Saturday, June 25, 2016

Master Class does it again: Aaron Sorkin teaches screenwriting

You gotta hand it to MasterClass - they do not do anything half-assed.

Aspiring thespian? Say hello to your instructors, Oscar-winners Dustin Hoffman and Kevin Spacey. Prefer to be behind a camera? Werner Herzog and Annie Leibovitz have your backs.

Want to sing like a canary? Warm up with Christina Aguilera and then hit the stage with Usher.

Aspiring novelist? World-dominating best-seller James Patterson at your service.

Not the artsy type? Tennis anyone? Grand Slam queen Serena Williams wants to take you to court.

And the hits just keep coming. MasterClass just announced their newest class and world-class instructor: Aaron Sorkin is teaching screenwriting. Yes, that Aaron Sorkin. The Social Network (which I love to death) guy, among other things. The Oscar and Emmy winning guy.

You know what is the most amazing thing about all these classes? $90 each. That's it. Ninety bucks and internet access. For that you can learn at the feet of the masters.

Of course I'm signing up. This alone sells it:


I'm talkin' to you, MasterClass

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

For your 4th of July holiday planning

Via Shadow & Substance, it's the complete Sy-Fy 4th of July Twilight Zone Schedule!

Get those DVRs fired up!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Food Network Star - Motorsports Tailgating (Week 5)

Due to family obligations, I'm not going to be able to get to a full recap until probably the end of the week. When I decided to do this, I had no idea of the time commitment I was making, but I don't want to just drop it because I have a bad habit of doing that with projects and I don't want to do it yet again. So until I can get to the full-on recap, here's the short, no-frills version.

Rob (for the second week in a row, looks like the sheen is off), Monterey and Ana were the bottom three. For all her sparkle and watchability, Monterey has just had too many missteps and was eliminated this week. She seems gracious in defeat, at least in this interview.

We still have a chance to see Monterey again if she can learn from her mistakes and triumph in Star Redemption. And speaking of Star Redemption, I might actually have to watch it this week, as its most recent elimination was Insufferable Aaron.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Do you know the difference between milkshakes and malts? You do now.

Courtesy of Chowhound: What's the Difference Between Milkshakes and Malts?

Turns out to be pretty simple, actually.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Here, have a crapload of scripts

Courtesy of LA Screenwriter - a treasure trove of feature and TV scripts!

Finally, an online time-waster I don't have to apologize for.

Aw geez...Fargo S1 pilot script.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

More Bundt-mania: Banana Bundt Bread!

I had a trio of bananas that had seen better days, so I did the only thing I could - I threw them away. KIDDING!!! When life gives you bananas that have seen better days, you make banana bread!

My go-to banana bread recipe is from culinary school. It's really simple and always turns out well.

Since I'm still stuck on my swirly Bundt pan (actual name: Heritage Bundt Pan) I decided to use that for the bread. So much more exciting than a boring old loaf. Seriously, look how pretty it turned out!

When making this as a loaf, the recipes calls for it to bake for about an hour. When I've made this in Bundt pans, it only needed to bake for 45 minutes. The loaf batter is a bit short for Bundt pans in terms of quantity, but it still bakes just fine. The resulting "cake" is just a bit shorter than your average Bundt. Also, regardless of whether you're making your banana bread as a loaf or Bundt (or any other variation) you want to let it cool completely before slicing. Slicing it while warm releases steam out of the bread and dries it out. The first time I made this in school I resisted the urge to cut into it until it cooled completely, and the result was that it stayed moist for a week.

Also, it's very yummy with tea for breakfast.

Loafing around version.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Liquid diet

I'm pretty sure I have a pizza version of this meme around here somewhere...

But this works too.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Food Network Star - Room Service Revenge (Week 4)

And then there were nine...

Bobby doesn't waste any time. He dives into working on live TV - "There are no do-overs. Make a mistake - it's out there. Can't fix it." The contestants are going to be doing live remotes as part of a mock Entertainment Tonight segment, complete with ET hosts Nancy O'Dell and Kevin Frazier.

The topic is new food and cooking trends as forecast by Food Network Magazine. The contestants will create a trendy dish, then present them during a live remote. They are broken into trios and given their assignments.

