost dreams. A daughter searching for her identity and disillusioned by the mill of beauty pageants that are the focus of her mother’s attempts to relive a period of her life through her daughters. The early scene in which Ellen Page’s character, Bliss Cavendar, mounts the beauty pageant platform with hair streaked bright blue is a priceless one.

Bliss happens upon a roller derby demonstration event flyer and, as much in a fit of teen rebellion as anything else, decides to attend. In the course of the night, she is invited to the tryouts (after lying about her age) and step by step proceeds to stumble into an athletic talent for which she develops a true passion. The heart of the film follows her development of that talent, almost Karate Kid style and the inevitable tension with her parents when they discover her activities. As the father of teens and young adults, I experienced many a wry moment as the central conflict was resolved over the course of the film.

There is a secondary romantic thread that, at least for me, didn’t add a great deal to the central story. I would have rather that time had been spent developing Bliss’ growing relationship with her roller derby team instead. With that said, if my daughter absorbed even a little of the message that charming and sweet are not necessarily the same as trustworthy when it comes to guys, then I would say it had some redeeming value.

I understand that they didn’t have the budget to actually film most of the movie here in Austin, so I wasn’t expecting much place recognition. However, they were able to get enough location shots to weave an Austin feel into the movie. Since I’ve lived here my entire adult life, I really appreciated that part of the film.

I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen the movie yet, but the final scene with Bliss’ father in his yard with his neighbor was an utterly priceless one. It cracked me up. It’s just one example of the way the parents’ hopes and dreams are worked into this movie as well.

Alamo Village & Inglorious Basterds

Posted: August 29th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Movie Reviews, Restaurant Reviews | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Alamo Village & Inglorious Basterds

Alamo Drafthouse

One of the joys of living in Austin has been the opportunity to experience the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema for years. We first visited Alamo Village not too long after it opened when the original downtown location and it were the only Alamo Drafthouse cinemas to be found. Recent years have seen a lot of growth with franchises and new owners. Today, the Ritz (downtown), Lamar, and Village cinemas are owned and operated by the founders. The also have their own, Original Alamo, site. I have visited some of the other Alamo Drafthouses and while you will have a similar experience at any of them, the ones operated by the founders continue to have a somewhat different quality to them.

I haven’t been to Alamo Drafthouse since I was diagnosed with celiac disease because the thought of trying to navigate the process of locating safe foods in the more chaotic theater environment intimidated me. However, when my wife said she wanted to see Inglourious Basterds this past week, I decided it was time to investigate. I easily and quickly found comments online about gluten free menus at the original Alamo theaters, but not much about any of the others. So I sent an email to Alamo Village explaining that I had recently been diagnosed with celiac disease and asking about their gluten free options. Jay Nolan quickly responded and attached a PDF of their current gluten free menu. (Note that this is the menu in August, 2009 and may not reflect the current menu. Ask for the current one when you get to the theater.) When I had questions about the menu, he referred me to the Alamo Village executive chef for answers.

We arrived at the theater early and ordered the Nachos Libre for an appetizer. For dinner, I had the Once Upon a Time in Mexico salad and it was spicy and delicious. (My wife had one of their amazing, but decidedly not gluten free pizzas.) The waitress understood that I was ordering gluten free and passed that information on to the kitchen so they could be aware as they prepared my food. For dessert, we shared the Creme Brulee. All in all, it was a great experience. Have I mentioned before that I love living in the Austin metropolitan area? 😀

Inglourious Basterds As I already mentioned, my wife and I watched Inglourious Basterds. It’s definitely a Quentin Tarantino film. Don’t expect any sort of correlation in the movie with actual history. It’s more a reimagining of the WWII war movie genre. And it’s a lot of fun in a rollicking, gory, tongue in cheek way. Every character in the movie has at least one screw loose and often more than one.

This film is not as good as Pulp Fiction, the standard against which every Quentin Tarantino film is judged these days. But it is a great deal of fun. If you liked Pulp Fiction or Reservoir Dogs, you will enjoy Inglourious Basterds. If you find the Quentin Tarantino style too gory or vulgar, you probably won’t much like this movie either. It’s very much in the same vein.

And, of course, if you live where you can watch the movie at an Alamo Drafthouse, so much the better!

Julie & Julia

Posted: August 8th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Movie Reviews | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments »
Julie & Julia

Julie & Julia

My wife, my daughter, and I watched Julie & Julia today. We all enjoyed it immensely. For those who don’t know, the movie interleaves scenes from Julia Child’s life as she learns to cook in Paris and embarks on the effort that would become Mastering the Art of French Cooking with scenes from the life of food blogger Julie who decides to blog about cooking all the recipes in Julia Child’s book in a year. Julie and her husband live in a small apartment in Queens over a pizzeria with a tiny kitchen and Julie is not the most experienced cook. Poignancy and hilarity ensue in both storylines.

Julia Child wanted to make the French cooking she so loved accessible to American women without servants. That became a passion for her. It reminded me of the time growing up in Houston when my father and his friend decided to write a cookbook making Indian cuisine accessible to Americans. That cookbook, Not Everything We Eat Is Curry, captures a period in my life filled with nights when my family was experimenting with recipes and alternative ingredients, going through proofs, and living the experience of writing a cookbook from scratch. There’s very little that compares. Unlike Julia’s cookbook, my father’s did not catapult him into fame. It was almost picked up by a major distributor (and there’s a painful story there), but even so I’ve always been glad I lived through the experience. I absorbed a love for cooking and a certain freedom to experiment. I like what the lone Amazon.com reviewer writes (and frankly I’m surprised the book even came up on Amazon). In a lot of ways, my father did develop Indian/Louisiana fusion recipes before fusion cuisine even really existed as a distinct category. So I understand Julia’s passion. And Meryl Streep does an outstanding job capturing her persona. (And if you can avoid cracking up at Julia’s comment when handling the hot cannoli, you’re either a humorless drone or a more pious man than I will ever be.)

As Julia was searching for a purpose in her life when she began learning the art of french cooking, so Julie was searching for meaning when she began to blog her way through Julia’s cookbook. There is a spiritual aspect to Julie’s journey. Yes, it is also deeply narcissistic at times, a point which the movie highlights. If anything, that part helped me understand some of what bloggers who seek an audience receive from their feedback.

(If you’re wondering, I don’t share that impulse. I only decided to write a public blog so that my celiac related posts might conceivably help someone else with celiac. And as a way to deal with the diagnosis. As far as the rest goes, I’m bemused when people want to read it. Though my blog is fairly new, my writing is not. And only a fraction of that will ever be seen here. If I could stop writing and live my life free from it, I would. But that’s not an option for me.)

Julie finds in the Julia she imagines from the text of her cookbook a spiritual mentor, a guide, a companion in life. Cooking with the Julia who Julie encounters in the text provides Julie’s somewhat aimless life with direction and meaning it previously lacked. At the end of the move, Julie makes a pilgrimage to the Julia Child museum exhibit. At the exhibit, Julie sacrificially offers a pound of unsalted butter before the icon of Julia. That act reveals the spiritual connection in a way in which human beings have always offered something akin to worship. The connection Julie feels is real even though the aging Julia, that is the one who in reality exists, does not believe that Julie is a serious cook and is turned off by her frequent use of “four letter words” in her blog.

In many ways, that seems to capture much of the experience in present-day American Christianity. People are deeply and spiritually attached to the Jesus of their imagination, whether that Jesus has any true connection to the actual person of Jesus or not.

There is little that is more visceral, that is more connected to our life, than food. And this film captures that reality on multiple levels. I highly recommend it.