Friday, June 26, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 13


I've had several hummingbird sightings over the past few days - I think the warmer temps are finally bringing them out! I love spotting this little female (male hummers have the ruby throat). If I wasn't one already, I have now definitely turned into a birdwatcher during this quarantine. 

Hummer alert!

CUISINE
Some surf and turf for you this week. Shrimp Ceviche is one of my favorite no oven, no stove, hot weather recipes. It's easy, light, satisfying and you'll ALMOST feel like you're at the beach. 

-½ lb peeled, deveined shrimp (I like NC Coast!)
-Store-bought / pre-made pico de gallo
-8-10 limes (you'll need 1 - 1 ½ cups of lime juice, so buy more limes than you think you’ll need and use the rest for margs)

Cut the shrimp in bite-sized pieces and put in a glass bowl. Pour the fresh lime juice on top (make sure it is all fully covered and submerged!) and add a spoonful or 2 of the pico. Let it sit in the fridge, covered, for about an hour. Give it a stir, and it will have turned pink, so you'll know the acid has fully cooked it! Spoon out the shrimp and top it with additional pico and cilantro. I like to serve it on a bed of romaine, in romaine leaves as lettuce cups, or with tortilla or plantain chips! 

Shrimp Ceviche with Black Beans and Tortilla Chips

For Father's Day, I did another take on a Beef Tenderloin, inspired by one of our old neighbors' recipes. We were quite pleased with the results.

-3 pound beef tenderloin filet, trimmed
-salt & pepper
-garlic powder
-dijon mustard
-prepared horseradish

Let the beef come to room temperature. Rub on salt, pepper and garlic powder (just eyeball it!) Preheat the oven to 400. Meanwhile, heat a cast iron (or other large, thick) skillet to medium high / high and sear the meat for about 2 minutes per side, just to brown slightly. Once browned, spread 1/2 jar or so of dijon mustard all over the beef. Squeeze the water out of the horseradish, and pack 1/2 inch or so onto the mustard. Place it in a roast pan and cook until 120 for rare, 125 for medium rare. Pull it from the oven and tent it with foil. Let it rest 15-30 minutes. Slice and enjoy!

Beef Tenderloin with Sauteed Kale and Blue Cheese Scalloped Potatoes

We were also excited to try the Deep River Brewing/R&R Brewing Pickletown Dill Pickle Lager. We are a dill pickle household, specifically, Mt. Olive Dill Pickles (we have family there). This beer puts a Pickle Back shot to shame. It was so tasty and refreshing and would be great with a hamburger! Buy at Total Wine.

Don't knock it 'til you try it!

SCREEN
The Lovebirds - this was scheduled to be released in theatres back in April, but it's currently on Netflix and definitely one of my favorite movies I've watched so far this summer. Timely, woke, laugh out loud funny - this film combines romance, drama, action and comedy all in one. Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani are incredibly entertaining as a recently broken-up couple who witness a crime and must deal with the consequences. I would watch these two all day.

Speed - an oldie but a goodie. Released in 1994, it was one of our first introductions to America's Sweetheart, Sandra Bullock. Her chemistry with Keanu Reeves is palpable, and the suspense will have you on the edge of your seat. A mad man puts a bomb on a bus that will explode if it doesn't stay above 50 mph. It's thrilling. Need I say more?

Coming to America - another oldie but goodie. Eddie Murphy's comedic genius is in full effect here. It tells the story of an African prince who decides to seek out his own bride in the US (Queens, NY, to be specific - get it?), instead of blindly marrying the woman his parents chose for him in an arranged marriage. Arsenio Hall is great as the sidekick. You'll definitely be entertained.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 12

Hi everyone! Were you all surprised by this unwelcomed blast of wet, cold weather earlier this week? I will take the heat over this any day. I've been noticing some beautiful hydrangeas in bloom on my walks recently, and my neighbor offered me some of hers! I am living for these stunning blue, lavender and pink hues - they really brightened up my house this week!
Beautiful hydrangeas!

CUISINE
I often seem to forget that I have a crockpot. With the colder temps this week, I decided whipping out the ole thing would be fitting. I also decided I needed to do something about the unrelenting craving for Buffalo Chicken I've been having. I threw in some boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about a pound) and poured some Frank's RedHot Buffalo Wing Sauce on top (about a 12 oz bottle). Then I turned it on high, and walked away for 6 hours or so. I did a rough shred of the chicken, then built some tasty tacos and lettuce wraps, complete with romaine lettuce, pickled jalapenos, blue cheese and cilantro. YUM. You could even get crazy and put the chicken on a homemade pizza!
Crockpot Buffalo Chicken Tacos

I'm bringing back a classic - Watergate Salad. Complete with pistachio pudding mix, marshmallows, cool whip - there's really nothing natural about it! Save for the few chunks of pineapple. But I've loved it since I was a child and am still obsessed.

-1 box pistachio pudding mix
-1 can crushed pineapple, drained
-1 cup mini marshmallows
-9 oz cool whip
-1/2 cup shredded coconut

Mix and chill. Many people would add pecans, but many people are crazy. I'm anti-nuts in desserts, but do what you want.

Watergate Salad. Isn't she a beaut. 

And finally, a featured cocktail this week. My mom's favorite - the French 75. Combine 1 oz gin (we like Beefeater, but watch your proof, peeps!), 1/2 oz simple syrup and 1/2 oz fresh lemon juice in a shaker with ice. Pour into a champagne flute, then fill to the top with your choice of bubbly - prosecco, cava, sparkling wine or champagne will do. (If you choose to fill it to the top with club soda, you've essentially made a Tom Collins.) Garnish with lemon peel.
French 75 (after a few sips.)

SCREEN
Selma - Free to stream this month, along with Just Mercy (which I adored). I highly encourage you to watch these films. They are tremendous and will move you to tears. Selma tells the story of Dr. King's leading of an iconic march, all in the name of equal voting rights for African Americans. It demonstrates the powerful impact of a peaceful protest, and could not be more timely. Why David Oyelowo didn’t receive a Best Actor Oscar nod, and why Director AvaDuVernay didn't either (and why composer Jason Moran didn't either!), I will never know. Tremendous supporting cast, you will recognize many faces. Outstanding. Get more info on where you can stream these movies here

Cocktail – An ‘80s classic that will have you wanting a Pina Colada or a Strawberry Daiquiri. I think society forgets how great of an actor Tom Cruise was (is?) but this will remind you. Great premise, telling the story of a young, wannabe millionaire who makes a career pivot and winds up the best bartender in NYC. Elizabeth Shue plays the love interest, and reminded me that we need to see more of her. Worth a watch if you haven’t seen it.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 11

Summer is here, y'all. I guess it's technically not here until June 21, but these temps have me longing for days at the beach or the pool. Is everyone else itching to get out of town, but hesitant to do so, like me?
Sprout says "hi!"

