Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
especially welcome to extensive readers

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tripping the light fantastically funny

Over the weekend,I got to catch up on Confessions of a Shopaholic via DVD and Netflix. I've been looking forward to seeing it,especially since I've been a fan of the book series written by Sophie Kinsella that it's based and even tho the adaptation was Americanized(the original characters and most of the storylines are British),the movie was still a blast and a half.

A nicely amusing surprise occurred part way thru the film,in a scene where Becky Bloomwood(Isla Fisher)is asked to hit the dance floor with Luke Brandon(Hugh Dancy)and she gets a bit slaphappy with the fan that he's given her:

It's a fun and funny moment,which got me thinking about other hilarious dance scenes that I've enjoyed in both movies and TV that still get a grin again and again. Whether the dancing is intentionally bad or not,it's the timing that makes for a true terpsichorean tickle of the funny bone.

First up is one of my favorite bits from 1997's Romy & Michelle's High School Reunion,starring Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow. Kudrow's character meets up with a former classmate(Alan Cumming)who had a huge crush on her back in the day and now only wants to share a special dance with her at the reunion.

She says yes,but only if her best friend can join them,which is fine by him. The result is one of the most sincerely silly sweet choreographed numbers I've ever seen:

An instant cult classic,Pee Wee's Big Adventure had tons of amusingly memorable scenes but one of the best ones features another classic cult favorite,the song Tequila.

In this bit,Pee Wee tries to stall an inevitable beatdown by the biker gang he innocently walked in on(plus,knocked over their bikes)by borrowing a bus boy's big white shoes and strutting his stuff. Guess it goes to show you that it's not just music that soothes the savage beast,but some sweet moves as well:

In turning our attention to TV toe tapping,a good place to start looking for a goofy turn on the dance floor is Angel. While Buffy's favorite bloodsucking beau is fearless in battle,the idea of him showcasing his sad set of moves is truly terrifying to behold:

While Angel can make the excuse that dancing styles have changed quite a bit from when he was still human(over a hundred years ago),Mr. Collins is unable to make such a claim. In the 1995 P&P miniseries,Lizzie Bennet's most persistently slimey suitor proves his unsuitability as her future husband by pinning down for the first two dances at the Netherfield ball and fumbling his way thru them.

Granted,dancing in Regency times was a rather elaborate procedure to be sure,but that is no excuse for such a devoted toady to society not to know in which direction to make his moves,particularly to avoid injuring other party guests in his wake:

Of course,you can't really talk about hilarious TV dancing without mentioning Elaine Benes and her infamous "little kicks" routine. All of us at one time or another have had a friend or relative who was completely unaware of just how uncoordinated they are when it comes to dancing. Hopefully,you can stop them from showcasing their sad skills in front of co-workers before they become the office joke of the day:

The art of dance is a joy to behold and like any other art form,can be used to bring about laughter as well as tears. So,if you're in need of a chuckle,just shake your goofy groove thing and let the good times roll:

Monday, June 29, 2009

Open Letter to Alice Hoffman,Re: Twitter vengeance

Dear Ms. Hoffman,

I would like to start this letter off by congratulating you on the release of your newest novel,Story Sisters,but due to the actions that you've taken recently against a reviewer of the book in the Boston Globe via Twitter,I am withholding any such niceties for the moment.

While I am not a writer at either your level or of Roberta Silman's,the critic in question here,I can fully understand how getting a negative review of something that you've worked long and hard on can be upsetting and a metaphorical kick in the pants there. No one likes to hear that he or she is considered to not have done their best,especially in their chosen profession.

However,I did read Ms. Silman's review and it was neither malicious or snarky. Yes,it did give away a good portion of the plot,but I've seen movie trailers that have done the same thing and it doesn't seem to affect the box office results.

Further more,Ms. Silman is a fan of your writing and her main regret is that Story Sisters is not as strong as some of your earlier books such as Illumination Night(a favorite of hers). That's hardly a harsh condemnation of the book. For you to openly attack her on your Twitter feed,calling Ms. Silman a "moron" and an "idiot",plus listing her home phone number and e-mail address as a way to encourage people to "tell her what u think of snarky critics" is childishly vindictive and beneath you as both a writer and a person.

