Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Sexual Themed Movies About Not Having Sex

Film Chat has posted about a couple movies coming out in the near future that are riding off of the successful themes of a 40 Year-Old Virgin by making sexual themed movies/comedies based off people desiring not to have sex.

One of the films most recently announced is called Virginity Rocks. Variety reports this project will be a joint project between Screen Gems and Maxim. Variety writes:

Story revolves around a gorgeous transfer student who clings to her virginity and gets all the promiscuous girls in school to abstain from sex; in response, the popular guys ask the school stud to try to bed the poster girl and ending her "virginity rocks" campaign.

Another similar themed film, but "more literary" in nature is an adaptation based on a Tom Perrotta's soon to be released book (October 2007) called The Abstinence Teacher. Tom Perrotta's books adapted to film have previously dealt with sexual themes (Election, Little Children), and this one obviously does as well.

According to Variety, The Abstinence Teacher is to be produced by Warner Independent Pictures and is about: a divorced sex ed teacher forced by religious conservatives to teach abstinence. While fighting for the freedom to keep touting the joys of sex, she falls for a born-again soccer coach.

Obviously these films will have different tones, but you have to wonder if they will contain similar messages or if there end conclusions and messages will be different?

Monday, July 30, 2007

My Thoughts on The Simpsons Movie

This past weekend my wife and I saw the Simpson's movie.

For starters, I enjoyed it.

I appreciated the fact that it kept the integrity of having the feel of the regular 20-odd minute fox cartoon television show.

And yet at the same time it kept me interested and entertained for the whole 80-odd minutes of film.

Yet at the same time, the film was not so spectacularly entertaining that I would ever want to own it, quote it, rewatch it, or encourage someone else that "they needed to see it."

Rather, the movie lacks that special "zesto!" that sometimes makes the Simpson's so unique. There was very little surprisingly smart commentary (the stuff with the EPA, Tom Hanks, and a brief Hilary Clinton inclusion was fun but limited), and the special guest voicing was fairly limited as well (although Albert Brooks was fantastic as Russ Cargill, the head of the EPA).

Yet at the same time, when the Simpson's hit the air in 1989 it was a very unique show, that many people have special memories of (which came out yesterday, even in the comments, of my post about The Simpsons Sing the Blues).

It is probably for these feelings of sentimentality and the integrity of the general nature of the program (and creative marketing) that has made the Simpson's movie have a very successful opening weekends, and a ridiculously high rating on imdb.com (yesterday the #44 movie of all time, currently a little more reasonable score at #66, but still very inflated).

Anyways, glad I saw it, but you won't hear me saying "you have to see it."

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

My First CD: The Simpsons Sing the Blues

Because of a certain movie that came out this weekend, I had a memory flash back to childhood.

I was in one of my final years of elementary school when I got my first CD.

Interestingly enough, for whatever it says about me or my childhood, it was The Simpsons Sing the Blues.

What does that say about me? Or my childhood? Yikes!

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

Meryl Streep's 15th Nomination in 2007?

Last July I asked...Where will Meryl Streep's 14 academy award nomination come from? Assuming that they would honor her for either A Prairie Home Companion or The Devil Wears Prada...it was the Devil Wear's Prada that they chose, and the most nominated actress received her 14th nomination.

And now this year I ask...will Meryl Streep get her 15th academy award nomination this year? And if so which of these blonde-Meryl's will get the most attention.

Meryl Streep in Rendition
Meryl Streep in Lions for Lambs?
photos via simplystreep.com

Meryl Streep in Out of Africa

Impressed is the best word to describe Meryl Streep's performance in Out of Africa. I have long put off watching many of these highly regarded British colonial/post-colonial films until recently when I fell in love with The Painted Veil. Since then, I've allowed myself to do a little catch-up.

Out of Africa, a best picture winner (along with 6 other academy award wins) is certainly a respectable film, in which Meryl Streep plays a Danish baroness who transplants her life to the Serengeti of Kenya as she struggles with loneliness and tries not to lose her fortune on a new coffee plantation.