If you're not into sweets or seafood, I'm sorry - my blog has been practically nothing BUT seafood and sweets during this whole quarantine. 

I oven-roasted my first ever Sea Bass this week (it melts in your mouth!) Again, if you have a meat thermometer, you cannot lose! I also pan-seared some more scallops because they're one of my favorite foods.

Mediterranean Orzo Salad makes a great summer side, and uses up just about any produce you have on hand. Toss cooked orzo with a variety of veggies - diced cucumber, chickpeas, diced bell pepper, kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, roasted broccoli, edamame - squirt some lemon juice, drizzle some olive oil, sprinkle some S&P, garnish with feta cheese and parsley. It's best served cold!
Pan-seared Scallops with Mediterranean Orzo Salad and Sauteed Kale


I've been on a big cherry kick lately, and have always loved the Cherry-Pistachio flavor combo. I raided my pantry to see what I could make work and was pleased as punch with the results of this Cherry Pistachio Cake:

-1/2 box yellow cake mix (+ half of the ingredients it calls for)
-1/2 box pistachio pudding mix
-1 cup chopped fresh (or frozen and thawed) cherries

Combine above ingredients and pour into a greased 9” round cake pan. Bake according to box instructions. Frost with Cherry Cream Cheese Icing:

-4 ounces (half a block) cream cheese, softened
-4 TB butter, softened
-1 ½ cups powdered sugar
-splash of vanilla extract
-splash of almond extract
-sprinkle of salt
-splash of maraschino cherry juice

Beat together the cream cheese and butter, then slowly add powdered sugar. Once combined, add remaining ingredients. Frost the cooled cake, and decorate with pistachios and more cherries, or just eat it already!

Cherry Pistachio Cake

SCREEN
Honey Boy - OMG. Heartbreaking. Say what you may about Shia LaBeouf, the guy is crazy talented. He wrote this screenplay about his tumultuous childhood relationship with his troubled father, whom he plays in the film. Noah Jupe plays young Shia and no doubt has Oscars in his future. Lucas Hedges gives an emotional performance as older Shia, and it is utterly devastating to see the impact this man's childhood has on his adult life. I'm pulling for the real Shia to continue beating his demons, star in more Sia music videos, and keep cranking out work like this.

In The Line Of Fire - I remember seeing this movie about 20 years ago, and it made quite an impression on me. It started my obsession with John Malkovich - he plays such a nefarious bad guy! - and I loved all of his disguises in the film. Clint Eastwood plays a secret service agent taunted by this supposed assassin. At 27 years old, the film is certainly dated, but the premise is excellent. 

Dirty Harry - I didn't intend on doing a Clint Eastwood theme, but I had never seen this classic film, and thought I should watch it already. I could have sworn this was a Western (he has done so many Westerns, I just figured this was one of them!) but I was wrong - Clint plays a detective investigating a slew of murders by a rooftop sniper in San Fran. It was cool to see the iconic "do you feel lucky?" scene. If I had watched this in 1971 when it came out, I'm sure I would have loved it. It's entertaining, but I'm not sure how well it holds up over time. 

Friday, May 29, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 10

Hi y'all! I hope everyone was able to enjoy a safe Memorial Day weekend. I was grateful to go to the beach for a few days, and was even more grateful that it was practically vacant:

I suppose I could technically start dining out again, but I'm honestly in no rush to do so, and I'm having too much fun doing these home posts. And movie theatres are still closed, so I'm relying on my home screenings more than ever!

CUISINE
I bought a spiralizer to make noodles out of veggies a while ago, and then totally forgot about it. I whipped it out this week to make Zucchini Noodles (aka Zoodles), and tossed them with a jar of Green Curry Sauce from Trader Joe's, Sauteed Scallops, Cherry Tomatoes and Cilantro. It was a really light and satisfying dish, and I totally forgot I wasn't eating real pasta!
Zoodles with Scallops

My baked good for this week was a recipe from Taste of Home. I made these Cherry Coconut Treats and thankfully, halved the recipe, because they are impossible to stop eating. They are very sweet, but very delicious.
Cherry Coconut Treats

Finally, I have another way for you to use up ripe bananas - make quick Banana Pancakes! Take 1 banana, 1 egg and 2 TB flour. Mash together in a bowl, then cook in a skillet sprayed with non-stick spray (or melted butter). Cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side. It's really as simple as that, though you could choose to add a dash of cinnamon, a splash of vanilla, or even coconut and butterscotch chips. Go crazy!

SCREEN
Uncut Gems - Holy moly. My anxiety levels skyrocketed during this film. It's manic, with jarring music, close camera shots and a lot of tension. Constant dialogue. Adam Sandler is absolutely phenomenal, and unrecognizable as the comedy king he is. This is a tremendous film but it will get your blood racing.

And then I did a bit of a throwback to 2002...

The Pianist - I first saw this movie at the Stevens Center in Winston-Salem, when they had their "Films on Fourth" series. This film really moved me then, and it did again this week. Adrien Brody rightfully won the Oscar for Best Actor - his portrayal of a real-life World War 2 survivor is incredibly realistic and the ending will nearly break your heart. The score and cinematography are both great. Tuck in though - it's a long, emotional ride, clocking in at 2 and 1/2 hours.

The Hours - I remember suffering through this movie in high school, and was so disappointed in it back in the day. But when the 3 female leads (Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman and Julianne Moore) are 3 of your favorite actresses, I knew I should re-visit. I definitely enjoyed it more this time around - the score, the make-up effects, the performances - it all came together beautifully. While Nic won the Oscar for Best Actress (beating out Renee Zellweger in "Chicago") I really think the 3 leads were equal roles, and that her performance was the least remarkable. I can't believe I'm actually saying that. Julianne Moore's performance was utterly heart-wrenching, and Meryl is always perfection. But, the Academy will do what the Academy will do. Worth re-watching if you hated it the first time, like me.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 9

Howdy, folks! Is everyone ready for a long weekend, and to celebrate Memorial Day inside? Or at least, outside and 6 feet away from everyone else? LOL. I really loved last weekend's high temps, and had fun clipping some of my crazy Lamb's Ear that sprouted up. I couldn't bare to just toss it, so I put it in a vase and have loved it as my centerpiece!
Crazy Lamb's Ear sprouts!

CUISINE
I went a little crazy cooking seafood this week, because it's one of my favorite things to order in restaurants, and I'm not really able to do that these days. I sauteed scallops and roasted halibut in the oven and was SO thrilled with how they both turned out! I've learned that if you have a meat thermometer, you can really cook anything at home. Here's how I did the Halibut:

Place a filet on a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Add some halved cherry tomatoes and drizzle everything with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake at 425 for about 15 minutes, or until the internal temp is 135. EASY PEASY.

