Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Champagne and Strawberries

Edward: You should try a strawberry.
Vivian: Why?
Edward: It brings out the flavor of the champagne.
Vivian: Oh. Groovy.

Edward: Are you hungry? You must be. Why don't you sit and have something to eat. I took the liberty of ordering everything on the menu. I didn't know what you'd like.

A "fairy tale" of a romantic comedy, Pretty Woman is more famous for the love scenes between screen idols Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, but the film does have two important food scenes that many moviegoers remember with great fondness. In the first, Edward (Gere) orders champagne and strawberries for Vivian (Roberts), the prostitute he hires. Unused to fine dining, Vivian downs the champagne before Edward can offer her the plate of fruit; only slightly embarrassed, Vivian takes and tastes one berry, so red and large and luscious to symbolize both the sexual basis of their business arrangement and the vast romantic potential underlying their liaison. It's a humorous exchange that is at once awkward and self-conscious, yet sexy and romantic, and viewers who have ever had "stars in their eyes" immediately relate to what the characters are feeling. In the second scene, which takes place the morning after their first night together, Edward orders everything on the menu for breakfast--orange juice, croissants, toast, peaches, pancakes and strawberries, scrambled eggs with bacon and kiwi, muffins--because he wants Vivian to have something she'd enjoy, and he doesn't know what her preference is. It's a touching moment, revealing how much he cares for her--but then, wouldn't anyone want to be treated so richly?

Released March 23, 1990
Written by J. F. Lawton
Directed by Garry Marshall
Starring Julia Roberts as Vivian Ward, Richard Gere as Edward Lewis, Jason Alexander as Philip Stuckey, Laura San Giacomo as Kit De Luca, Hector Elizondo as Barney Thompson
Awards: 1991 BMI Film Music Award (James Newton Howard) and Most Performed Song from a Film ("It Must Have Been Love" by Per Gessle), 1991 Golden Globe Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture-Comedy/Musical for Julia Roberts, 1991 German Golden Screen Award, 1991 Kids' Choice Blimp Award for Favorite Movie Actress (Roberts), 1991 People's Choice Award for Favorite Comedy Motion Picture

Monday, October 27, 2008

What a Birthday Cake!

Buck Russell [to young Miles, who is gawking at his birthday breakfast]: You should see the toast. I couldn't even get it through the door.

Uncle Buck is a fun movie that shows what can happen when a bachelor uncle has to babysit his brother's rebellious teenage daughter and her younger brother and sister. But the film is worth mentioning because of the amazing birthday breakfast. To celebrate his nephew's birthday, Buck (John Candy) decides to prepare a special breakfast treat: a huge cake made out of five enormous pancakes. Each flapjack is about three feet in diameter, and to make them, Buck flips them over on the griddle with a snow shovel. He places a thick slab of butter on top of the stack, drenches everything in maple syrup, and lights a single candle in the middle. When birthday boy Miles (Macaulay Culkin) enters the kitchen and takes in this wonderful creation, he grins with absolute delight. It's an oh-too-sweet feast that only the young (and the young at heart) can fully appreciate.

Released: August 16, 1989
Written and directed by John Hughes
Starring John Candy as Buck Russell, Macaulay Culkin as Miles Russell, Jean Louisa Kelly as Tia Russell, Amy Madigan as Chanice Kobolowski, Gaby Hoffman as Maizy Russell, Elaine Bromka as Cindy Russell, Garrett M. Brown as Bob Russell

Buck Russell: How many times a day does the dog eat? Cindy Russell: How many times do you think? Buck Russell: I don't know, four or five. Cindy Russell: He eats once a day.

Fun fact: For the scene in which Miles interrogates Uncle Buck in rapid-fire fashion, John Candy pasted the dialogue on top of his head so that Macaulay Culkin could read his lines quickly and not trip over his own words.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Big Eden

Mary Margaret: Whose is this?
Henry: That's so old. Is it any good?
Mary Margaret: It's unbelievable! Who makes tortes out here anyway?
Henry: That's the widow Thayer, she made that.
Mary Margaret: You're saying she made this?
Henry: Right. She's the one who's been doing all the cooking.
Mary Margaret: A woman did not make this.
Henry: What is that supposed to mean?
Mary Margaret: Nothing. I don't mean anything by it. I'm just saying a woman didn't make this.