The movie is based on the book by Isak Dinesen called The Life of a Storyteller. Dinesen is a fake name (I forget the right word people use) for the woman Meryl Streep plays (Karen Blixen). Since it's more of a bio-pic then a well crafted fiction, the story doesn't have natural arc's, climaxes, and resolution, instead it's kind of drawn out with an unfocused (but real) story of disappointment, loneliness, and hope.

During the 1986 Academy Award show, the winner for best actress was veteran Geraldine Page in the film I have never seen called The Trip To Bountiful (with a story synopsis that sort of reminds me of The Straight Story). I'm sure Page does a great job, but I can't help but think the Streep only got ignored because by the 1986 award show Page had been nominated for her 9th time and had yet never won.

Maybe that's why the Academy is making it up to Meryl Streep and nominating her at every chance they get?

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Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Unbranded vs. Unbrandable

The first image is of a $7.50 polo shirt made by Walmart's in house brand Faded Glory. This men's pique polo shirt is simple/classic and available online here or in stores across America (and the world) in a variety of colors.

The second image is a navy printed polo shirt from Dsquared2, the design company of Dean and Dan Caten, who's clothes has been worn by celebrities like Lenny Kravitz and Madonna. The shirt pictured is available at Neiman Marcus now for $265.

Now I'm sure there are definite differences in production techniques and materials between the two shirts, but one thing is also clear, the more expensive shirt is not afraid of it's branding.

I'm sure if I could coerce Plato, Joan of Arc, and John the Baptist into a time machine to the modern era and asked them which shirt is more expensive, they might think the faded glory one is more expensive because it doesn't have the large advertisement on the front chest. But in an age where marketers are looking for marketing opportunities everywhere, anything without a clearly located marketing brand or advertisement can be presumed to be cheaper and lacking of clout.

If I go somewhere to a mall, a hotel, or am driving down the road and don't see advertisements and marketing the mall/hotel/road seems lower-class because no one feels like it is worth the money to slap logos, ads, and build boards up in these locations.

It is curious that in today's society something that is unbranded is deemed "cheap" while something plastered with advertising begins to evoke in our minds that it much be quality.

Perhaps it is for those very reasons that this past weekend, I had one of the most refreshing experiences as my wife and traveled to the Everglades for a anniversary getaway.

I have never seen anything quiet like the Everglades, this time of year (during the wet season) there are fewer animals to be seen, although we saw a few alligators very close up, sea turtles, and giant grasshoppers and dragon flies. What we also saw was a whole lot of uninterrupted beauty. It has been a long time since I have been in awe of something so beautiful as what I saw.

This area was valuable, not because it was deemed valuable because it was branded with advertisements, but instead it was valuable and infinitely more beautiful and worthwhile because it was unbrandable. The Everglades weren't trying to sell me anything, no company had tapped into creative marketing alongside the area's geographic uniqueness. No, this was true beauty and unchanging value that undisrupted was worth keeping brand free.

Below are just two breathtaking pictures we took of the beautiful unbrandableness.

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Friday, July 20, 2007

A Song is not A Business Plan

I've heard people talk about our lives as if they were a song. As if the beat, rhythm and lyrics were a metaphor for the rhythm, tone, and values of our life.

I like this metaphor, because it means a couple things. We can orchestra our own song and color it with our values, life story, hopes and dreams.

Perhaps it is within the context of this metaphor that I am attracted to the track "A Song is Not A Business Plan" off the new released album Do You Feel by The Rocket Summer. In this song Bryce Avery poignantly sings about how he's not going to compromise his songs, soul, words, message or himself. He asks: "Do you even know what you're even saying? Or are you just saying it cause someone else said it?"

We are living in a hyper-business oriented world, where corporations are the new countries, and business is the game everyone's playing. Michael Lee wrote a post to indie musicians called "20 things to do while you're waiting for your fans to show up" where he encourages musicians to dedicate themselves in a full time capacity to marketing themselves before they "make it big time" thinking of themselves honestly as a "small business owner." This is a good post with helpful recommendations.

Yet, I think one of the dangers to today's business age is that as we begin marketing a product, we begin to let the marketing change the product.