I served both the scallops and the halibut with the most amazing Cilantro Corn Salad I've ever had, adapted from an America's Test Kitchen recipe:

-3 TB lime juice
-2 TB sour cream or greek yogurt
-1 TB mayonnaise
-1/2 jalapeno, seeds removed, minced
-6 ears of corn, kernels removed from the cob
-1/2 tsp salt, divided
-2 TB olive oil + 1 tsp, separated
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-1/2 tsp chili powder
-4 ounces feta cheese
-3/4 cup cilantro, chopped
-3 scallions, sliced thin

Combine the lime juice, sour cream or greek yogurt, mayonnaise and jalapeno in a large bowl and set aside.

Heat 1 TB olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add half of the corn and spread into an even layer. Sprinkle over 1/4 tsp salt. Cover and cook about 3-4 minutes, until the corn starts to brown, then transfer it to the bowl with the lime juice mixture. Repeat with the other 1 TB oil, the remaining corn, and the remaining 1/4 tsp salt. Once all the corn is charred and in the bowl with the liquids, stir to combine. Leave the skillet on, and add the final 1 tsp oil, garlic and chili powder. Stir and let this cook for about 30 seconds, then add to the corn mixture. Let the mixture cool for about 10 minutes, then stir in the feta, cilantro and scallions. This is great served immediately, but even better the next day after it chills in the fridge overnight. It is utterly addicting, you will be hooked, don't say I didn't warn you.
Roasted halibut, tomatoes and arugula with cilantro corn salad

Finally, I made a Vivian Howard recipe that I've been dying to make for quite a while now, and absolutely loved it. Her Coconut Cornbread Strawberry Shortcake was the perfect balance between sweet and savory, and highlighted beautifully ripe strawberries. Her recipes are pretty intricate, but usually well worth the work: https://www.pbs.org/food/recipes/strawberry-shortcake-with-basil-whipped-cream-and-coconut-cornbread/
Coconut Cornbread Strawberry Shortcake

SCREEN
Mystic River - I saw this in high school and it started a thing for Sean Penn that remains to this day. It features an all-star cast, secured Oscars for Sean Penn and Tim Robbins, and if you're a fan of Clint Eastwood-directed films, you're in for a treat. It's part thriller, part drama, with a lot of tension and suspense. On Netflix, highly recommend.

Cats - No, not the 2019 remake that had people wondering "what in the actual..." but the 1998 recording of the 1981 stage version! For a limited time, you can stream some of Andrew Lloyd Webber's greatest filmed musicals, and while this one is certainly a classic, I'm still kind of wondering WTF. (I admit, it was better than the staged version my friend and I went to see in high school that was so bad, we had to pull out her iPod headphones and play something else. Bless.)

Friday, May 15, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 8

I hope everyone's doing well and staying healthy (and staying home!) I am looking forward to some summer temps this weekend and will probably resort to laying on my back deck with a Truly slushie (it's going to be in the 80s!)
Sprout says hi!

CUISINE

A few years ago, I bought a trifle dish for a recipe that I only made one time. And then I forgot I owned it. So for Mother's Day, I decided I would make a layered dessert in the trifle dish, and it turned out to be both delicious and stunning (I'm sorry to say that I have no photos to share, because it really was a showstopping presentation). I used this recipe for a Pineapple Upside Down Cake Trifle and was thrilled with how it turned out. You literally won't be able to stop eating it: https://www.chef-in-training.com/pineapple-upside-down-cake-trifle/

A solid quiche recipe is a good thing to have in your repertoire. This is a good way to use up some eggs in your fridge, and while you can get as creative as you want (changing up the cheese/meat, adding veggies), this recipe for a Quiche Lorraine has been in my family for years, and it's never failed us:

-9-inch pie shell, thawed (Pillsbury or other store-bought!)
-4 eggs
-1 and 1/2 cup milk
-1/2 tsp salt
-dash of cayenne
-6 to 8 ounces shredded swiss cheese (package sizes vary, so 6 or 8 ounces are both fine!)
-2 TB flour
-8 slices bacon, crisply cooked, drained and crumbled

Heat the oven to 350. Combine the eggs, milk and seasonings. Toss the cheese with the flour. Add this cheese mixture and the crumbled bacon to the egg mixture. Unroll the pie crust onto a pie dish. Pour the egg mixture in the pie shell. Bake 40-45 minutes and let stand 10 minutes before serving. Bon appetit!

SCREEN
My Girl 1 & 2 - these aren't newbies to me, if anything, I was utterly obsessed with My Girl 2 back in the day (it's one of the few sequels that's better than the original!) I'm a big fan of re-watching movies that I find comforting, especially during times like these. I admit I had forgotten how fabulous Jamie Lee Curtis and Christine Ebersole are in these films! My Girl is supposedly leaving Netflix soon, and unless you have My Girl 2 taped on a VHS like me, you might need to do some digging to find it.

The Shawshank Redemption - The only time I'd seen this film was when I was on an 8th grade class trip to Washington, DC. Why they thought this film was appropriate to show a bunch of 13-year-olds, I'm not really sure. But when I re-watched it this week, I was reminded why it's a timeless classic. It's moving, heart-wrenching and an epic story of hope. If you're into films that deal with the justice system and prison like me, it's in the vein of "The Green Mile" and "Dead Man Walking". It's a great film.

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 7

Hi everyone! I hope you've had a good week. My neighbor brightened my day when she offered for people to come clip some beautiful roses from her garden. I had forgotten how a pop of color can really lift your spirits. I don't have a green thumb, so I'm grateful to her for sharing this beauty!
Stunning!
CUISINE
A dear friend recommended this recipe to me, and I am so grateful to know that I can sear sushi-grade Ahi Tuna and make poké bowls in the comfort of my own home! So thank you, dear friend, for introducing me to the beauty that is frozen sushi-grade Ahi Tuna with Cilantro Sauce.

I found individually packaged 5 ounce sushi-grade Ahi Tuna steaks (aka yellowfin tuna) in the frozen seafood section at my grocery store. Y'all, this is pure protein. Beautiful pink fish that you don't even need to cook since it's sushi-grade. But I let it thaw (duh), seasoned it with a little olive oil, S&P, then seared it over medium high for 1 minute on each side (no more!) Serve it with this sauce:

Mince a handful of cilantro leaves with about 1 TB grated ginger, 1 TB grated garlic, 1/2 jalapeño (with or without seeds), the juice of 1 lime, 1 TB soy sauce and a pinch of sugar. If you're a cilantro freak like me, you will be LIVING for this sauce. An avocado is also a great addition here.
Beautifully seared Ahi Tuna!!