Ana, Rob and Erin get new trendy spices and ingredients. Erin is not thrilled about having to use miso in baking. She explains that miso is fermented soybeans and she feels that ingredients in baking should be fresh. Another spice: baharat. Rob can't even pronounce it, nor does he have any idea what it is. Oh, and pork floss. What is pork floss, you ask? I've never heard of it either, but you can learn all about it here.

Jernard, Yaku and Monterey's theme: Frugal is Fashionable. They will be using leftover parts of food items that would normally be discarded. Ingredients include cores and stems of food like cauliflower and broccoli. Bobby describes it as, "A very green way to cook." It seems like a pretty thankless assignment, but Jernard points out that with nine kids, they don't waste anything.

Damiano, Tregaye and Joy themes is gadgets. In this case, a sheet pan. In which they have to prepare an entire meal.

And they're off!

Jernard is confident in his food. Dude is whipping up a Rainbow Chard and Carrot Stem Pesto. Monterey is happily caramelizing cauliflower stems for her Sea Bass with Roasted Cauliflower Puree. Yaku is doing a Beef and Broccoli Stem Soup, along with Broccoli Stem Chips. I think they got the most difficult assignment and they're just all over it. All of these dishes sound awesome and make me wish I was the has-been actress/guest judge of the week. But since I don't have a flat-lining acting career (just a six-month culinary program and a bunch of other cooking classes) I'm obviously not qualified.

Ana is worried about time (as noted last week, it's her weak spot). Rob tells her to hang in there. She's got the pork floss and is doing Chorizo Hash with Pork Floss, which actually sounds pretty good...if she can finish it before the thirty minutes are up. Erin has gotten stuck with the miso and then this happens: Erin: "I'm going regret putting this in my mouth." She tastes the miso and instantly regrets it, reacting the way most of us do when we've had to take a swig of nasty tasting medicine. Rob "Miso sorry I gave you that." HAHAHAHAHA. But Erin's a good sport. She's making Miso Blackberry Cupcakes. Her plan is that the vibrant taste of the blackberries will cover most of the fermented taste of the miso.

As a working mom, Tregaye's been there and done that as far as throwing everything into one pan to make a meal. She's doing Pistachio Crusted Lamb with Roasted Vegetables. Joy: "I don't do weird food trends," so she's taking the simple approach - Steak and Vegetables in a roasting pan. Damiano is making Tiramisu. The problem is that it doesn't look like he's doing it all in a single pan. Tregaye has also noticed this, mentioning that he'd better be able to explain his dish as a sheet-pan dinner. I'm beginning to wonder two things about Damiano: 1) Can he cook without having to fall back on his Italian roots, and 2) How long can he skate on his looks and accent.

Since we hadn't seen Rob's dish earlier, we now see he's got the baharat (which he still can't pronounce, which may become an issue doing a live remote) and is doing Baharat Shrimp with Bacon.

I've got to say, except for the single-pan dishes, I'm blown away at some of the crazy ingredients the other teams had to use and how effortlessly they seemed to make it work. Really impressive. Also, I'm thinking I need to get my hands on some pork floss.

And now for the remotes. Ana is up first and says she's done live remote TV before. She also has gotten tongue-tied on camera a lot in the past few weeks.

The ET hosts are in-studio with the judges to introduce the remote spots and throw to the contestants, who are located elsewhere. Giada asks them to "apply some pressure." I'm almost cringing waiting for this to start.

Ana starts well, explaining that pork floss is not something you clean your teeth with. Kevin promptly interrupts her asking what exactly it is. Ana has a brain freeze, she can't remember how it was described earlier. When she finally tries to wing it, Bobby and Giada are visibly unimpressed. Rob isn't exactly supportive either and I'm starting to think for all his natural talent on camera, he isn't the greatest teammate. Ana's spot is over before she can even begin talking about her dish.

Rob is up next, and unlike Ana, the contestants are now forewarned that they're not going to be allowed to just go into their spiels. His pronunciation of baharat is getting closer, but is still wrong. He's asked by the ET bots where one would find the spice, and has to wing it, but his sense of humor kicks in and he explains, "Today I found it right here in the studio." It seems to work for the judges.