It is okay if we realize that there are clear improvements that can be made on a product to better suit the consumer (perhaps your spicy chicken's just a little too spicy, or 144 ounce bottle of foot cream is just a little too large for most consumers).

But what happens when our product is our soul. What happens when we change our songs, our art, our hopes, and dreams to make it in the market place? What good will it do for a man to gain the whole world but forfeit his soul (Jesus' words, not mine)?

The Rocket Summer song makes me think of the scene from Walk the Line when Sam Phillips(Dallas Robert) is listening to Johnny Cash's band play a cover of Jimmy Davis song. Cash thinks this is the song that Phillips wasn't to hear, but instead Phillips wants to Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) play something real, honest, and genuine, even if it's hard to swallow.

This weekend, my wife and I will celebrate our second anniversary. Just as the Rocket Summer says "A song is not a business plan," neither is my life. My commitment, time, and energy to her is not for sale. I will not sell out my integrity, honor, honesty, or relation to God or family in the name of money.

To some people, and under some circumstances this song, my life, might seem trite, unpractical, or staunch. Yet it is my song, and to me this song is not a business plan.

"If you was hit by a truck and you was lying out there in that gutter dying, and you had time to sing one song. Huh? One song that people would remember before you're dirt. One song that would let God know how you felt about your time here on Earth. One song that would sum you up. You tellin' me that's the song you'd sing? That same Jimmy Davis tune we hear on the radio all day, about your peace within, and how it's real, and how you're gonna shout it? Or... would you sing somethin' different. Somethin' real. Somethin' you felt. Cause I'm telling you right now, that's the kind of song people want to hear. " (Dallas Robert as Sam Phillips in Walk The Line)

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

"These earthly gods will always fail"

The Way I See It #192
"Many people lack a spiritual belief system and fill that void with obsessions about celebrities. The celebrities are raised to the rank of gods, and these earthly gods will always fail the expectations the masses have set for them. The cycle runs thusly: adoration turns to obsession, obsession turns to disappointment, and from disappointment it is just a short emotional jump to contempt."
-Donna Phillips, Freelance Writer

The Starbuck's cup I was drinking out of tonight was semi-ridiculous to me. Now I say Semi, because I think Phillips, a freelancer out California, is right in some cases.

I think it is easy to be fascinated with people, and even become obsessed with them to the point of disappointment. I don't know that we adore people just because we lack a "spiritual belief system." And I don't think there are many people walking around despising celebrities because they've let them down.

Granted, I do think we are often more interested in Celebrities than God. Then when you mix celebrities and any-sort-of-god (Tom Cruise, Richard Gere, Mel Gibson) they sort of start to get weird.

I think instead the greatest danger for many is when they put religious leaders in the celebrity position...then as religious leaders are elevated to status' almost equal to God, then there is room for disappointment (there's many examples, the first that come to mind is the scandal with Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker awhile back, and the more recent scandal with Ted Haggard).

A few days ago The Church Report released its list of The Top 50 Most Influential Churches in America. Of these churches on this years list many of these churches are what typically get called "mega-churches" and many of them, are multi-site churches where the teaching is broadcasted to multiple locations. (Interestingly enough I have been to the physical location of 7 of these churches, heard 9 of the pastors speak, read books by 6 of the pastors, and been to at least 4 of these pastors blogs).

While I have no direct qualms with mega-churches or multi-site churches, I do think there is a drastic area of danger, which is the formation of a church leader as celebrity status (even mentioned on the list is Ted Haggard's church at 32, with interim pastor Ross Parsley listed as it's leader). There is a severe danger of what I have heard to referred to as the cult of the personality.
If the leader of any of these churches has a personal failing, they risk thousands of people experiencing severe emotional contempt as they question their own spirituality and personal growth in light of the failing of the one who took them someplace else in their faith.

Leaders on this list (as well as many other spiritual leaders not listed) have a huge responsibility to make God bigger, not themselves. This means letting other people in the spotlight frequently. This means being consistently honest with failings (past and present). And even still, this celebrity status will ensue, especially as the crowds get bigger and wider.