If, and that's a big if, you have any of the tuna left over, cube it and combine with any of the following to make a bomb ass poké bowl: brown rice, greens, cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, mango, pineapple, radishes, wasabi peas, cilantro, edamame, chickpeas, avocado, soy sauce, sriracha - literally the bowl is your oyster here! I am salivating just thinking about how fresh and light and delicious this was.
Poké Bowl heaven

I've been craving summer fruits (when can I get some fresh peaches yo?!) and so I cheated and made a family friend's Shortcut Peach Cobbler:

-1 can peach pie filling (this recipe works with ANY pie filling flavor - cherry, apple, blueberry)
-1/2 box yellow cake mix
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-1 tsp cinnamon
-1/2 cup nuts (OPTIONAL, I say leave 'em OUT!)
-1 stick butter, melted

Put the pie filling in a 10" casserole dish and cover with remaining ingredients. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. It doesn't come close to the real thing, but in a pinch, it will do just fine. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

SCREEN
Bird Box - yes, I was the last person in the world to watch this thriller, and I thought it was quite timely and appropriate. When your day-to-day standard operating procedure is suddenly interrupted, and you're thrown into a new normal where people mistrust strangers and lean on family more than ever - yes, this was the right time to watch this film! I cannot imagine how difficult filming this would have been, and Sandra Bullock pulled it off beautifully. I loved Trevante Rhodes in this, a vast departure from his performance in "Moonlight", and I adore anything with John Malkovich. Definitely worth watching, and it definitely stays with you.

Pretty in Pink - I know, I know, where have I been? I'm not a huge Brat Pack movie gal, but this is a quintessential 80s classic and I figured it would be entertaining. It was fun to see Molly Ringwald in her prime (I see her often these days on "Riverdale") and the costumes were fabulously awful. Is it just me, or should she have gotten with Duckie?

Friday, May 1, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 6

Happy another week in quarantine! For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you know I am OBSESSED with the little rabbits I have in my yard. There's usually a mom (McGregor) and baby (Sprout) but on more than one occasion I've seen a few McGregors and a few Sprouts, so I probably need to come up with some new names. (The record number I've ever counted in my yard at one time was 5!) And believe it or not, they've actually kept me company during all these shenanigans.



CUISINE
I've been on a major Asian kick and love this marinade I made up for Asian Salmon:

Put one or two 6 ounce fillets of salmon in a large ziploc bag. Add a clove of minced garlic, 1 inch of minced ginger root, about 4-5 dashes of soy sauce, fish sauce and Sriracha, a sprinkle of brown sugar and a drizzle of olive oil. Let the salmon marinate in this mixture in the fridge for 1-2 hours. Then bake it on a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet at 450 for about 15 minutes or until the internal temp is 145. I love serving this with Coconut Rice, any roasted veggies, cilantro and additional soy/fish/hot sauces!


In honor of the Kentucky Derby (which is usually the first Saturday in May), and to relive some fun from my recent trip to Louisville, I decided I would use up some of my beautiful mint that has returned, and perfect my version of a Mint Julep:

To make mint simple syrup, bring equal parts sugar, water and mint leaves to a boil in a large sauce pan. Boil only for about 10 seconds, then strain out the mint and pour the syrup into a glass jar or container and let it cool. Then pour equal parts mint simple syrup and bourbon into a glass with crushed ice. I have a sweet tooth, but if you prefer more bourbon flavor, you may want to do 1/4 parts syrup to 3/4 parts bourbon. It's delightful.

SCREEN
I have to admit that this past week, I spent more time watching TV shows than movies. Like any UNC/MJ fan, I've been enjoying "The Last Dance"; I binged "Unorthodox" (fascinating and very well-acted); and I got in some laughs with "Arrested Development" (really in love with Will Arnett these days). But I did squeeze in one flick:

10 Cloverfield Lane - I love just about anything with John Goodman, and this suspenseful thriller did not disappoint. A woman is stuck in an underground shelter with two men, after being told there was an attack on the world and there are no survivors. But you won't know who or what to believe. This will keep you guessing 'til the end.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 5

Hey everyone! We good? Hanging in there? Kinda sorta? I hope you've at least gotten outside a bit to enjoy this beautiful spring we're having. My Lamb's Ear are certainly loving these warmer temps.

CUISINE
I don't know about you, but I'm missing dining out. But, the recipes I'm sharing with you this week are easy, involve few ingredients and are inexpensive to make! (Side note - I'm scaling all recipes down by about 6 servings, so these serve 1 or 2. We don't all have spouses and 3 kids!! So adjust accordingly.)

One of my favorite things to make for breakfast (or brunch or lunch or dinner) is Shakshuka. Here's how I made it this week:

Heat about 1 TB of olive oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Saute half a diced onion and half a diced bell pepper (any color) for about 5 minutes, then add one clove of minced garlic. After about a minute, add in 1/2 tsp or so of ground cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper. I add a dash of cayenne because I love spice. Stir in a 14.5 ounce can of diced tomatoes. If the sauce is looking too thick, add in about half a can of water. Taste for seasoning. Crack 2-3 eggs directly into the sauce and season them with a little S&P. Cover the pan with a lid for about 6 minutes. Then, hopefully, your eggs will have that perfectly jammy yolk. Spoon some sauce and an egg onto a plate, garnish with sour cream/greek yogurt, cilantro and feta cheese. Sublime!

In recent years, I've discovered my love for French Onion Soup and I made a shortcut version for myself this week:

Saute half a sliced onion in about 1/2 TB olive oil and 1/2 TB butter, for about 10 minutes. The longer you let them cook, the more caramelized the onions will get, but I added some liquid to get the cooking process moving a bit. Add half a can of beef consomme (you can also use beef stock or broth), a splash of Marsala (because I love it) and a splash of water. Add in some fresh thyme (if you have it) and a little S&P. I added a drop of sour cream and dijon just to enhance the flavor and add some richness. Taste for seasoning. Ladle in ramekins, put a piece of bread on top, cover that bread with cheese (any white you cheese you have will do!) Broil for a few minutes (don't walk away!) Then enjoy.


Finally, if you're tired of making banana bread with all those leftover bananas, try my favorite dessert, Bananas Foster:

Melt about 1 TB of butter with 2 TB of brown sugar in a saute pan over medium heat. Once that's all nice and syrupy, add in a pinch of salt, a pinch of cinnamon and a sliced banana, and let it cook for a few minutes. OFF THE HEAT, splash in a bit of spiced rum or banana liquour (or both!) and stir to combine. Pour this over vanilla ice cream and garnish with whipped cream if you're a real glutton like me. OBSESSED.


SCREEN
Molly's Game - A Sorkin screenplay, so you had best pay attention because it moves FAST. It will easily keep your attention though, and Jessica Chastain is fantastic as real-life underground poker game runner Molly Bloom. (Btw, where is this woman's Oscar?) A great supporting cast. LOVED.