Erin is flowing pretty well, but the ET hosts kind of sabotage her by seeming bored by her explanation. She compares miso to chicken bullion, which seem to amuse Giada. Also, despite her knowing what miso is, the words "fermented soybeans" never come out of her mouth.

Tregaye flat out admits she's nervous about doing her live remote. In previous episodes, they had the luxury of multiple takes. And when Nancy throws to her, she doesn't say anything, just smiles at the camera. She doesn't seem to realize she's live. I don't know if her earpiece isn't working or if she wasn't cued to start, but something's definitely wrong. Once she finally realizes she's on she does great, but she doesn't appreciate the constant interruptions from the ET hosts. "Where I come from, that's kind of rude." She "solves" this problem by talking over the hosts, which really gets Bobby and Giada's attention, and not in a good way.

Damiano starts as usual by reminding everyone he's from Italy. Kevin wants to know where the sheet pan is and Damiano's response is that he doesn't have it with him and he just starts going on unintelligibly about his dish. Even Giada has to admit he doesn't seem to have understood the challenge. Kevin: "Still not sure what Damiano did, but it was fun." Tregaye: "That was like a nightmare." And he's still skating on the Italian thing.

Joy is not only charming and a great cook, but has also figured out how this is working. After mentioning her five kids she beats the ET hosts at their own game by engaging them before they get a chance to cut in, asking if they have kids of their own. I don't think Joy has made a less than stellar move since this show started, and she doesn't make one now. Nancy tries to sabotage her a bit by suggesting her dish is actually a pan within a pan (Joy has her steaks and veggies wrapped in foil) but it doesn't work, as Joy points out the benefit: "No cleanup." Giada nods in agreement. Stick to pointless celebrities, Nancy.

Jernard seems to be operating with a lot less energy than usual but doesn't have any trouble describing his dish. He stumbles a bit when asked what rainbow chard is, but seems to have winged his way through it.

Monterey starts off great, considering her ingredient was cauliflower stalks, and her dish is gorgeous. Jernard seems impressed with how calm and focused she is. She mentions her background as a model for knowing what's fashionable. "You eat with your eyes. You want to have a beautiful gown for the Oscars, you want to have a beautiful plate in front of you." Kevin loves the reference. Even Giada and Bobby are impressed with how well she's doing. It was pretty much perfect, and I think Monterey was finally able to show us her best.

Yaku seems to have his spiel down pat, but the hosts initially seem bored by his low-key energy. He kind of stumbles when he describes his broccoli stems as, "Something you would usually throw in the garbage." It's kind of a callback to when Melissa was repeatedly admonished not to use negative words when talking about food. However, Bobby loves his idea of slicing the stems and frying them up like chips and the hosts warm to the idea and by the end, it's all good.

The contestants are brought before the judges and Giada tells them one team stood out. My pick: Team Frugal Kitchen. The judges agree. However, they don't get much chance to enjoy their accomplishment, because the next challenge starts NOW. However, as the winning team, Monterey, Jernard and Yaku are now team captains and Jernard gets to pick first. He promptly picks Joy. Yeah, that was a no-brainer. Yaku picks Tregaye again. Are they dating or something? This has not been a successful pairing. Monterey picks Erin without hesitation.

Jernard then selects Rob. That trio is already my pick to win the rest of this episode. Yaku now has his choice of Ana and Damiano, and he goes with the Italian guy. Poor Ana is the last one left, but the sting is probably assuaged by Monterey's happy reaction: "Yes, I get Ana." Rob makes a snotty remark about her being the last one picked, and I'm starting to cool on him. He might be entertaining, but I'm starting to think that under that fun, over-sized teddy bear exterior is someone who really isn't a very nice guy.

The teams get their assignment: They're headed to the historic Park Plaza Hotel, where they will be creating upscale room service meals for VIP guests. Bobby tells them to think of themselves, "As private, on-call chefs for very particular clients. You have to be prepared for anything." The team captains are then handed notecards with their particular assignments. Jernard reveals he has an even bigger advantage in this, besides his kickass team - he's worked in room service before. Team Monterey draws "Spa Escape" and Team Yaku gets "Honeymooner's Holiday", and they all seem happy with their themes. Team Jernard draws..."Afternoon Tea". Awkwaaaaard. Monterey thinks the idea of Rob at an Afternoon Tea is hilarious. Aaaaand they're off to plan their menus!