Henry: Please stay for supper, Pike.
Pike: Why?
Henry: Look at the size of this trout.

The directorial debut of Thomas Bezucha (who also directed The Family Stone), Big Eden was a breakthrough film that finally depicted gay men of all shapes, sizes, and ages navigating the treacherous waters of love just like regular folks, with no over-the-top drama or circuit boys or any other stereotypically “gay” details thrown in just for laughs. When Henry (Gross) visits his hometown in rural Montana to care for his ailing grandfather, he discovers that Dean (DeKay), his high school “crush,” has also recently returned home. But while Henry pursues Dean (without actually coming out of the closet), Pike (Schweig), the owner of the general store, falls “head over heels” for Henry. Since Pike is too shy to approach Henry directly, he decides to learn to cook and proceeds to prepare dinner for Henry and his grandfather, surreptitiously substituting his dishes for the ones made by the widow Thayer (Martin). Despite promptings from his friends in town, it takes Henry a long time to get over his obsession with his straight friend Dean and to realize his affection for Pike and understand Pike’s for him.
“So, what’s for eats?” Henry asks, and the audience is richly rewarded with a parade of amazing dishes. At the same time, the film’s depiction of Pike’s progress in the kitchen serves as a real culinary education. He begins by reading The Joy of Cooking, and it remains his “bible” throughout the film; but he also refers to Cooking Light, Gourmet, and Food & Wine magazines, creating tasty dishes because he wants “things to be nice” for Henry. The film shows many of Pike’s creations—chicken with apricots, olives, and figs; stuffed green peppers; mushroom and spinach salad; baked salmon garnished with radishes and celery; steamed clams; curly endive and cucumber salad; chicken with carrots, celery, and beans; trout poached in white wine (he sends his friends out to the stream to catch the trout!); mushroom soup—and the viewer even hears tell of a delicious peach sorbet (made in Montana, in the winter!).

No movie about familial relationships would be complete without a Thanksgiving meal, and Big Eden depicts the usual dysfunctional gathering, with all the trimmings: turkey, green beans, biscuits, potato salad, and cherry and pumpkin pies. The masterpiece of this meal, however, is the platter of endive, asparagus, yellow and orange peppers, and bean sprouts.

Other foods are mentioned: cappuccino, cottage cheese and sour cream pancakes, burgers with onions or cheese or chili, ribs, corn on the cob, watermelon. The plot hinges on Henry’s discovery of who actually made the delicious torte he discusses with Mary Margaret (Cox): he thinks it was the widow, just as he believed all along that she was preparing dinner for him and his grandfather, but when she admits that the food was not hers, Henry finally opens his eyes and begins to accept the love that is being showered upon him. The way to a man’s heart truly is through his stomach!
Released 2000

Written and directed by Thomas Bezucha
Starring Arye Gross as Henry Hart, Eric Schweig as Pike Dexter, Tim DeKay as Dean Stewart, Louise Fletcher as Grace Cornwell, George Coe as Sam Hart, Nan Martin as Widow Thayer, O'Neal Compton as Jim Soams, Corinne Bohrer as Anna Rudolph, Veanne Cox as Mary Margaret Bishop
Awards: 2001 Cleveland International Film Festival Best Film and Best American Independent Feature Film (Bezucha); 2001 Florida Film Festival Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature (Bezucha); 2000 L.A. Outfest Audience Award for Outstanding Narrative Feature (Bezucha) and Grand Jury Award for Outstanding Actor in a Feature Film (Schweig); 2001 Miami Gay and Lesbian Film Festival Jury Award for Best Fiction Feature (Bezucha); 2000 San Francisco International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival Audience Award for Best Feature (Bezucha); 2000 Seattle Lesbian & Gay Film Festival Audience Award for Favorite Narrative Feature (Bezucha); 2001 Toronto Inside Out Lesbian and Gay Film and Video Festival for Best Feature Film or Video (Bezucha)