Here's how I would re-write Starbucks' cup #192:

"Many people with spiritual belief system accidentally develop obsessions with spiritual leaders as celebrities. The religious celebrities are raised to the rank of gods, and these earthly gods will always fail the expectations the masses have set for them. The cycle runs thusly: adoration turns to obsession, obsession turns to disappointment, and from disappointment it is just a short emotional jump to contempt."

Cinematography Talk in July: Roger Deakins to Win Oscar

I know during July there's hardly a barometer on the upcoming award season, sure there has been some films that have premiered at festivals, and there's information floating around about upcoming projects, and predictions are just tossed into the wind for now.

Yet I am, here in July going to predict come year end, the name that will be associated with the best cinematography Oscar. I predict here and now it will be Roger Deakins.

Roger Deakins is a tremendous cinematographer, who has been nominated for Oscar 5 times between 1995 (Shawshank Redemption) and 2002 (The Man Who Wasn't There). (His other nominations came from Kundun, O Brother Where Art Thou?, and Fargo).

This year, Deakins has three films to offer on the Academy's alter to choose from. He is the cinematographer for three possibly award worthy pics: In The Valley of Elah, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, and No Country for Old Men (under the direction of the Coen Brothers with whom he's been nominated before).

And unless there is so weird vote splitting scenario, Deakins' work certainly deserves recognition, I'm sure in each of these projects he will do a wonderful job.

What other films might get nominated besides any of these three? Who knows, it's still early to tell and the cinematography branch is very discerning and often chooses non-hyped films (none of last years 5 nominees in this category were nominated for best picture).

So I'll lay out my first official award winner prediction of the year: Roger Deakins wins Best Cinematography.

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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Recycling Inspiration: Diversity for White Kids

The comparison between Michelle Pfeiffer's ex-marine turned teacher movie and Hilary Swank's teacher movie (Dangerous Minds, Freedom Writers) are unavoidable.

Yet there is something strangely touching about these real life stores of white teachers in good-schools-gone-bad due to integration and busing kids in from the ghetto.

In fact, it's not even that different than the type of sports movies that are frequently recycled including the MTV film Coach Carter which came out a little over a year ago.

These stories are touching and people generally like the inspirational teacher drama (unless it's on the artsy or complicated like Half Nelson was last year). Yet I can't help watching one of these MTV films (whether it be Freedom Writers, Coach Carter, or Save The Last Dance) and think "These are films about diversity made for rich white teens so they can watch something moving about inequality and feel like they care."

Maybe it's all part of inspiration overload, but the real life story of people like Erin Gruwell (Swank) in Freedom Writers, or Louanne Johnson (Pfeiffer) in Dangerous Minds are moving and touching (my wife was crying at many points in the film). Yet the stories are becoming overplayed. Perhaps that's how Dangerous Minds made almost three times in theaters what Freedom Writers made.

The story is overplayed, and yet I think Hollywood still wants to inspire us with real life stories about people who make a difference, and with hard work and persistence take on diversity, adversity, and social issues.

I think that's why the story of Luma Muflah created such a stir in Hollywood as companies competed to buy the life story of a woman who fought to let Refugees play soccer in Atlanta. It combines Coach Carter and Freedom Writers and the increasing collection of soccer movies out there (Kicking and Screaming, Gracie, Bend it Like Beckham, She's the Man, Goal!). Muflah's story is just a little bit different and tells the inspirational story Hollywood wants to tell.

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Saturday, July 14, 2007

What's actually in the Valley of Elah?

Elah may be a funny word, but to me the word Valley is far funnier. You know how if you look at it, spell it, and think about a word too long in your head it just starts to seem spelled wrong, pronounced wrong, and be way to strange to really be a word. Thinking about the word valley...that's what's happening...valley, val-ley vall-ey, vallie. Ok enough.

Anyways, I'm sure it's not bizarre that when a movie title has the name of a place in it, that you might just be a little curious where it comes from. Anyways, the past two weeks I have been reading I and II Samuel in the Bible and when I read the word Elah I couldn't help think about about Paul Haggis' upcoming movie In the Valley of Elah.

The Elah Valley is actually a real place. It is in Israel just outside the west bank (as shown in the handy-dandy google map above). It is referenced in the Bible specifically as it is the place where David killed Goliath as the Israelites were facing the Philistines (I Samuel 17).