Team Honeymooner's Holiday: Bacon Wrapped Shrimp with Potato Salad (Tregaye: "I'm going to bind them (the shrimp) together to show their bond.") Yaku is going to do a duo of heart-shaped Filet Mignon and Lobster. I'll be right over here eagerly awaiting dinner. Damiano will do Vanilla Gelato with Puff Pastry Hearts. It all actually sounds really good. I do kind of feel like they got far and away the easiest challenge.

Over at Team Spa Escape, they decide that Ana will prepare Salmon with Guava Sauce and Erin will do a White Chocolate Mint Mousse Trifle. Yes please. Monterey is going to do Crab and Lobster with Chamomile Chives and Sesame Crisp. But then she notices they're lacking vegetables, so changes to Crab and Lobster in Japanese Dashi.

At Team Afternoon Tea Joy promptly announces she's doing a cake (Grilled Vanilla Bean Cake with Strawberries and Whipped Cream). Jernard talks about his cream cheese dates in a Fried Orange Liqueur Bacon Rangoon (a rangoon is a deep-fried stuffed dumping). Rob wants to come up with a "nacho crunch" or something and while Jernard rolls with it, Joy observes that the guys don't seem familiar with the kind of foods served at tea. Rob points out that he's a happy hour guy, not a tea guy. Joy guides him into the idea of a Lobster Sandwich on Pumpernickel. I was beginning to wonder if there were going to be any tea sandwiches at this afternoon tea.

The chefs are bustling in the Park Plaza's kitchens when the phone rings. Joy answers it and some guy with a really phony sounding English accent tells her he wants to make changes to the Afternoon Tea menu. I kind of wish they just let them cook and judged the food and concept. While Joy is trying to find something to write with and on, the caller snottily asks, "Are you there...(and at this point the caller is revealed to be actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson)'s not going to be afternoon forever." Shut the fuck up.

When we come back from commercial, Ferguson is still at it, telling Joy he doesn't want anything fried (too heavy for afternoon tea, which I don't really disagree with), mocking their choice of pumpernickel (at this point we cut to Bobby and Giada laughing as if they're in the presence of comic genius, although if I hadn't committed to recapping the show I would have stopped watching at this point, because he is beyond annoying). So, pumpernickel's out. And while he's okay with the vanilla pound cake, he wants another flavored cake to go with it. Joy handles the whole thing cheerfully and like a pro. When Ferguson finally hangs up the phone, he and the judges laugh uproariously, as if we've just witnessed the comic genius of say, someone on the level of Robin Williams. We learn that Ferguson's bona fides is that he is starring in a one-man show about an upscale New York restaurant, making him fully qualified to possibly derail the career paths of a trio of actual, real-life chefs, at least according to Food Network.

In the kitchen, the chefs are dealing with it. Joy divides her cake batter and will add lemon to one of them. Unfortunately, this doesn't give her enough batter for the pans she was going to use, so she has to resort to silicone mini cake pans, which she doesn't think will work as well. Since Jernard can't deep-fry his rangoon he's going to bake them. Rob decides to go with a lettuce wrap for the lobster sandwiches. He doesn't want to deal with the possibility that the guest is gluten-free. Rob: "It's probably some actor or actress that's watching its figure." Good call, Rob.

Ferguson is then turned loose on the spa menu. He seems delighted at being able to "cause some chaos here." I just want to watch these people cook. Erin gets the call and Ferguson turns on a hilarious surfer/stoner dude voice. Well, hilarious Bobby and Giada anyway. Again, I just find it annoying. Surfer/stoner Jesse informs Erin that he's allergic to shellfish, soooooo...and the guava sauce also has to go - he doesn't want tropical flavors.

More shots of Giada and Bobby cracking up. At this point I don't know what's more annoying - Ferguson or the judges. Call it a tie.

Erin is also told chocolate is out. Like Joy, she's cheerful and accommodating, which is more than this segment deserves. After she hangs up, she roars, "FOR REAL?" Luckily for Erin, she finds some almond paste that she thinks will work in her trifle. I hope she's right. Ana goes with figs for her salmon dish. Monterey goes with sea bass, which she's used more than once during the show, including in the live remote challenge and I wonder if she'll get dinged for that, especially since there's already a fish dish. It does turn out beautifully. The almond paste wasn't sufficient to stabilize Erin's mousse and it's too runny, and just to add insult to injury her meringue is breaking and she doesn't have time to fix it.

