Friday, December 17, 2021

Don't Look Up

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Tyler Perry, Cate Blanchett, literally everyone else in Hollywood
Director: Adam McKay
Running Time: 2 hours, 25 minutes
Rating: R

This film is a metaphor staring you straight in the face. Rather, it's slapping you in the face over and over and over. I can certainly see why it's not a darling of the critics, but I absolutely loved it. I'm not always a fan of Adam McKay's work, but after seeing this (and being reminded that he produces "Succession" and did "Vice") I need to rethink my opinion on him. The film begins with his signature style - notes and text on the screen to inform the audience, and utterly manic camera shots and edits - but after about 20 minutes, that all calms down, thankfully. "Don't Look Up" really moved me. It was a clear commentary on many things our society is facing right now: the pandemic, climate change and political division. McKay does a good job at making it light-hearted at times, but make no mistake, his thoughts on these topics are evident.

My darling Leo plays a character a bit out of the norm for him - Astronomer Dr. Randall Mindy. One of his PhD candidate students, Kate (Jennifer Lawrence) discovers a comet headed directly toward Earth, which will have a catastrophic impact. In fact, it's a planet-killing comet that will arrive in approximately 6 months. Lawrence plays this role well, but it's one I've seen her in before, many times. A meeting with the President, played by the always remarkable Meryl Streep, doesn't seem to help matters. They just laugh this off as another "end of days" myths. Jonah Hill plays the Chief of Staff and his comedic timing is fantastic here.

Dr. Mindy and his team try leaking the story to different media outlets, thinking it's the public's right to know that the end is near. A meeting with the New York Herald goes nowhere, and a brief TV spot on a daytime entertainment news channel does very little (except offer the audience a few electric moments with Tyler Perry and an unrecognizable Cate Blanchett).

There are so many cameos in this film and each do a wonderful job with the specific character and intentions they've been given. The latter half of the film plays up the dark comedy and mirrors what we've been experiencing in the past 21 months. I won't spoil the ending, but unlike many Hollywood movies, there's not a resolution with a pretty little bow on top. This might be my favorite movie I've seen this year - and I've seen a LOT of them - and I encourage you to check it out. Oh, and I forgive the crazy editing and scene changes because Leo makes great eye candy.

Friday, December 10, 2021


Take what you think you know about fine dining and turn it on its head. Stanbury in Raleigh is every bit a fine dining experience, except you feel like you're in your neighbor's garage or back deck, complete with taxidermy on the walls and casual Christmas lights strung across the front of the bar. This place is kind of quirky. Plates don't match, but they come out fast and are quite satisfying. The menu reads very well and is primarily focused on small plates. Many dishes have an Indian or Asian flare. Service is top notch. They don't accept reservations but they offer ample outdoor seating with a wood-burning fireplace and heat lamps. Still, you'll want to get there early.

Don't sleep on the Bread & Butter (which I usually do, unless it's complimentary) but the $5 charge here gets you 4 slices of complex Sesame Pan Loaf from Boulted Bread and Cultured (aka DELICIOUS) Butter. And trust me, you'll need some bread throughout your meal to wipe up the various sauces.

Stanbury's Brussel Sprouts are some of the best I can remember having in quite some time. They're flash fried and served atop a Tikka Masala sauce with Cilantro, Cashews and Garam Masala Granola. This granola is life-changing! Never have I ever had a savory, Indian-inspired granola and it made all the difference in the world with this dish. Outstanding.

Cacio e Pepe Cauliflower is lightly fried and served over a zippy Pecorino cream sauce with loads of Black Pepper and Chives. It's hard to make cauliflower sexy and Stanbury succeeds here. It's all about that salty, umami cream. (But I'm a sucker for cacio e pepe anything. I think the episode of "Parts Unknown" that featured Anthony Bourdain eating it all over Rome sold me on it.)

Pork Cheeks are to die for tender and served with Sweet Potato Puree, Ginger Soy Glaze, Pickled Onions and Sesame Seeds. The meat reminded me of a short rib - you could cut it with a fork. I liked the sweet tang from the glaze and the acid from the pickled onions. It's wild that something as tiny as a sesame seed can provide such a nice and necessary crunch.

Ribeye Kofta reminds me of a good meatball, served in a pool of Tomato Harissa sauce with Mint, Yogurt for cooling and crispy Pita. I could taste whole pine nuts in the kofta, which kind of threw me. I enjoyed the flavor, but the texture was a bit chewy, save for those few crunchy pine nuts. I could drink that tomato harissa sauce though. More pita for that, please!

Even the desserts have an international flare - Apple Crisp is served with Garam Masala and the Ancho-Chocolate Brownie is complete with Chipotle Chocolate Sauce. The menu changes frequently (daily?) and I look forward to returning to try even more dishes. I'll be keeping everything crossed that those Brussels are still on the menu.