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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Liz E Bear's Bolognaise

Cooking is great, but sometimes not cooking is just as good. So when your houseguest offers to make you dinner, you don't say no, especially not after a weekend of clambering around in the ceiling, mounting brackets in the laundry room for the dryer to go up onto, planting pumpkins, cooking roast pork and fixing the leak in the guttering over the back door.

So on Sunday evening Liz E Bear set about putting on the mince and boiling up some pasta. I'm pretty sure that I didn't set foot in the kitchen, so her secret family recipe will remain a mystery for now. I can say that I was awfully impressed; fettuccine smothered in tomatoey mince with onions and carrots and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, fresh grated parmesan and freshly ground black pepper.
It went down a treat, particularly as I didn't have to do the cooking. Woohoo. I did get lumbered with dishes duty thereafter, but it was a a breeze compared to the pile that emerges after I cook a roast.

So Liz E, you can cook for us anytime.

ZODIAC and AMERICAN GANGSTER - WARNING - May Contain Spoilers! (But nothing you wouldn't expect)

In a strange string of coincidences, it appears that Ridley Scott and David Fincher have a bizarre cosmic link: 1, They both directed films in the Alien Franchise (Alien and Alien3 respectively); 2, they both directed overly long crime epics in 2007 (American Gangster and Zodiac); and 3, we watched both of those movies over the past 2 weekends. Spooky eh.

I've already vented my opinions on Zodiac here, but I'll elaborate a little more on it now. Basically, I think that it was a personal story that Fincher wanted to tell, even though it really was a bit of a non-story. The Zodiac Killer, whom the film claims is a man that the police had all but caught but couldn't pin the crimes to, is a baby among serial killers now, only ever taking about 7 victims. At the time it was major news in San Francisco, but unfortunately Fincher's attempts to turn this unresolved situation into a thriller flopped into a non-event. There are no real twists or turns, as you could expect from a script based on true life. High point was Robert Downey Jr as sodden crime reporter Paul Avery. Aside from that, Zodiac was interesting at best, tedious at worst.

What really ruined it for me, though, was what I saw in the "making of" doco included on the disc. In an attempt to achieve complete verisimilitude with the 1969 landscape, Fincher wanted a tree in the background of a lakeside shot. To do this, the Art Department chainsawed an existing tree to death, and helicoptered it into a large hole dug in the background of the shot. Did Hollywood not learn from the fiasco surrounding The Beach? A tree died to create an illusion. Can this be right?

In contrast, American Gangster was also long and drawn out, but more watchable than Zodiac. Harris Savides extrudes a gritty late 60's-early 70's New York/New Jersey from the pallet, and Denzel Washington was predictably stunning as druglord Frank Lucas. Russel Crowe was typically underdone as the virtuous New Jersey cop Richie Roberts who, unlike the Zodiac crowd, managed to actually crack the case and bring Lucas down.

The key issue I really had with American Gangster was its marketing. The trailer suggests a gripping action movie, some escapist cops and robbers violence for a Saturday night. It's even labelled in the video store as Action. This is simply not true. American Gangster is a true crime biopic, like Zodiac, and it feels like it. The fact that it took two and a half hours to get to the point that no-one in the New York or New Jersey Police believed that Lucas could be a kingpin because he was black indicates just how slowly the story developed.

Overall, it was a satisfying watch, but it seems that Ridley Scott has fallen into the trap so many Hollywood directors have since the success of LOTR, that longer is better at the expense of good storytelling (Look, even PJ didn't get that right. Who really sits through the last 20 minutes of ROTK?). Like Zodiac, for the story that was being told, American Gangster could've been shorter, probably by about 20 or 25 minutes. For anyone with a personal interest in US History, particularly its crime figures, both films are well-made interpretations of a time when killers and druglords held a sway over the population, before police technology began to eat away their anonymity and put them behind bars. But neither of them will be making their way onto my DVD shelf.

1 comment:

lbs said...

Thanks for the heads up on these two movies. I like Denzel Washington and Russel Crowe, and thought American Gangster looked interesting. But now I think I'll keep it in mind for a Wednesday night movie, rather than a Saturday night one.
Wasn't interested in Zodiac before, and even less so now.
And I agree about the last 20 minutes of ROTK...