Saturday, January 9, 2010

My Take on Holiday Movie Season 2009

Sandra Bullock as Leigh Anne Tuohy in The Blind Side.

There was an excellent mix of movies. But there was not a good new movie about Christmas this year. I did not wish to pay to be part of the disappointing 3D take on A Christmas Carol (2009). Of course, I have not seen everything but of the ones I have paid to see I would rank them as follows.
1. Avatar - changes how movies are made, thank God George Lucas did not write dialog to this sci-fi adventure.

2. Up in the Air - good "old fashioned" movie about relationships staring a real star.

3. The Blind Side - feels good long after it's over, Sandra is respectful of the region it takes place and of her real life character.

4. An Education - a refreshing take on both a period film (1960s) and on a coming of age story. Excellent cast.

5. The Fantastic Mr. Fox - animation was very witty, voice casting was excellent, despite all of that did not bond with characters.
6. It's Complicated - I enjoyed two other films (The Holiday and Something's Gotta Give)by the film's director more. Another case of a great cast with chemistry making a predictable formula work.

7. Sherlock Holmes - relies too much on action and end-of-the-world plot. Shame it did not use the characters better. Did not enjoy Holmes being a rolled-out-of-bed slob.

8. Nine - too many stars saying look at me. Both the stars and the musical numbers that happen outside of real time prevent you from giving a damn about anything other than a few eye candy moments. A movie about the movie making business should certianly be able to survive characters breaking out into song.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Acting Like George Clooney, "Up in the Air"

The Oscars
Being Clooney: Not as Easy as It Looks
Published: January 10, 2010, NY Times
"We all know he’s a movie star. But George Clooney happens to be an actor too."

It's a pleasure to watch this kind of excellence in movie-star acting. Sandra Bullock shines this way too when the material is better and more focused like 2009's The Blind Side and The Proposal. Movie star is not necessarily an empty status. It should not be confused with occasionally famous due to public streaking or random acts of witless insanity.

Deadline - U.S.A. is New Bogart Find, 1952

TCM aired this gem about the newspaper business as part of their December 2009 Star of the Month series. First film for Bogart after his Oscar winning role in The African Queen.

Bogie is the editor of a high standards paper that has just been sold to the competition, which has no intentions of continuing the brand. Compelling cast includes Chadwick Land favorite Ethel Barrymore (73 at the time). She plays a Katharine Graham type. Both Bogie and Barrymore were nearing the end of their careers but remained in top form here.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Pinched Orange Macaroons, Four Seasons Recipe

"This recipe, one of Martha's favorites, is courtesy of Patrick Lemble, executive pastry chef at the Four Seasons restaurant, in New York City." MSL, December 2009

My take: Not too many ingredients in this delightful treat which is always nice when creating a tasty, nicely textured cookie. Recipe calls for one pound of almond paste. Tubes and cans were not sold in a way to neatly accommodate this measurement. I had to buy three tubes of 7 ounce size Odense Almond Paste and put remaining 5 ounces in a sealed bag in the freezer. I did not wish to do the math to reduce the other ingredients to balance only 14 ounces of Almond paste. The recipe makes a big batch but the Almond Paste alone ($4.99 a tube x three) makes cookie an expensive luxury. I guess it makes sense they serve these at the Four Seasons New York.

Difference between marzipan and almond paste.

Tips: pay close attention to thickness and baking time. Texture - the right chewiness - is very important for the macaroons. Slightly chewy but not tough and binding to gum consistency in the mouth should be the goal of the finished product. Dough is sticky so dust rolling surface with powdered sugar. A dough cutter works better than a nice when dividing into individual cookies.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Christmas Crafts MSL Snowman Treat Boxes

Above: A candle light close-up shows detail of two spun cotton birds alight on the brim and top of the snowman's custom made hat.
Here is a less attractive view as the white glass glitter is washed out by the camera flash.

The Snowman Treat Boxes were featured in the Martha Stewart Living December 2009 issue. I had no time to make them before Christmas so I spent a couple of afternoons making them after the holiday was over. This practice works best for me because a project like this requiring multiple steps and attention to detail would be rushed and the end results would be less stellar.
Some tips from my experience.
1.Take your time making the hats because you will be amazed by the end results. Make the smile a bit one sided for more personality.
2. Paint three coast of white paint over the round boxes used as the base.
3. Do not use white wool felt for the gloves since the color does not pop against the white glittered body.
4. Make at least a couple if you are going through the trouble of all the steps to make one.
5. The final step in assembling all the parts is the most fun.
6.Use good quality supplies like wool felt and glass glitter and your will be enjoying these for many years.
PS: They are too cute to give away. But if you must...only give away to someone who will appreciate all of your efforts .