And now we're treated to Joy's first ever misstep - the texture of her cakes is wrong, the whipped cream on them is melting and her plate is a mess. The chefs are counting down and I'm wondering where the twist is for Team Honeymoon.

Now Team Spa gets to meet their VIP guest/tormentor. Monterey is actually stoked to meet him. She presents her dish and while it's so pretty, she's doing her table-side garnishing without chatting up the diners and when Bobby asks her what's spa-like about her dish, her response is, "'ll find out." And she was doing so well tonight. Bobby and Giada think the dish is too spicy, but Jesse, who has apparently decided to be a human being, appreciates the bold flavors. Bobby and Giada do comment on how stunning the dish is. Ana's presentation is a bit awkward - she suggests that she has a resemblance to Sofia Vergara and has Monterey to toasting some nuts for her dish, and keeps referring to her as "nut girl". But her food is delicious and Bobby loves how she replaced the guava with fig.

Erin comes in and chats them up. She's not confident about her dish, but she seems to have learned from a couple weeks ago not to just walk in and admit defeat. She launches into a story about going to spas with her mom and how they would get citrus sugar scrubs while she torches her meringue, so she made sure to include citrus in her dessert. Unfortunately, there's issues with the texture of the dish - Giada thinks she should have used more almond paste. But Erin is also considered to have done the best job tableside. However, Bobby points out that as a team, they had one great presentation and one great dish, giving them a mere 33% success rate.

Next up is Team Afternoo Tea. Joy gasps when she sees Jesse, but quickly recovers, in fact she's so charming he apologizes for the phone call. Jernard goes to work on the sauce for his rangoons. He's doing great until Bobby asks him what's in the sauce and he blanks. By the time the dishes are in front of the judges he's finally able to tell them how he finished the sauce. But he berates himself for not telling any kind of story, despite the fact that he does it all the time. But it's about to get worse. The judges don't think the flavors work, plus there's not enough filling. Giada describes the dish as "lacking finesse" and Jesse describes it as "down home and dirty". Certainly not the fine dining experience the contestants were assigned. Bobby and Giada also note that Jernard is usually "more personal" and that they missed that.

Rob describes his lettuce wrapped sandwiches as "a healthy version of a lobster roll". Apparently this dish isn't something he'd make or eat on his own, so it's hard for him sell it and his lack of enthusiasm shows. To make matters worse, he's trying to roll the "sandwiches" and the lettuce starts to tear, so he starts to move some of the filling to the side. Bobby stops him with, "Open face is fine with me," which Rob probably should have thought of himself. The dish is a flop with the judges. Jesse wonders why he didn't just use a different type of bread, although I thought the lettuce idea was a good call. The judges also note that Rob just didn't seem proud of his dish.

Luckily for Joy, the dish she plated in the kitchen isn't the one she's serving. She chats with the judges as she talks about her restaurant and bakery as while she assembles the plates, but Jesse is making her nervous and she can't get her torch to fire up. Rob takes it from her and gets it lit. Joy: "I'm as nervous as a long-tailed cat on a porch full of rocking chairs." She tells a charming story about how making this dish for her daughter's birthday launched her culinary career, but gets distracted from finishing her plating. Finally Rob finishes the last dish and serves the judges. She kind of recovers when she wraps her story with, "I guess you can say that my journey to get here before you today was not a piece of cake, but it did start with one." Giada: "AWWWW." The judges like the dish, but Bobby notes that her story went on too long. Giada agrees that Joy seemed nervous in a way they hadn't seen before. Bobby: "This team was definitely struggling." Giada: "Something went south." Yeah, like a sabotage. And speaking of sabotages, where's the one for the remaining team? Funny you should ask - there's one more team left, and the judges thank Jesse for coming.