You say that you are angry with the editor about allowing Ms. Silman to discuss too much of the plot but if that is the case,why not list the e-mail of the book review editor for the Boston Globe instead of her's(the phone number is way out of line,in any case)? Also,this is not the only bit of negative feedback the book has received here.

For example, Publisher's Weekly said that "Hoffman's prose is as lovely as ever: the imagined and real worlds of the Story sisters are rich and clear, but Elv's troubles and the Story family's nonstop catastrophes are wearying." and The New York Times Book Review(written by Chelsea Cain) called Story Sisters "Little Women on mushrooms",plus Kirkus Reviews summed it up with "A radiant denouement shows love redeeming the surviving sisters, and there are beautiful moments throughout, but they don't entirely compensate for Hoffman's excesses of plot and tone. A near-miss from this uneven but always compelling writer."

Pretty much along the lines of what Ms. Silman said about Story Sisters and not as generous as she was towards you. Too bad you couldn't give Ms. Silman the same courtesy there.

I don't have a Twitter account,Ms. Hoffman,and frankly I'm glad about that right now,seeing how someone like yourself uses it to abuse a fellow writer like this. No one's perfect,and yes, we all say things that we later regret when we're mad,but so far you're rather unrepentant here and that is a shame. I know you feel that you have "readers" not "fans" but if you keep this up,you will have neither one.

So,slice up a piece of humble pie,Ms. Hoffman,and chow down. I hear it goes well with a side of crow. Please end this pettiness now and reassure those of us out there in literary land that our faith in the inherent goodness of writers is not in vain.


Lady T and book lovers everywhere

P.S. your official apology and deleting of your Twitter thread may be a first step there,but you should make an amends to Ms. Silman directly. It's the honorable thing to do.

Friday, June 26, 2009

A double dose of pop culture legends taking their final bows

By now,most of you know about the deaths of Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson(especially since his demise is fast becoming a world event)and much has been said already regarding them both. However,I do want to add my two cents to the mix,plus pay a bit of respect there,and as the old cliche goes,it's ladies first.

Farrah Fawcett is a celebrity from my childhood,considered one of the most beautiful women on TV and pin up posters everywhere. Despite her quick rise to fame,she never came across as a bossy diva type. Farrah appeared to be a genuine sweetheart who was sexy in a charming,unpretentious way:

Like many other Hollywood hopefuls before her(and even sadly after),Farrah was stuck with the blonde bombshell persona that Charlie's Angels had given her and dogged most of her early film career. It wasn't until later in life that she was able to show her acting chops in more serious roles such as the rape revenge drama Extremities,both on Broadway and in the film adaptation.

Most of her more powerful work came from made for TV movies,like The Burning Bed and biopics of Barbara Hutton and Beate Klarsfeld. I was very impressed by her performance as Diane Downs,the sociopathic mother who tried to convince everyone of her innocence in the shooting of her three children in the adaptation of the Ann Rule true crime classic,Small Sacrifices. Farrah brilliantly showcased the charming charisma used by this devious woman to get her way at all costs:

Farrah had her ups and downs,both in her personal and professional life,but she did try to become more than what others wanted to see her as,a laudable goal for anyone.

There was a bit of controversy regarding the NBC documentary about her struggles with cancer,but in my opinion,that was Farrah's way of using such a sad situation to her best advantage by providing others with some shared sympathy and hope.

She may not have been the ideal feminist role model but so what? She lived life on her own terms,which is something that feminism is supposed to be all about. To paraphrase a Marlene Dietrich line,she was some kind of a woman...what does it matter what you say about people?:

What can I say about Michael Jackson,who was the Citizen Kane of pop music? His phenomenal talent made him a modern day legend and his impact on the world of music will last well beyond this century and rightly so.

The real tragedy of his death is just how much of a tragedy his life had become. No need to go into details;we all know that old saying about the biggest they are,the harder they fall. Jackson's fall was the size of the Grand Canyon and it's a real shame that no one around him was able to really help him climb out of that pit of despair to find a way towards true inner peace.