All The Presidents' Men - I can watch a young Robert Redford in anything. What a babe. This film was in the vein of "Spotlight", "The Post" and the 5th season of "The Wire", so if you're into investigative journalism and politics, this will be up your alley.

On the Waterfront - The only thing better than a young Robert Redford is a young Marlon Brando. Mother may I?! This is one of the early mobster films, and it's rightfully considered a classic. Just look at the Oscars it won. It's full of family drama, romance and class struggles. I enjoyed this a lot.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 4

CUISINE
I'm excited to share this recipe for one of my favorite breakfasts as a child, and still today. My aunt got this recipe from my grandmother's neighbor, but whatever the origin, its been in my family for years! They freeze well and are great for when you don't want to cook breakfast.

Sausage & Cheese English Muffins
-6 english muffins, split open (save the baggie they come in for storage!)
-1 pound ground sausage (Neese's is the best)
-2 jars Old English Cheese ( find it near the cream cheese) OR sub 1 jar + 4-5 American cheese slices
-1/2 stick of butter

Cook and drain the sausage in a large skillet. Add the cheese and butter, stirring to combine and letting everything melt. Spread spoonfuls evenly on english muffin halves. Let cool briefly, then stack them in the baggie and stick in your freezer! To reheat, put one in your toaster oven at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes, or if you're impatient like me, heat it in the microwave for 30 seconds, then toast it in toaster for about 3 minutes.

Margarita - 2 ways
My House Margarita is pretty simple - 2 ounces reposado tequila, 1 ounce Cointreau (or other orange liquour), 1 ounce lime juice, 1 ounce simple syrup - but I recently adapted a recipe from Ree Drummond and loved this change up. It's a Fancy Margarita, and worth it if you have the time and ingredients.

-1 ounce simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water boiled, then cooled)
-6 cilantro leaves
-4 mint leaves
-2 ounces tequila (reposado or blanco)
-1/2 ounce vodka
-2 TB lime juice
-2 TB lemon juice

Put everything in a cocktail shaker and muddle for about 10 seconds, until you smell the herbs release their fragrance. Add ice, shake and pour in a glass. Or drink it right out of the cocktail shaker, who cares.

SCREEN
Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse - Having just watched "Apocalypse Now", I thought it only appropo to watch this documentary about the making of the classic film. I had no idea the chaos that went on behind the scenes, how far over-budget it went, and that production was halted several times because Martin Sheen had a heart attack and Marlon Brando didn't know his lines, among other disasters. Really fascinating if you're a fan of the Coppola film.

Ben-Hur - Again, I thought it was appropo to watch this film during Easter. It was beautifully shot and kept my attention longer than many old films, but at 4 hours? It's really hard. Charlton Heston rightfully won an Oscar for his portrayal of a slave turned Chariot racer, and if you've been to Rome, it's fun to see some of the landscape.

Marathon Man - I've seen this film several times but it's a classic, and always worth re-visiting. Dustin Hoffman at his finest, and Laurence Olivier at his creepiest. Super suspenseful film, incredible score. You'll want to sleep with the lights on.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 3

CUISINE
We celebrated my dad's birthday this week! It was really nice to see my parents and spend some time with them, and it's always fun to celebrate a loved one.

We started with Dirty Martinis (our favorite). This recipe is for one:
2.5 ounces good quality vodka, ice cold - keep it in the freezer! (Ketel One/Absolut are house favorites)
0.5 ounce dry vermouth
0.5 ounce olive brine

Chill a martini glass in the freezer. Shake all ingredients, then pour into the glass. Garnish with hand-stuffed blue cheese olives (not the store bought kind! Stuff them yourself!) ENJOY.


This Beef Tenderloin recipe was adapted from a dinner party my friend and I were hired to work in high school. We assumed the 2 servings of everything leftover were for us...turns out, they were for a couple coming late. That couple did not get dinner, because my friend and I had eaten it all. It was a bit of a disaster. But the beef was fantastic and I've never forgotten it!

Beef Tenderloin
-1 1/2 pound beef tenderloin
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp pepper
-1/2 cup butter
-1 onion, thinly sliced
-2 garlic cloves, minced
-8 ounces sliced mushrooms
-1/2 cup red wine
-1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
-1 tsp Italian seasoning
-2 tsp hot sauce
-1 cup beef broth
-1 tsp flour

Sprinkle the beef with the salt and pepper and put in a foil lined pan. Bake at 450 for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and mushrooms and cook for about 8 minutes. Add the wine, Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. Whisk the beef broth and flour into this mixture, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove the beef from the oven, top with this sauce, then bake for 40 minutes more, or until 135 degrees (for medium rare) or 145 (for medium).
Beef Tenderloin, Blue Cheese Scalloped Potatoes, Sauteed Kale
Finally, on a separate note, I am loving this recipe for Caramel Chicken (which you could also make with Salmon). I made Rice with Coconut Milk instead of water and WOW, what a difference it made - I couldn't stop eating it!! Serve this dinner with Broccoli Rice, a recipe I use often because I LOATHE food waste. This recipe is a great way to use the entire vegetable, especially these days when we should reduce our trips to the grocery store as much as possible!

SCREEN
Selena - omg! This was such a fabulous film and a tour de force by J. Lo. I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't know much about Selena and how beloved she was, but this film made me a fan. So tragic.

Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle - certainly a fun and entertaining escape. This had very little to do with the 1995 classic, but I was on board. Jack Black makes me laugh out loud in anything and everything.

Apocalypse Now - probably my dad's favorite movie. I had seen this before in high school, but my interpretation of it 16 years later was obviously different. Based on Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness," this Coppola classic definitely describes "the horror" (get it?) of the Vietnam War. I've been watching Martin Sheen in "Grace and Frankie" lately, so it was quite a change of pace to see him as a tormented, brutal soldier. Brilliant music. Not for the weak-stomached.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition, Part 2

How's everyone doing today? Practicing social distancing? Staying home, save for taking a few walks to enjoy the beautiful blooms that spring brings? (I'm grateful for this beautiful wisteria in my backyard!) I thought I'd just check in and offer a brief recess from the crazy news updates with a few things I've been cooking and watching lately.
Beautiful Wisteria!

CUISINE

I had all the ingredients for a classic Pasta Puttanesca, so I thought I'd do my own riff on that. It's really savory and satisfying, and you likely have most of these ingredients in your pantry (maybe not the anchovies, but they should become a pantry staple!)

