Monday, March 27, 2023

Fish and chips of the Magi 

It's only been a few weeks but I think I finally have gotten the memory of a truly awful meal out of my mouth. Though to be safe I ought not think of it. It was a lovely snowy day, that turned into a cold damp night when we had thought to go out for a meal after a long-ish walk. The light wet snow was turning into rain. We were both getting hungry. Julia asked what I was looking for and only one thing came to mind: fish and chips from Allen's restaurant. Initially we thought to take the subway but the nearby station suddenly closed due to a medical emergency. Each bus that passed was packed full and offered no respite. While I was game to walk the 20 minutes or so to Allen's, Julia, whose ill-fitting winter boots were failing her, was growing tired. Thus here we were. I didn't want to ask Julia to keep walking in wet soggy boots and Julia wanted to fulfill my wish for fish and chips. The closest place was a sports pub that had been there for ages but with the notion that perhaps it was under new management we ventured forth.

Don't trust a restaurant that greets you with a potpourri of old cigarettes, stale beer, urinal puck and burned cooking oil. The cigarette smell was particularly odd as there hasn't been smoking in Ontario restaurants for over 20 years. In any case, let's just say the place with multiple screens showing a variety of sporting events (basketball, football and golf), was immediately without charms. I noticed a young lad, maybe nine or ten-years-old, ask his father if he could go to the bathroom and I was alarmed when the adult answered, "Yeah sure, you know where it is." So, this guy regularly took his son to this forsaken spot? Admittedly, this scene made me think, "Well, if you come back here, maybe it's better than I assume." Thus we sat down, Julia ordered a burger and I ordered the fish and chips.

What arrived was passably "food" and even though the burger was edible, the wet "from freezer to fryer" fish I had, was not. Normally I would give it that old college try, or out of an abundance of politeness, at least make it look like I tried, but it was entirely inedible and out of caution, I didn't go beyond the first explorations. The sides of tartar sauce and coleslaw were, I think, passed due, expired, gone off. What was I even looking at? I won't go into detail but needless to say, inflationary pressures aside, this was not what an $18 plate of food should look, smell or taste like. In fact, I'm still a little mad that we paid for it. Someone, in that kitchen, is going to kill someone one day. I'm not joking. There is no way in which that meal seemed safe to eat. Normally, I'm the guy who wants burgers made on the greasiest of grills. The more miles on that grill, the better. Give me fat and salt and I am happy, but this was really the straw that broke the camel's back.

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Sunday, March 05, 2023

Seen in February 

Angela Basset is everyone's favourite queen.

In the throws of an unpredictable winter, with rain, sleet, freezing rain, snow, but little sun, one finds comfort in what one can control. This is what I've seen and how I saw it. I hope you find something for yourself.

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever
Another successful addition to the franchise. If that doesn't sound like a glowing film endorsement, it probably isn't. In many ways there are some inevitable plot points that had to follow the death of T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) and the reveal that this film would introduce a novel take on the character of Namor led to some surprises. In the future someone may draw comparisons between this film and politics of this world where groups who appear to be allies, have their own conflicting agendas. In this film, Wakandans have been in neutral without their protector, Black Panther, meanwhile, the watery world led by Namor are making it known to mankind that they will not tolerate incursions on their world. While the writing has made clever connections between Wakanda and the re-imagining of Namor, who is a prickly character in the comics at the best of times, there's still a slight feeling of too much being packed into the story (for me). The film has a long run time and spends fully the first act dealing with Chadwick Boseman's death and how the characters in the film handle that grief. While I often begrudge the length of films beyond two hours, there is a case to be made that the extended time also gives the emotional space required for the viewer to feel the impact of the ending of the movie. It might be odd to talk about "emotional space" in a super-hero flick, but Black Panther is a different kind of super-hero movie.

Porco Rosso
Another fun Miyazaki animated film about a 1920s era pilot who is a sort of bounty hunter of the skies above the Mediterranean Sea. The pilot, for reasons not fully explained, was a handsome fellow, is now cursed as a anthropomorphized pig (who flies a red plane, thus the title Red Pig). I'm not sure explaining more of the story will help you. If you love Studio Ghibli films, you'll love this one. If you don't, well, we should probably talk.

Extraordinary S01
Imagine a world where everyone has a super-power. Some of those powers would seem familiar to comic book readers - super-speed, super-strength, invisibility, flight - while some are less, "super", like the ability to change your hair colour or to give anyone an orgasm at a slight touch. Now imagine, in this world, you are the only person you know without a power of any kind. Your lack of any special ability makes you sort of extraordinary. That's the premise for our protagonist, Jen, as a bit of a disappointing underachiever as she sets out to find her extra ability before she can move on with her life. The fact this series is British and that Jen is a foul-mouthed Irish twenty-something already adds about 20% to the fun factor. It's an irreverent take on the super-hero genre that's been tried before but maybe not landed as well.

Good Luck to you, Leo Grande
A widow and retired religious education teacher decides she hasn't had enough sexual experience so she hires a young gentleman whose specialty is um… well, sex. He expertly helps her with her problems yet when she wants to know him more and "help" him, things take a turn for the worse. There's a lot here to unpack, like maybe having a sexually repressed woman lecture her students on "dressing like sluts" isn't healthy for anyone. Or that our sexuality doesn't end with our youth or that we can never really make assumptions about who someone is based on what we see or even what they tell us. The two leads in this small, intimate film, Emma Thompson as Nancy and Daryl McCormack as Leo Grande are great and by the end, you'll want to sleep with both of them.

Brian Tyree Henry, LaKeith Stanfield and Donald Glover in Atlanta.

Atlanta S04
This series set in Atlanta about Earn (Donald Glover) and his cousin Alfred (Brian Tyree Henry) making their way in business and cultural world of rap and hiphop is as revelatory, surreal and allegorical as the previous three. There is definitely less of a narrative arc between the episodes in the final season but I, as a white Canadian with Anglo Jewish ancestry, have found the show to be a great explainer, teacher, satirist, dramatist and humorist of the Black American Experience. It might lean to the male POV of that experience but even that is handled with a self-knowing panache. Not only does the show itself feel like "landmark" television but the leads, including LaKeith Stanfield as Darius and Zazie Beetz as Van, have all gone on to do great work elsewhere. The show overflows with talent and has a bristling intelligence not often found in such an entertaining package.

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