I'm not really sure how or if this plays into the movie. But the BiblePlaces website has some good pictures of what the valley looks like today. Including the brook were it is believed David gathered the stones with which he killed Goliath. I've include one panoramic image below.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Paul Haggis and In the Valley of Elah

After years of successful work in television with shows like "EZ Street" and "Family Law" Paul Haggis appears out of nowhere on the film scene with the small film Crash that went onto win him and Cathy Shulman the best picture award (pictured above). Paul didn't just win the best picture award, he also won for best original screenplay, and was nominated for best director.

In his 50s he wins his two academy awards for her first big screen film to direct. And he's only written the screenplay for another film at this point...oh yea, it was called Million Dollar Baby. Small time director named Clint Eastwood directed that one and Clint won the best picture award and best director, although Paul only received a nomination for his first film screenplay.

So in 2004 there was his writing for Million Dollar Baby that got recognized, and in 2005 it was Crash...what about 2006?

In 2006 Haggis again scored an academy award nomination as he worked on the writing for Clint Eastwood's double shot films Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima. Haggis got nominated for his adapted screenplay for Letters, while again Clint Eastwood picked up best picture and directing nominations.

Haggis also cleaned up the screenplay for 21st installment of James Bond, the successful film Casino Royale and also jump started a new television show "The Black Donnellys."

Paul Haggis' success hasn't seemed to stall out yet, which makes me think that his upcoming project In The Valley of Elah cannot be overlooked. Paul Haggis' involvement on the project made it an easy film for me to include in my best picture predictions I prepared a couple weeks ago.

The war drama In The Valley of Elah is directed and written by Paul Haggis, where he will have again the opportunity to test whether or not his touch is cinematic gold. The film is a war drama staring Academy Award winners Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron, and Susan Sarandon.

In the film Tommy Lee Jones and Susan Surandon's son disappears in Iraq. Officer Tommy Lee Jones and Charlize Theron, a detective, go looking for him.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Thinking about Extraordinary Rendition

I remember when I first heard that there was a movie staring Jake Gyllenhaal, Reese Witherspoon, Meryl Streep, and Alan Arkin called Rendition I was very excited.

With a film title like Rendition, my first thought was the movie is about a painting, or maybe it's another Adaptation/Stranger than Fiction type of film. Yet the movie synopsis' only talked about a CIA agent seeing something troubling done in secret by Egyptian police or something-other.

Yet it didn't take me long to realize that Rendition was a legal word for handing someone over from one jurisdiction to another, whether between states or countries. Yet rendition as a legally legit concept, has an illegal counterpart often called Extraordinary Rendition.

Extraordinary Rendition is a technical term for secret government torture. For example, say hypothetically there was a terror suspect who might know important information regarding a future terrorist attack, the government agency (let's say the CIA) could capture a terrorist, then hand them over to another countries government were the could be tortured for sensitive information.

The act of extraordinary rendition is obviously illegal, but it is largely believed to have been used/being used in the Clinton and Bush administrations.

Last month I wrote about my disappointment with torture being used as a form of entertainment/sexual perversion in films like Hostel II, Grindhouse, and Captivity which are in theaters this year.

Yet, when I read or think about extraordinary rendition and torture as it applies to terrorism, I do not think of films like those, rather I think of Fox's hit television program 24. There has been many episodes where innocent and guilty people alike get tortured. Almost always, the scenes are horribly gruesome and absolutely unejoyable. And in the world of Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) torture (without government approval) is just part of the job.

Yet, when I watch 24 I don't get angry, because I connect and trust Kiefer Sutherland general discretion. But when I research about the alleged use of extraordinary rendition by the United States and other countries it is very disheartening and unsettling.

I am certainly excited to see the upcoming film Rendition, and think that it certainly has the potential to get some critical and academy awards recognition, and I hope that it will also open up the conversation on this topic to a wider public.

Should a government and it's people turn it's head to due process in the face of fear? This is a complicated topic, and one I've been thinking about for awhile and yet, I have yet to develop firm opinions on the matter. I'm interested in hearing the thoughts of more people on the matter.

