Saturday, December 28, 2013

The 2013 Alphabet

Argo wins best picture
Boston Marathon bombing
Cyprus bailout
Detroit files bankruptcy
Edward Snowden initiates NSA leaks
Factory collapse in Bangladesh
Government shutdown for 16 days
Healthcare Exchange website issues
Iranian Nuclear Deal Reached
Jeff Bezos purchases The Washington Post newspaper
Kenya mall attack
Lucian Freud portraits set artwork auction record
Meteor explosion in Russia
Nelson Mandela dies at 85
Oklahoma tornadoes
Pope Benedict XVI resigns
Queen Elizabeth II has a great-grandson Prince George of Cambridge
Ravens defeat 49ers to win Superbowl
Syria chemical attack
Typhoon Haiyan devastates Philippines
United States v. Windsor impacts same-sex marriage
Venezuela elects Hugo Chavez successor
Washington DC Naval Yard shooting
X Factor, American Idol and The Voice rival on TV
Yutu rover lands on the moon
Zimmerman is acquited

Friday, December 20, 2013

Touch of Evil

I got my hands on Touch of Evil based on the fact it was one of the top 250 films that I had not yet seen.

The Orson Welles film wasn't necessarily a pop sensation when it came out in 1958 - but time is favorable on some art, and such is the case with this interesting film.

When I opened the disk to the film I found that I had the 50th Anniversary Edition, which actually contained 3 versions of the film - the original version, a pre-final cut by Orson Welles, and a later version that tried to correct/address many of the concerns Orson Welles had with the final version.

I couldn't decide what to watch, but decide to stick with the original version for my first viewing. It was shorter, the original version, and I find that I usually like studio versions more that "director cuts."

The film has it moments - and generally I'd say a viewing is worth it for the beginning of the film and the end of the film. The middle gets a little...well...mushy and contrived.

The end is compelling because it has some fantastic acting by the lead actors (Charlton Heston, Orson Wells as well as some scene stealing dialogue by Marlene Dietrich).

The beginning on the other hand is compelling not for it's plot, but rather it's compelling cinematic style. Namely the use of a long take, with a multi-minute single shot, camera hoisted on a crane, and a very compelling introductory scene.

The below video is a clip for a later version (not the 1958 version) - this version removes the title credits and Henry Mancini music in the original version which Orson Welles did not like in the studio version. I chose this version because it is a truly great take with minimal musical/opening credit distractions. Enjoy!

Monday, December 02, 2013

For A Few Dollars More

In all honesty, I'm not really a spaghetti fan, or a western film fan. Not surprisingly, I just have a hard time getting excited about Spaghetti Westerns. Spaghetti Westerns, are the famous Italian western films -- the term almost cannot be mentioned without referencing film director Sergio Leone.

Sergio Leone, is best known for that film Il Buono, Il Brutto, Il Cattivo, we know it as The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. I enjoy The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, but certainly don't love it. Not because I don't have the ability to acknowledge some of it's good qualities, but because frankly, it's just not my style of film.

Based on my lack of enthusiasm for The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, I've avoided - or rather haven't taken the time - for Leon's other classic films such as Once Upon A Time In The West, or A Fistful of Dollars. But in review of the films I hadn't seen on top 250 list this Leon-avoidance was causing me to miss some of the high ranked films, and when a friend recommended this film off the list, I decided I'd take the plunge.

Well - the verdict, I still struggle with the slow style of these films. Although, I enjoyed some of the subtle silliness in this film as well. There's something to me said for a film that has a main character that is simply known as The Man In Black (Lee Van Clef), and Clint Eastwood is always interesting in these films knowing the diversity of roles he would later play.

Yet, I struggle to call it one of the best, or at least one of the most enjoyable. I have to think it has to do with taste. I'm not sure what it takes for someone to love these western films? Is it watching them with their dad on the couch as a child. Is it a suffocation and appreciation for subtly that somehow I lack.

There is a few compelling scenes - of course, the role of the musical watches places a unique role in this film, and the set up of two rival bounty hunters is also a unique plot device. But for me, it's just not enough to get me excited. I tried though, I really did. I want to like these films, love them even. But it's a struggle. I might need to give Leon's other classics a try...or I might consider leaving them on the shelf for another day.

Trying New Pies For Piefest

A Slice of Jefferson Davis Pie
For three of the past four years my wife and I have hosted an event we call Piefest at our short, on Thanksgiving Eve we invite whoever is around to enjoy pie and hot drinks. Because of travel schedules, family visits, etc. the attendee's are always different and it's a great time.

This year we took the chance on Piefest to try out a few new pies.

Here was our Piefest Menu for 2013 (in alphabetical order):

- Apple Pie
- Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie
- Chocolate Peppermint Brownie Pie
- Chocolate Pudding Pie
- Jefferson Davis Pie
- Key Lime Pie
- Nantucket Cranberry Pie
Raspberry Linzertorte
- Pear Pie With Cheddar Streusel
- Pumpkin Pie
- Raspberry Linzertorte
- Sprinkle Pie

To be honest, the pie that was the most fun to make and I was most proud of us was my Jefferson Davis Pie (an old-school southern pie with dates and raisins), although the lack of people eating it at Piefest this year means it probably won't get repeated in 2014.

Big hits this year were some of our new pies, particular the Cheddar topped Pear Pie and Nantucket Cranberry Pie.

Pear Pie With Cheddar Streusel
Going in the Oven
With new pies tried I think I might have to update my top 10 list I put together last year.

There's something special about pies this time of year...and while there are the classics, there are so many worthwhile variations to try as well.