-olive oil (eyeball it, go around the pan twice)
-1/2 onion, diced
-2 cloves garlic, minced
-8 mushrooms, chopped (I used button)
-1/4 green olives, pitted and chopped
-1 TB capers
-3 anchovy filets, minced
-14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
-2 TB tomato paste
-splash of white wine (I had some open so thought I'd splash it in!)
-red pepper flake to taste
-8 ounces long pasta such as linguine, spaghetti (or when those are both GONE from the shelves, try a fun noodle like Fusilli Col Buco)

Saute the onion and garlic in olive oil for about 5 minutes, then add in the mushrooms with a sprinkle of salt. Meanwhile, bring some water to a boil and cook your pasta. Once the mushrooms have cooked down a bit, add in the olives, capers, anchovies, diced tomatoes and tomato paste and bring to a boil. Add a splash of wine only if you have it open because you've been drinking it. I like spice, so I added a generous amount of red pepper flake. Taste the sauce for seasoning (it should already have plenty of salt with those ingredients!), then transfer the cooked pasta to the sauce and serve it up.
Pasta Puttanesca
I've been straying from my usual egg breakfast to indulge in some super satisfying Overnight Oats that you can customize and make however you want:

-1/2 cup oats
-1/2 cup milk OR plain greek yogurt
-1/4 cup craisins OR raisins
-1/2 an apple OR pear, diced
-palmful of nuts
-1/2 TB brown sugar
-1 tsp cinnamon
-1 tsp vanilla
-pinch of salt

Combine all of these, cover and put in the fridge overnight. Eat the next morning. It's so yummy!!

SCREEN
City of Gold - documentary about beloved LA food critic Jonathan Gold's impact on the food scene in LA and beyond. As a food blogger, I LOVED this film.

Citizen Kane - Rosebud...if you don't know, you'll know at the very end. I watched this in a Film Studies class at UNC but can't say for certain if I was 100% sober during the viewing (it was a night class and we had to make it fun!), so I decided it was worth a re-watch. It was indeed very good (it should be, as it's widely regarded as the best film of all time), though it dragged a bit in places. Cinephiles will appreciate.

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner - a pretty dated concept (obviously); decent performances by iconic movie stars

Close Encounters of the Third Kind - entertaining with beautiful visual effects, but a touch too long. Ahead of its time at the time!

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Cuisine & Screen: Home Edition

How is everyone doing these days? Hanging in there? It's certainly weird times we're living in, but we're all in it together and we'll get through it. I've been doing a lot of cuisining and screening at home (you should be, too!) and thought I'd share a few recipes and films I've enjoyed lately.

CUISINE
I have finally mastered the art of oven-baked salmon. The trick? A meat thermometer! Truly, it is the best kitchen gadget I own. It takes all the guesswork out of cooking meat. Below is an incredible topping for salmon (though it would be fabulous on just about any fish, or even chicken and pork):

-Mince equal parts flat leaf parsley, garlic, capers and anchovies, then squirt with a bit of lemon. It's a flavor BOMB and really addicting. I usually start with about 1/4 cup parsley, 2 cloves of garlic, 1 TB of capers and 3 anchovies. I cannot recommend enough!!

Green Rice is a recipe that's been in my family for over 100 years. It comes from my great-grandmother on my dad's side. It makes a TON and is really satisfying:

-1 cup uncooked rice (don't add salt)
-1 beaten egg
-1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
-1 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
-1 medium onion, chopped
-1 clove garlic, minced
-1/2 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
-1 green pepper, chopped
-1 cup milk
-1 TB salt
-1/2 tsp pepper

Cook the rice. Then add milk, eggs and all other ingredients. Stir to combine. Put this in a buttered casserole dish (1 quart) and bake for 45 minutes, uncovered, at 350.

Salmon with Anchovy topping, Green Rice and Brussels (I ate all my roasted ones before remembering to take the picture!)
I also have been living for Rachael Ray's Korean Sloppy Joes, and I baked an old-school recipe, Oatmeal Cake with Broiled Coconut Icing, and it's nearly impossible to stop eating. (I added craisins and subbed sweetened condensed milk for the cream in the frosting because it was all I had!)

SCREEN
I love a good Netflix binge, but I also love watching old films. Here's a few you might enjoy if you can get your hands on a copy:

-Funny Girl - the Babs Streisand classic, and she won an Oscar for it

-Moonstruck - Cher was fabulous, as per usual, and won an Oscar for this

-Urban Cowboy - not a feel good John Travolta musical but entertaining if you like Honky Tonks and Texas (like me)

-Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again - only worth watching (kind of) if you were a fan of the first one

-Lawrence of Arabia - widely regarded as many famous directors' favorite film, and it was absolutely stunning, rightfully winning the Oscar for cinematography, but being 4 hours long? I just can't.

I hope this provided you with a little bit of humor and that it was a brief distraction. Now y'all seriously need to go try my anchovy topping. It's a showstopper!!

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Beefmastor Inn

The Beefmastor Inn is iconic. It's an institution. And it is as good as they say. No menus, and no worries. This is top-quality beef in an old-school environment. If you find yourself in the proximity of Wilson, NC, do yourself a favor and have dinner here. Arrive early to avoid the line (they only have 10 tables!) and if you're in the know, you'll show up with a beverage to pregame in the parking lot with (they have cornhole set up for that very reason). This place has been on my culinary bucket list for quite some time. I knew I was especially in for a treat when the owner opened the door to the awaiting crowd and said, "come on in, let's have some fun."
I finally made it!
The Beefmastor has been around since at least the 1970s, because my dad ate here shortly after moving to Wilson for a job. He's detailed his Beefmastor experience enough times for me to know I had to check this place out. Red and white checkered tablecloths adorn the tables, and a stick of softened butter is ready for your baked potato or your steak. Prompt and friendly servers come around taking drink orders (they do sell wine and beer), and then the chef comes around with an enormous slab of rib eye. He positions his knife (machete) at 8 ounces and asks how much more you want. I stuck with 8, and asked for medium rare. The only other choice you have is whether or not you want a baked onion (you do). The chef visits one table, then slices, seasons and starts searing your steak before advancing to the next.
Slicing my 8 ounces
The salad bar contains the usual suspects, as well as some that got me excited - sardines, dill pickle spears - they even offer pineapple and cottage cheese if you want a sweet start to the meal. Not 5 minutes after I finished my salad, my sizzling hot entree arrived. The steak was absolutely phenomenal. Seasoned and cooked to perfection. The fat melted right into the meat, and for not being a huge steak gal, I would eat this every week, easy. The baked potato is a classic side (I like all potatoes with ketchup - don't judge) and the baked onion brought a nice sweet acidity to break up the richness of the meat. A piece of buttered, grilled bread is also lovely to dunk in the sweet onion juice. You can really just lose your mind here. They want you to. That steak was out of this world.
Beauty in simplicity
Dessert is not an option, but don't worry, you won't have room for it anyway. I am so thrilled to finally try such a historic NC spot that my dad has been telling me about for years. It didn't disappoint. Frankly, it was much better than I could have anticipated.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Machete


At last. Foodies all over Greensboro have been patiently waiting for Machete to expand their dinner parties to a brick and mortar. We have been so eager for them to open their doors in the space previously occupied by Crafted Street Food. We have salivated over their Instagram posts, read dish descriptions in awe ("Cornbread, Popcorn, Cream" anyone?) and I'm thrilled to say: the wait is over. And it's been worth the wait. Machete's doors will open to the public tonight.
Love that glow light
The creative culinary team at Machete is churning out "Iron Chef" or "Master Chef" quality dishes, so my dining companions and I decided that they deserved an Iron Chef review. Meaning, everything was excellent, a few dishes we never could have possibly imagined, and a few tweaks might make some dishes outstanding.

