Fresh starts & food in film

14 08 2009

I’ve fought the idea of blogging for a very long time, for very many reasons. First off, I figured I’d never keep it up, considering the trail of unfinished projects I’ve left behind me — an abandoned Flixster account here, countless photos yet to be uploaded to Facebook because I’ve “still got to Photoshop them,” an online portfolio that still needs to be updated with my latest articles — er, on second thought, maybe this isn’t a good idea…

I also harbour no delusions that I’ll have people hanging on to my every, undoubtedly banal, word. Being a writer by profession, I’m also often unenthusiastic about the prospect of spending my non-work hours essentially doing work. But I’ve been wanting for some time to put some thoughts down about the great food I’ve eaten (especially those holes-in-the-wall hidden away in my adopted home of Ottawa, which is not known for its grand cuisine), the thought-provoking films I’ve watched, and some of the trials and triumphs I’ve had in faith, running, and life in general. And hey, maybe I’m also a little bit vain and would like to know if other people out there feel the same way about something once I’ve taken the time to sort out my rambling thoughts.

I figured I’d give it a bit of a shot after seeing 2.5 of my passions (food, film, and writing, sort of) combined in Nora Ephron’s Julie & Julia (more about that below). All throughout I was thinking of how I should really get off my butt and write instead of just talking about it all the time, much like Julie Powell did. And then I thought of the title and had a bit of a giggle and got more excited about the whole project. I probably thought more about the title of the blog than about the actual writing, to be honest, but just so many things begin with the letter “F,” aside from the obvious.

Anyway, here I am. I guess I’ll start with a review of Julie & Julia, my first in almost a year.

♥♥♥ 1/2

Critics have widely documented Julie & Julia‘s flaws: Julie Powell’s narcissism, in particular, makes the character largely unlikable, and even her own admission of being a bitch — in the type of martini-doused kvetching-to-my-best-girlfriend scene that seems to be coded into any movie about modern-day New York City — isn’t convincing. It’s telling that someone as lovable and radiant as Amy Adams isn’t able to illuminate Powell’s character, although there’s no doubt she tries. I will say that a scene where Powell lies weeping in a childish tantrum on her back on the kitchen floor after ruining another dish is pretty funny, as is another one where her eyes well up with tears as she hears another sob story on the phone at her insurance job, both done with great comic timing and feeling. Elsewhere, however, Powell’s blathering about how it’s as if Julia watches over her and how much her blog readers need her makes her a turnoff, and you marvel at the patience of her loving husband, Eric, played in an inoffensive, but largely forgettable manner by Chris Messina.

An aside: is it realistic that Eric and Julie don’t gain any weight after eating more than one butter-loaded French meal a day for an entire month? I mean, she mentions that she’s gotten fat but it really doesn’t look it.

At the same time, I wouldn’t rave about Meryl Streep’s performance as much as the critics have. I doubt there has been a more celebrated actor than Streep, and admittedly, she’s deserving of it. My brief remembrances of Julia Child’s cooking show seem to affirm the fact that Streep has got Child’s melodious tones down pat, and she perfectly embodies the joie de vivre of a women who is well-loved, well-fed and living in one of the most beautiful cities on earth. She is indeed a joy to watch on the screen, and every time I see Meryl Streep I think of how increasingly lovely she is as she ages. As well, Stanley Tucci is a great foil as Paul Child, even if I was a bit giggly at the idea of their romance.

Still, I just can’t get past the fact that it’s Meryl Streep on the screen, with her funny way of touching her face and throat as she talks, not Julia Child. No doubt, Streep deserves her due, but almost every time I see her on screen I see a caricature, which was the way I felt when I watched Doubt earlier this year (although, surprisingly, not when I saw her in The Devil Wears Prada, in which I thought she was an evil, gorgeous goddess).

Anyway! After all that, Julie & Julia is really quite a confection of a film, and I found myself rooting for the protagonists’ culinary triumphs and salivating at the sight of a buttery, sizzling sole meunière or a simmering boeuf bourguignon. The fact that I recently read a wonderful New York Times article about the amount of work that goes into styling the food for a film such as this probably influenced my admiration for the look of the movie, as did my obsession with gastronomic pleasures that goes way back to when I used to go to cocktail parties with my dad as a kid and write childish restaurant reviews for his magazine. But ultimately, it’s a film about triumph over dreariness and boredom, ignorance (both on the part of the principal of the Cordon Bleu school where Julia Child studied and in terms of Julie Powell not knowing how to bone a duck or what an egg tasted like), and heck, it’s about food! I know people who love watching Wendy’s commercials about the Baconator, for goodness’s sake, and I myself love poring over the M&M’s catalogue — I call it food porn — devouring descriptions about butterflied garlic shrimp and looking at every shot of the food. An entire film about one of the most highly regarded cuisines in the world can hardly be less fascinating.

Definitely not a perfect film, but an enjoyable and inspirational one nonetheless.

So here we go. This post only took me something like three days to write, so I fear for the rest of the blog. But it’s a start, isn’t it?

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5 responses

15 08 2009
Peter Eddy

Good to know. Thanks for joining the community.

I am very grateful for good grammar. When you wrote, “especially those holes-in-the-wall hidden away in my adopted home of Ottawa,” I was looking for the ‘s’ at the end of “wall” to complement the plural pronoun “those” preceding it. Then I noticed that you had appended the ‘s’ to “hole.” My own bad grammar shining through.

Your fastidious grammar is very refreshing. It makes your writing very readable.

I look forward to following along as you write.

15 08 2009
Peter Eddy

Oh, and I didn’t know what a “fosse” was until I looked it up just now. Are you thinking of ditches? I look forward to posts pertaining to that subject.

17 08 2009
krystlechow

Thanks Peddy for being the first commenter! To be honest, I’m never sure how to pluralize those phrases. That seemed the best option at the moment, but I’m sure hole-in-the-walls might do as well?

Fosse is Bob Fosse, one of the greatest Broadway choreographers ever – did musicals such as Chicago and Cabaret. The “Fosse” portion of my F-Words is just a reference to my love of Broadway and musicals, not ditches, unfortunately. They might eventually factor into my favourites, but not at the moment =)

12 02 2011
Kelly

hi Krystle! I didn’t know you had a blog! what a beautiful discovery.
I look forward to reading every post 😉

12 02 2011
krystlechow

Haha, I haven’t updated this one in forever, so I don’t know if I would really call it “having” a blog. I have some notes saved on my thoughts after reading Fosse’s biography, though, so hopefully I will get to that soon (once I finish the bajillion and one chores I have brewing!)

Thanks Kel. I love your blog so hopefully this will be a kick in the pants for me!

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