Perhaps it's better to remember him as he was,before he got into that insane fame quagmire that engulfed the likes of Elvis as well. Choose your own personal favorite moment in time,whether it's Thriller,which changed the playing field for music videos forever,or Bad,Human Nature,or even back in the Jackson 5 days when his potential shone brightly,illuminating the stardom that was yet to come:

Along with the news of Ed McMahon's departure from this world,this has been a rather sad week of memorials in the celebrity realm. Many will mourn,including those who were closest to these folks,their true family and friends who deserve their time to grieve in private. The rest of us can pay our respects together as fans without turning this sorrowful situation into a sideshow. That's the least we can do here,in a real appreciation of what they have given to us over the years:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

TC Masters take it to the streets,more Next Food Network Star shenanagans and a few drops of True Blood

The chefs for this latest round of Top Chef Masters were Wilo Benet,Cindy Pawlcyn,Ludo Lefebvre and Rick Bayless and not only did they have to recreate two past TC challenges but also had the infamous knife pulls as well.

The Quickfire was to make a dish based on one color. Ludo wound up with red,which inspired him to whip up a steak tartare with watermelon and a beet gazpacho. He freaked out a little when the sauce wasn't served right away,but the taste testers felt that it didn't add much to the plate anyway.

Rick Bayless won the QF,for his interpretation of Green as roasted veggies with a mole verde served on a banana leaf. The Elimination challenge wasn't as tasty sounding;the chefs had to make street food(to be served at Universal Studios' theme park)but the main proteins they had to use were what are known as "offal"(organ meats). The choices were beef hearts,tongue,tripe and pig ears.

Cindy was thrilled to be able to use offal(she even mentioned being a member of a group called Girls Eat Guts)and made a menudo out of the tripe. It did go over well,but some of the judges complained about a lack of seasoning in the broth.

Ludo had the pig ears and planned on making a quesadilla. He even asked Rick Bayless for some suggestions during their shopping trip(Bayless is big into Mexican cuisine)and then got annoyed when Bayless pick up ingredients to make tacos. Dude,you know the guy's into Mexican food,duh!

Ludo was very moody and annoying with his whole "I trained in France and therefore am a culinary badass" attitude. Give me a break,buddy boy-you had trouble just getting one quesadilla ready for your customers at the stand,plus the judges! Not so bad ass,if you ask me.

Bayless won the whole shooting match,for his tongue tacos(which lead to a couple of jokes about Bayless slipping the tongue there)with bacon,chorizo and pickled onions. The judges raved about it,especially Gael Greene who wanted to have seconds! Bayless seemed like a truly nice man,giving his fellow chefs support and help during the challenges,so congrats to him.

Next week's episode has a special celebrity guest,Neil Patrick Harris(Dr. Horrible himself)and some magic tricks for the chefs to endure:

There was more teamwork this week on The Next Food Network Star that had the contenders pair up to make a three course meal for Ina Garten,aka The Barefoot Contessa,and friends. While Michael got all flustered and tongue tied during the early consumer tip portion of the early challenge,he and Jeffrey put together a great dinner made with inexpensive ingredients that came across as high class cooking.

The drama came from another team,Teddy and Debbie. Debbie wasn't willing to trust him after what happened with him,Brett and Melissa last time and her instincts were right on the money. Each chef was responsible for one dish apiece and one of the courses had to be a collaboration between the both of them.

Teddy and Debbie pooled their ideas and came up with a great meatloaf,which Teddy tried to claim all the credit for at Judges' Table due to his dessert being a halfhearted mess.

I'm still not happy with Debbie regarding her behavior during the first episode but she didn't deserve to be treated like that. Eddie wound up going home,after being in the Bottom Two for the third time,plus his crappy attempt at making a Paula Deen salad(Dude,atleast be original with your own failings!)and his condescending attitude towards Melissa,but in my opinion,both of those bozos should've been given their walking papers:

On True Blood,Jessica's family reunion went off as badly as predicted;oh,Sookie, that was not a good move to make,not at all. Bill was right to yell at you there,even tho you didn't mean to hurt anyone.

I get the guilt trip but everyone knows that new born vampires tend to go after their loved ones first and despite the fact that Jessica's dad does appear to be a ill tempered jerk who's quick to use his belt as a disciplinary device,you should have gotten all Amy Winehouse and said no,no,no!(especially for that poor little girl's sake):

Meanwhile,poor Lafayette is doing his best to stay alive in the clutches of Eric and the rest of the fang gang there. His determination to survive seems to make a good impression on Eric but there's no guarantee that he'll be allowed to live,one way or the other.