We're back Team Honeymoon in the kitchen, where they're prepping their meal. Then we go back to the dining room where we meet our next guest judge, internet foodie star and cookbook author Hannah Hart (My Drunk Kitchen). She's asked to play a fickle hotel guest. Hannah cheerfully explains that she has a lot of experience being both fickle and drunk. Giada promptly goes way off script: "So has Bobby!" Would this be the same Bobby recently divorced by his wife for cheating on her? I'm surprised Giada went there, considering her name has been known to pop up in some of the Flay cheating rumors.

Turns out Team Honeymoon is going to get their sabotage, it's just that everything is being shown out of order. Not sure why they didn't have Ferguson do all three and just have Hannah on another episode, but here we go. Tregaye takes the call and is not happy about being told there are changes. Hannah tells her no read meat. There goes the heart-shaped filet mignon. She loves the dessert...but the gelato has to be dairy free. As for the bacon wrapped shrimp, the honeymoon will be in Mexico, so could Tregaye just make sure it tastes like Mexican food? After hanging up (Tregaye: "Okay, no problem." Hannah: "Gracias.") Tregaye announces the changes. Yaku flies into action, but Damiano doesn't know what to do - everything he makes has dairy. "What am I going to do, throw everything into the trash? I'm screwed."

When we come back from commercial break, Damiano is still melting down. He finally decides to go with a sorbet. Yaku has switched out his steak for chicken, but he still has to start his lobster and time is dwindling. For the Mexican thing, Tregaye is switching from rosemary to cilantro in her potato salad. Damiano is still stuck in Italy, where people just don't make these kind of changes. He wants to know who does. He's about to find out.

The team is brought in to meet their VIP guest/tormentor and for the first time since we've met him, a still pissed off Damiano doesn't turn on the Italian charm. He does know who Hannah is. "She was probably drunk when she made that request."

Tregaye has worked in upscale hotels with celebrity clients, so she's not nervous. She's using something to create fog inside the clear lids over her dish, and as she does she calmly and sweetly talks about how she's known her husband since 9th grade and explains how she knows all about the ups and downs of relationships. As the covered, cloudy plates are set in front of the judges, she tells them, "In your relationship, sometimes it will get cloudy. When the smoke clears (and here the judges lift the lids and the smoke does clear) there's always something beautiful at the end." It's a beautiful, flawless presentation, even the timing of the story is perfect. The judges love it and they love the dish. Bobby comments on how relaxed and calm Tregaye was. Maybe an upscale hotel with celebrity guests is Tregaye's calling, rather than having to play to a camera, because it was really impressive.

Yaku is comparing the preparation of his sauce to love, but he sounds a bit shaky to me. I don't envy him having to follow Tregaye's presentation. But he's sweating and something just feels off. He thinks he's nailing it, but neither Tregaye nor the judges are impressed. It's about to get worse - the lobster isn't completely cooked, in fact Bobby describes his as, "Totally raw." It's a shame too, because the dish looks delicious. Plus, what a waste of lobster.

Finally we have Damiano, who is asked by Bobby if his dish (which is very pretty, with its red sorbet and chocolate heart cookie) makes him think of his love life. Damiano: "This makes me think of my family." Yaku is blown away - and not in a good way - by this answer. The judges love the food, but Hannah points out that as important as familial love is, "Maybe he doesn't have enough romantic love in his life. Because this is a honeymooner's holiday plate." It almost seems like for the second challenge in a row, Damiano either didn't get the concept, or just didn't care.

The judges bid farewell to Hannah, who I would love to see again on Food Network. Bobby: "Next time let's get drunk." Giada cracks up. Hannah: "That sounds great!"

Now it's time for judging. Bobby notes that the room service challenge got the best of most of the contestants, so much so that they've decided not to name a winning team, which would normally make all team members safe. The contestants are shocked.

IMO the only person who nailed both presentation and food was Tregaye. To me, she's the only one who is really safe. Plus, not a single "whimsical" out of her tonight. I would throw in Ana and Erin as they nailed food and presentation, respectively.

The judges name their top/safe three as Tregaye, Damiano and Ana.

My bottom three: Yaku, Jernard and Rob. Seems pretty obvious. The judges agree as Giada tells Erin, Joy and Monterey that they're also safe, and the top six head off to the safety of the waiting room.