I took advantage of the "Roll the Dice" offering on the cocktail menu, which literally means that you roll 3 dice containing different spirits, flavors and techniques, and let your bartender do the rest. I rolled "spicy", "vodka" and "shaken" and was delighted with the Vodka Gimlet with Spicy Bitters I received. I also appreciated the wine tastings to help me determine which glass I wanted.


I was encouraged by other friends to try the Bread Service - Focaccia with Carbonara Butter. The perfectly fine Focaccia is clearly just a vessel for the Carbonara Butter, which is the star of the show. The butter is super airy and whipped - frankly I don't know how they managed to get it quite this light - and boasts major umami from smoky bacon (liquid smoke?), sweet corn and saltiness from the butter itself. I would have appreciated another piece of bread to go with all this butter!
Bread Service

Simply described as Yellowfin Tuna + Charcoal Crisp, this was my second favorite bite of the night. The charcoal crisp had great flavor - more savory than smoky, which was my preference. Incredibly flavorful and tender raw tuna was nestled into each crisp,  just waiting to be devoured. Each crisp was topped with small strands of seaweed. I would eat 100 of these.
Yellowfin Tuna, Charcoal Crisp

While perusing the menu, my eyes went immediately to the Short Rib with Coal-Roasted Cabbage and Kimchi Butter. The Short Rib was reminiscent of a really good pot roast - no bones, complete with gravy. While I was hoping for the promised tang of Kimchi, I got more of a smoky, charcoal flavor from the cabbage. I was disappointed at first, notably missing that acid, but then tried the bites together and was able to find a nice acid in the gravy, so when paired when the cabbage, it kind of made for a riff on kimchi. My party later spoke with the very gracious owner, who explained that their vision for this menu is to suggest flavors, and suggest that you alter your expectations. The dishes and their explanations are not necessarily promising you flavors, but suggesting them. It's a very cool concept, if your diners are willing to go along with it. My dining partner noted that he would have liked a base to soak up all the gravy - potatoes, riced cauliflower, maybe even polenta. I don't disagree.
Short Rib, Cabbage, Kimchi Butter

My party wanted to try several things on the menu, and we were especially pleased with the reasonable price points. Nothing seemed out of reach, and it was nice to be able to try a variety of dishes. We noticed that the dishes were staggering out of the kitchen a bit slowly, but we agreed that this time between each course really encourages conversation about the dish. The environment promotes a culinary adventure. Servers don't hover, so you can speak your mind with your dining companions. Discussing the meal is party of the meal. This place really isn't for non-foodies. We also found out that they've only been in this space for 6 weeks, and the staff has only been together for 1 week! Crazy impressive.

Roasted Cauliflower is hot right now, and pairing it with Aji Amarillo Peppers and Smoked Tomato sounded divine. There was a yummy roast on the cauliflower - the veggie itself was tender and the tops were crispy.  This was a very satisfying dish, and fabulous with the itty bitty aji amarillos, which provided a slight sweetness and spice. One of my dining partners remarked that they wanted an aioli from these peppers - again, I don't disagree!
Roasted Cauliflower, Aji Amarillos, Smoked Tomatoes

We ordered the Double-Fried Chicken with Grilled Lemon and were slightly surprised to get what reminded us of tempura-fried chicken nuggets on a skewer. But the chicken was incredibly moist and really shines with the grilled lemon aioli. Again, we didn't quite receive what we were expecting, but we were happy to just roll with it. My dining partner once again offered his thoughts and would have liked to see a spicy element to this dish, maybe in the aioli, with a charred lemon half to squirt on top. (If you couldn't already tell, this dining partner has several opinions, but many of them are thoughtful and good suggestions).
Double-Fried Chicken with Grilled Lemon

The desserts were my favorite part of the meal. They were absolutely sensational. Come for the dinner, but STAY for the dessert. The Fruity Pebbles ice cream is incredibly nostalgic. Being millennials, we all lost our minds when we bit into balls of cereal milk ice cream, rolled in slightly salted fruity pebbles. No spoon required, but it might make this last longer. All of a sudden, it was 1994 again and there were zero worries in the world.
Fruity Pebbles Ice Cream

The pièce de résistance was the "All Cheese, no Cake", which upon my cursory review of the menu, I thought meant a cheese course. That would have made perfect sense for a dessert course, but when my bartender acquaintance insisted we order this, I knew there had to be a trick up their sleeves. I would have been utterly devastated if I had missed it. Immediately, my entire party had a physiological response to this dish. We couldn't eat it fast enough but wanted desperately to discuss it - what in the world were we eating?! We decided it was a deconstructed cheesecake, with notes of buttered popcorn, sweetened condensed milk, salt, spice from the meringue and graham cracker cookies - this dish was literally everything. Perfectly balanced, and in my top 3 (maybe top 2?) best ever restaurant desserts. DO NOT MISS.
All Cheese, No Cake

We loved the opportunity to chat with the owner, who came around and spoke to every table. He asked for feedback and initial thoughts prior to their grand opening, and they really want to make a home in our community. I was eager to tell him how excited we all were to welcome them, and can't wait to see the awesome things they'll do.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

RiverRun International Film Festival

Y'all - tickets for the RiverRun International Film Festival are now on sale! This is such an awesome event and I'm so proud that it's in my hometown every year. What a cool thing for Winston-Salem to have! The Festival runs March 26 - April 4, and this year, the staff had a record 2,100 submissions to screen. That's pretty unreal! They've selected some incredible films, shorts and documentaries, and they're even showing some throwbacks. Red Cinemas in Greensboro will run some screenings, so whether you live in Winston or GSO, you can take part in the Festival!

I was thrilled to attend the 2020 Festival Launch Party at the Carolina Theatre's Crown Room this week, where they announced the lineup. It's exciting to see so many people of all ages and backgrounds unite around film. We got to see several reel clips and previews, and there's seriously something for everyone.