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Osment, Hoult, and Dano say Congrats!

After playing the film role of many different moms, Toni Collette has announced that she will be a mom in real life.

Haley Joel Osment, Nicholas Hoult, and Paul Dano I'm sure are all very excited for her after playing roles as her sons. Yet, you have to wonder if any of them are jealous...surely she'll love her own child more than any of them.

Perhaps she will invite all of her film children over to see the baby when it's born.

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

2 Simultaneous Homemade Ratatouille Experiences

My wife and I had just finished shopping and making our own homemade Ratatoille, and imagine my excitement when I opened my e-mail and saw that friends (a thousand miles away)Anthony and Allision had taken the Ratatouille challenge to heart and made their own Ratatouille...and even sent pictures!

Allison writes...
Ok. So we had ratatouille for dinner tonight. I used the ingredients from a recipe in one of my cookbooks (very similar to yours) but made it differently in an attempt to make it as close as possible to what they had in the movie. First of all, it would be a miracle to find eggplant, zucchini, tomato, onion, & bell pepper with the same circumference. Second, if you were able to do such a thing, ratatouille by definition is a stew. So, it is next to impossible to keep everything in nice slices. All that being said, I thinly sliced all of the vegetable that we got in very similar circumferences, did a layer of each vegetable in my dutch oven, and cooked it on a low setting for about 40 minutes. Then, I cut a wedge shaped slice out for plating. I have attached pictures of our adventure. The first is the ingredients we purchased at our local farmers market (also, the basil & thyme came from my own window box). Second is the vegetables sliced up. Next we have the ratatouille plated on our lovely china. And finally what it actually looked like on our plates.

I hope we did you proud. The meal was wonderful and we have read that the leftovers will be even better.

Here are Allison's pictures...beautiful presentation and the vegetables look delicious!

Kim and I also enjoyed our experience making Ratatouille and also enjoyed the taste. Here are some of the many pictures we took in the process.

If you are so inclined to try your own go at Ratatouille, let me know...and of course, pictures are fun!

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Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Life Changing Message of Babette

One of my favorite film characters is Babette Hertsard (played by Stéphane Audran) in the Danish film Babette's Feast (won Academy Award for best foriegn language film 1988).

In the story Babette is a political refuge from Paris who escapes to Denmark were she is given board with a pair of elderly women who are part of a very austere Christian sect. Babette is an excellent chef by trade, but this is a secret to her boarders who teach her to cook bland, simple, and affordable meals that mirror their lifestyle. Yet when a unique opportunity arises Babette is given the opportunity to make these women and the small community they live in a meal of a lifetime.

Yet this fantasticly rich, expensive, and fine meal creates a challenge within the hearts and minds of the community. As they have denied themselves almost every worldly pleasure in accordance with their religious beliefs they struggle to know how to be gracious in the midst of their personal conflict.

The little fable that unwinds in this film is beautiful and has it's own subtle influences on my life. I remember the first time I saw this film, it unlocked a sensation with me that connected to the plight of Babette. I want to be like Babette in a way that I could help people see goodness, beauty, and God through beautiful things. There is a place for denial of desires, and the shunning of sin. Yet there must be ways that we can direct people towards God through beauty, and not just herd people to him by blocking off everything else.

This post is part of Emma's "performances that changed your life" series at All About My Movies. It just happens to be I have recently been talking about the fictional French chef Remy and posting French recipes. Who knows, maybe I just like movies about food?

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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Recipe to Make Your Own Ratatouille

I certainly couldn't find a recipe as elegant as Remy's recipe in Brad Bird's film Ratatouille, but I thought I would challenge my viewers to take a stab at making this French "peasant dish" with an obvious movie tie in (why McDonald's isn't serving Ratatouille with a toy as a kid's meal is beyond me).

I encourage you to make this. Send me a picture even...that'd be fun.