Bobby tells Yaku he has great presence but they still don't feel like they know him. Plus, you know, the raw lobster. Giada reiterates that Jernard's dish lacked elegance and finesse and also told him he didn't bring his usual vibrant personality. Rob flat-out admits to his train-wreck. Bobby tells him his lobster was cooked perfectly and wondered why he just didn't use a different kind of bread. "Just not your best day." Rob doesn't argue with him.

My choice for elimination: Yaku. Rob has too big of a personality to not at least be able to fake enthusiasm for his dish, even if he didn't feel it. But I think he's too much of an obvious front-runner to get dumped in only his first appearance in the bottom three. It's a real toss-up between Yaku and Jernard, but at least Jernard's dish was cooked. Raw lobster just isn't something you skate on.

Giada points out that one of the contestants has to be ready to do their own show in seven weeks, and they have to keep the people they think have the most potential. However, even though she's done it countless times before, Giada doesn't want to say the name. She turns to Bobby and murmurs, "You do it. I can't do it." Bobby finally does it: "Yaku." Giada tells him she's sorry. They seem to love him as a person and a cook. They don't mention the raw lobster.

Unlike some of his predecessors, Yaku is gracious in defeat. "I went from hustling chicken dinners to cooking on Food Network. If that don't tell you anything is possible, then I don't know what does. I'm just glad my son has a father to look up to and be proud of." I can see why it was so hard for Giada to dismiss him. The sad thing is that his dish looked awesome. If the lobster had been cooked, I'm pretty sure it would have been Jernard's swan song. Dude dodged a huge bullet this week.

In addition, Star Redemption, which I have zero interest in, has started up. I just don't care for the concept and don't think it's fair to the surviving contestants. According to Food Network Gossip, Yaku joined previous eliminations Havird and Aaron (apparently Melissa and Martita aren't participating) and again, Havird was the first elimination. That has to suck for him. He came on the show because he thought he had a future on Food Network, only to be the first elimination twice. I feel for the guy. Wish it had been Aaron, who I have no desire to see back unless it's to see him promptly eliminated again.

And then there were eight...

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Screening: To Kill a Mockingbird at the Million Dollar Theater

As part of this year's Last Remaining Seats program, The Los Angeles Conservancy presented the classic To Kill a Mockingbird at the historic Million Dollar Theater last Wednesday.

To Kill a Mockingbird (Universal-International Pictures, 1961)
Starring Gregory Peck, Mary Badham, Philip Alford, Brock Peters, Collin Wilcox, James Anderson, Frank Overton, Estelle Evans, William Windom, Alice Ghostley and Robert Duvall
Directed by Robert Mulligan
Screenplay by Horton Foote, based on the novel by Harper Lee
Winner of the Academy Award for Best Actor (Peck), Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Set Decoration/Art Direction (Black & White)
Also nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Badham), Best Cinematography (Black & White) and Best Music Score

Jean Louise Finch (Badham) - a young tomboy better known by her nickname of Scout - looks back on a formative period of her childhood in the Depression-era South in this film adaptation of Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.

Scout and her older brother Jem (Alford) live with their widowed father, lawyer Atticus Finch (Peck) in a small Alabama town. Scout experiences a number of normal childhood bumps in the road - first day of school, conflicts with other kids - until Atticus is asked to defend Tom Robinson (Peters), a black man accused of beating and raping Mayella Ewell (Wilcox), a local white girl. As the case progresses, Atticus is increasingly unable to shield his children from the cold realities of prejudice and poverty.

The film is pretty much flawless, but it's in the court scenes where it really shines. Director Mulligan takes his time presenting testimony from both Robinson and his accusers. Atticus's summation alone runs almost ten minutes. But predictably, the all white, all male jury (hardly a jury of Tom Robinson's peers) convicts him despite the overwhelming evidence produced by Atticus that Mayella's abuse most likely came from her alcoholic father (Anderson).

Another source of interest in Scout and Jem's otherwise idyllic world are their reclusive neighbors, the Radley's. They develop a bit of an obsession with Boo Radley (Duvall), the family's adult son who is kept locked up in the house due to having once attacked his mother with scissors. They will finally meet Boo (who the unfailingly decent Atticus introduces as Mr. Arthur Radley) when he comes to their aid when they're menaced by an angry and intoxicated Bob Ewell, still stinging from being made to look bad by Atticus during the trial.