I'm most looking forward to seeing "Love Sarah", "Blue & Gold Marching Machine" (part of the NC shorts), "Standing Up, Falling Down" and "Slay the Dragon" and will see as many more as I can possibly fit in my schedule. You can read about each film here.

I encourage you to get involved and go check out a film. And more importantly, secure your tickets before they sell out (and they will!) I'll meet you at the movies!

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Just Mercy

Starring: Michael B. Jordan, Jamie Foxx, Brie Larson, Tim Blake Nelson
Director: Destin Daniel Cretton
Running Time: 2 hours, 17 minutes
Rating: PG-13

The first time I heard of Bryan Stevenson (I'm embarrassed to say) was just back in 2017, when he spoke as part of Guilford College's Bryan Series. He spoke about his book Just Mercy, and the work he's done to exonerate wrongly accused death row prisoners. I was moved by his speech and got my hands on a copy of the book. In more than one instance, the book brought me to tears. So when I heard they were making a film based on Just Mercy and Bryan's work, I was thrilled to hear it. Again, more than once, the film brought me (and several people in the audience) to tears, and left me very troubled with startling stats at the end (you can read some of them here). I'm stunned the film hasn't gotten more critical acclaim, especially during the current awards season. While it was long in parts, I thought it was fantastic and a film everyone should see.

We meet Bryan, played by the always delightful and delicious Michael B. Jordan, as he's pursuing a law degree at Harvard. Much to his mother's chagrin, he turns down fancy job offers to work in Alabama, giving poor inmates on death row legal advice. His clients are all men, mostly African American. Some are guilty and admit it, and some insist they are innocent, just guilty from the moment they were born, because of their skin color. Jamie Foxx plays real-life former death row inmate Walter "Johnny D" McMillan. This performance might be my favorite of Foxx's to date. A jury convicted him of murder, based on the false testimony of a convicted white felon. Johnny D questions Bryan's ability to get any traction on his case, because the jury ignored the 20+ African Americans who testified that Johnny D was at a fish fry that day, and nowhere near the murder scene.

Brie Larson brings quiet strength to her role of Eva Ansley, the current Operations Director at Bryan's company Equal Justice Initiative (EJI). She is bound and determined to help Bryan's cause, even if it means getting threats from people in the community. Just when the team thinks they have a crack in the case, it gets shot down. The system seemed to be corrupt, and there was no way to change it. I admire their persistence and resilience to pursue justice at any cost. As Bryan said in the film, "it's never too late for justice."

There were several side stories regarding other prisoners, including the one who falsely testified against Johnny D. There were really beautiful moments and fantastic character work. I do think a few scenes could have been a bit tighter and shorter, but I would have watched these stories all day. The tears really flowed at the end, when we get to see real-life footage of wrongly accused death row inmates reunited with their family. EJI has become a powerhouse organization, overturning 140 wrongly accused sentences. Go see this movie. If you can hear Bryan Stevenson speak in person, do it. If you like to read, pick up a copy of Just Mercy. He will quickly become a hero of yours, as he has become for me.

Monday, February 3, 2020

2020 Oscar Predictions

Best Picture
1917
Ford V Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
Marriage Story
Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood
Parasite

Should Win: Of this random and somewhat unimpressive list, my favorite films were "Jojo Rabbit" and "Parasite". I don't believe "Jojo" has quite the chops to pull off a Best Picture Oscar win, though it was hilarious and cute and fresh and moving. So my vote goes to "Parasite". It was also darkly hilarious and fresh and moving, and as Director Bong Joon-ho said during his Golden Globe acceptance speech for Best Foreign Language Film, if we could just get used to subtitles, our worlds would be opened up to films beyond belief.

Will Win: I think it's a toss-up between "1917" and "Parasite". The latter is likely to win for Best International Feature Film, and the Academy has never awarded an International Film the Best Picture award. And as much as Hollywood loves stories about Hollywood, I think the Academy will look to "1917" for the big award.

Best Actress
Cynthia Erivo, "Harriet"
Scarlett Johansson, "Marriage Story"
Saoirse Ronan, "Little Women"
Charlize Theron, "Bombshell" 
Renée Zellweger, "Judy"

Should Win: Renée all day. She slayed this performance, which was heart-breaking, and she brought enormous empathy to the role. She did her own singing and was totally unrecognizable. No contest.

Will Win: Renée.

Best Actor
Antonio Banderas, "Pain and Glory"
Leonardo "my husband" DiCaprio, "Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood" 
Adam Driver, "Marriage Story"
Joaquin Phoenix, "Joker"
Jonathan "Peron" Pryce, "The Two Popes"

Should Win: It's difficult for me to not be biased toward Leo, because I think he is fabulous in every role. He was truly exceptional as aging, has-been actor Rick Dalton. But for his heart-wrenching performance in "Joker" and for his body of work, it's Joaquin Phoenix's turn.

Will Win: Joaquin's got it in the bag.

Best Supporting Actress
Kathy Bates, "Richard Jewell"
Laura Dern, "Marriage Story"
Scarlett Johansson, "Jojo Rabbit"
Florence Pugh, "Little Women"
Margot "queen" Robbie, "Bombshell"

Should Win: J. Lo, except that she wasn't even nominated! If I'm to pick from the actual nominee list, I would vote for Florence Pugh. She was the best part about "Little Women," and she stole the movie. She gave the Amy character more depth and well-roundedness than I have seen in other productions. 

Will Win: Laura friggin' Dern. I don't particularly get why she was nominated for the brief time she was in "Marriage Story," and I didn't particularly like the movie. But she's everywhere these days and has "paid her dues," I suppose, so I'm pretty sure it's hers.

Best Supporting Actor
Tom Hanks, "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood"
Anthony Hopkins, "The Two Popes"
Al Pacino, "The Irishman"
Joe Pesci, "The Irishman"
Brad "yum" Pitt, "Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood" 

Should Win: This is really tough, because I think Tom, Al and Brad all did exceptional work here. However, because everyone else has already won an Oscar, and because he really was fabulous in the film, and because of his body of work, I think this deserves to go to Brad.

Will Win: Brad.

Best Director
Man # 1 - Martin Scorsese, "The Irishman"
Man # 2 - Todd Phillips, "Joker"
Man #3 - Sam Mendes, "1917"
Man # 4 - Quentin Tarantino, "Once Upon a Time...In Hollywood"
Man # 5 - Bong Joon-ho, "Parasite"

Should Win: My man Q has never won an Oscar for directing, and I see it possibly happening here. However, Bong Joon-ho has burst on the screen with a film everyone is talking about. My vote is for one of these two men. Out of the five men nominated. 

Will Win: "Parasite" could not be hotter right now, and on the tails of 2019's Best Director win for Alfonso Cuarón for "Roma," I'm predicting a win for South Korea's Bong Joon-ho.