1/3 cup olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 large eggplants (2 pounds), peeled in strips and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
4 to 5 medium zucchini (2 pounds), cut into 1-inch cubes
Coarse salt and ground pepper
3 yellow or red bell peppers, ribs and seeds removed, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ cup chopped fresh basil

  1. In a Dutch oven (or other heavy 5-quart pot with a tight-fitting lid), heat oil over medium heat. Cook onions, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in eggplant and zucchini; season generously with salt and pepper.
  2. Add 3/4 cup water; cover, and simmer until vegetables are beginning to soften, stirring once, about 5 minutes. Stir in bell peppers; simmer, covered, until softened, 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in tomatoes and thyme; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low. Partially cover; simmer, stirring often, until vegetables are tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat. If serving immediately, stir in basil. (If freezing, leave out basil.)
Per serving: 179 calories; 9.6 grams fat; 4.2 grams protein; 23.1 grams carbohydrates; 7.1 grams fiber
Recipe via PBS' Everyday Food.

Rat Makes Me Only Like Bird More & More

If I were to make a list of favorite modern directors, after seeing Ratatouille this past week, Brad Bird's name would certainly make the list.

Debatably my favorite animated film from this past decade is the Iron Giant (I wrote about it's themes of Good and Evil last September). In the Iron Giant, the messages, themes, story-line is incredible, and while the animation is weak and limited under the smaller Warner Bros. animation studio.

Now with the backing of Pixar, Brad Bird has brought us two more entertaining, but morally and psychologically complex stories, first The Incredibles, and now Ratatouille.

Watching Ratatouille was pure enjoyment, the story itself modernized the rags to riches themes you might read in a Horatio Alger dime novel. In an era of corporation scandal, dishonesty for personal/corporate gain, and commercialization, Rataouille creates a refreshing picture of a dream that could be.

Brad Bird has re-invented Pinocchio's Jiminy Cricket in the form of an apparition of a dead chef and yet the presentation is so fresh.

I am excited to see what Brad Bird continues to do as a writer and a director, and if Ratatouille became the 2nd animated film to be nominated for best picture (the first being Beauty and the Beast) than that would be fine with me.

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Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Interacting With Weirdos

In Richard Farnsworth's final (and academy award nominated role) in The Straight Story, Farnsworth plays Alvin Straight who spends weeks driving a tractor to visit his sick brother.

If you haven't seen David Lynch's film, it's one of those "along the way he interacts with people and transforms their lives." Oops...I suppose it's a spoiler there, but whatever the movie came out in 1999 so if you haven't seen...I'm not ruining anything, promise.

Sometimes I wonder if I would even let a guy like Alvin Straight intersect my life in a life impactful way. I think that as society becomes more secluded with less interaction, I personally tend to try to steer clear of weirdos and strangers.

I wonder if I'm missing out?

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Marketing is for Professionals - Example: Kwik-E Mart

Marketing is for professionals. Long gone are the days when marketing is buying an ad in the newspaper, finding a billboard to plaster your phone number, and giving away a free desk calender to those who open up a new account with you.

Doug Foster, 7-Eleven's chief marketing officer, has received and taken advantage of a golden opportunity. As 7-Eleven has been mocked in the many episodes of the Simpsons (although called Kwik-E Mart, we all knew it was 7-11), the company is revamping 12 stores across the United States and Canada to look and feel like a Kwik-E Mart.

The stores first off have changed their facade, completely wiping 7-11 off the face of their store (bold and fun move). And then from there are filling the shelves with new Simpson's mentioned merchandise, like Buzz Cola, Frosted Krusty-0's and a plastic wrapped edition of the comic book Radioactive Man.

Even employee uniforms and name tags get the re-boot. If there was ever a time to be a 7-11 employee, now is the time.

The promotion started today and will run through the month of July as the movie is released on July 27th.

The preparations of this project has been a long 2 year process that ideally coolifies 7-11 for a season, helps promote the movie, and probably helps various companies and brands increase sales as they create spoofed products.

Kate Macarthur's AdAge story can be found here. And to those lucky enough to live in the 12 places where Kwik-E Mart's are located (Chicago; Dallas; Denver; Burbank, Calif.; Los Angeles; Las Vegas; New York; Lake Buena Vista, Fla.; Seattle; Mountain View, Calif.; Bladensburg, Md.; and Coquitlam, B.C., Canada), I'd love to here about your experience if you go.

Now the question is which store is Apu working at?

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