Some To Kill a Mockingbird facts and trivia:

  • Other actors considered for Atticus Finch: Rock Hudson, Spencer Tracy and James Stewart.
  • The narration by the adult Scout was provided by legendary (and uncredited) actress Kim Stanley.
  • Boo Radley was Robert Duvall's film debut. He had no dialogue.
  • Despite their stunning debut performances, neither Mary Badham nor Phillip Alford pursued acting careers into adulthood. Badham became a wife and mother, while Alford became a successful businessman.
  • To Kill a Mockingbird was largely drawn from Lee's childhood. She based the character of Atticus Finch on her father, Amasa Lee, who was a widower with children and also a lawyer who was always ready to offer legal defense to blacks who he felt had been unfairly accused. Harper Lee was so moved and impressed by Peck's performance that she gave him her father's watch. It did not appear in the film, but Peck did wear it to the Academy Awards ceremony.
  • For his portrayal of Atticus Finch, Peck received his fifth Best Actor nomination and his first win.
  • The film was both a critical and financial success. It earned back ten times its cost at the box office.
  • Of all the films he made in a career that spanned fifty years, Peck identified To Kill a Mockingbird as his favorite.
  • The film could not be shot on location in Lee's small Alabama hometown because by the early 1960's it had become quite modernized. The entire town seen in the film was built on the Universal backlot.
  • The character of Scout and Jem's precocious friend Dill was based on Lee's childhood friend, author Truman Capote.
  • The film has an impressive 91% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
  • Brock Peters gave the eulogy at Peck's funeral. 

Next up (for me) from Last Remaining Seats: Singin' in the Rain! One of my all-time favorites, and this will be the first time I've seen it on the big screen.

The view from my nosebleed seat.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Review: 42nd Street at the Pantages

I've always been a fan of the film version of 42nd Street, despite its somewhat hokey (I consider it sweet) take on the battle to make it in the world of theatre, and even despite Ruby Keeler's painfully bad (but relentlessly earnest) performance. But I had never seen it onstage and when I found out those dancing feet were coming to the Pantages, I couldn't miss it. And I was not disappointed.

42nd Street has got to be one of the best musicals ever. It's fun and energetic and loaded with great songs, including "You're Getting To Be a Habit With Me", "I Only Have Eyes For You", "We're in the Money", "Lullaby of Broadway", "Shuffle Off To Buffalo" and of course "42nd Street". Set during the Great Depression, the show is about a group of youthful hoofers hoping to make it into the cast of "Pretty Lady", the newest Broadway musical directed by the legendary Julian Marsh. Most of them would be happy just to be in the chorus, but one of them - Peggy Sawyer - will find herself on the fast track to stardom when she's tapped to fill in for the show's injured star.

The show is near flawless. No expense appears to have been spared. The acting pops, the costumes are just stunning, and the choreography and dancing were amazing. It was boggling to me - a definite non-dancer - to see not only how well they danced, but how they did so in perfect unison. The only thing I thought was odd was that in this production (as opposed to the film) they made Peggy a sort of lovable klutz who kept screwing up "Pretty Lady" dance rehearsals. This made it kind of weird that everyone would think of her as the perfect replacement for an experienced star, or anyone else for that matter. But I loved the show so much I was willing to overlook that.

According to their Playbill bios, several members of the cast are making their national tour debuts, including Caitlin Ehlinger, who plays Peggy Sawyer. You can see some videos and pictures from the show on her website. She's a bit of a real-life Peggy, minus the injured star.

The only thing that detracted from the experience was how many people were seated after - well after, in some cases - the show had started. I was in an aisle seat and had to get up twice during the first few scenes to let latecomers in. I had a trio of theatre wonks in the seats behind me who were discussing this during intermission. One of them considered it "disrespectful to the theatre" and I agree. I'm one of the least punctual people you'll ever meet, and I made it to the Pantages with plenty of time to spare. In addition, despite an announcement before the show began, someone's cell phone went off during some dialogue. It rang three times before the guilty party turned it off and it was distracting. Again, disrespectful. I put mine on airplane mode just to be safe. It's not rocket science, people.

Nontheless, the show itself is great and I can't recommend it enough. 42nd Street is at the Pantages through June 19.