I do think that Lafayette would make a cool vampire and you gotta give the man serious props for having the balls to make his case to Eric and his crew at such a crucial moment like that. It would be a shame to keep him around for only two episodes and with such an elaborate set-up as this,we may be seeing Lafayette around Fangtasia sometime soon:


RESCUE ME: One of the subplots this season has Garrity undergoing kidney removal due to a 9/11 related cancer,which has given the show an opportunity to get musically surreal,plus give the actor Steven Pasquale a chance to show off his pipes. A little wacky to be sure,but done well and with a nice dash of dark humor that this show is best known for:

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Revolutionary tunes to sing in sisterly support

While I don't intend to get political on this blog,ignoring what's been going on in world lately,particularly in Iran right now,would be a sure sign of intentional ignorance on my part. My heartfelt sympathy is with those struggling over there and my hope is that things will start to get better before they get even worse.

Since I'm not in a position to change the situation,the best method of coping that I've found is to listen to songs that reflect the turbulence of the times. Please believe me that this collection of music clips is not meant to trivialize what's happening over there but rather as my own small way of showing support,especially to all of the brave women who are standing strong in Tehran,despite the threat to their lives.

Marjane Satrapi is one of those admirable women;her groundbreaking memoirs of life during the 1979 revolution in Iran and afterward,Persepolis 1& 2,have made strides both artistically and culturally.

In the course of her story,music was one of her inspirations and in this sequence from the animated version of Persepolis(which was an Academy Award nominee)has Marji using,interestingly enough,a former Oscar nominated song as motivation for dealing with the day to day hassles of life:

I've been rereading Azar Nafisi's Reading Lolita in Tehran,her "memoir in books" that chronicles the secret literary group she held with selected students from her college classes. Nafisi became so frustrated with the massive restrictions placed upon her lit courses that she resigned and created in her own home a place where open discussion of such classics as The Great Gatsby,Daisy Miller and Lolita could be held without fear of reprisal.

One of the books that Nafisi's group read and loved was Pride and Prejudice and their admiration for the boldness of Austen's heroines such as Elizabeth Bennet makes this video connection between P&P and Kelly Clarkson's "Miss Independant" seem rather fitting:

Women's rights are one of the major issues in the current Iranian conflict and goodness knows,we've had our share of struggles with that in America,along with fighting for the right to vote. Some of this massive media coverage can be a great jumping off point to get the younger generation interested in learning the history of the feminist movement here and overseas.

I know that when I was a kid,Schoolhouse Rock certainly helped me get a clue about it in a toe tapping fashion:

The musical Les Miserables seems more timely than ever before,and while "I Dreamed the Dream" has gotten renewed interest lately,this plaintive song"On my Own" suits the emotional turmoil that no doubt many of the ladies are feeling as their loved ones are being pursued or are under attack. This song can be a prayer of hope for them,if you will:

Sorry for this sad intrusion of reality,folks,but I felt that I had to say something. I'm sure that many of you out there online are feeling very passionate about this and are making your voices heard loud and clear. Mine isn't as loud but hopefully,my respectful intent is clear. This is my salute to all of those women(and yes,men,too) in their brave show of force upon the world stage:

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Set up your literary picnic with these juicy July and August book bites

While your summer vacation time may not be the big blowout celebrations you've had in years past,there's plenty of down to earth pleasures to be imbibed during the long hot days ahead of us. Some may be sweet,others savory but all are sure to liven up your leisure time one way or another. Just pick your preferred literary seasonings and enjoy them straight up with a twist:


First item on the menu is a fresh concoction of southern girlhood,courtesy of Rebecca Wells,the beloved creator of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood. In her upcoming new book,The Crowning Glory of Calla Lily Ponder,a young girl growing up in the blissful river town of La Luna is taught by her mother to ignite the powers of her "healing hands" via fixing hair.

Those lessons are cut short upon her mother's death and Calla Lily must live and learn on her own,not only about the growing abilities she has but in matters of the heart as well. While this book doesn't feature any of the familiar folks from the Ya-Ya series,it should be just as sweetly compelling and a lovely lyrical emotional journey for both old fans and new(July 7):


A Happy Marriage by Rafael Yglesias goes over the thirty year relationship between Enrique Sabas and his wife Margaret,as he prepares their family and friends for Margaret's inevitable passing away. Their early days of courtship are contrasted with the few sorrowful moments of time left to them both.

This may seem like too painful of a story to read,but on the other hand,it's also a loving tribute to the ups and down of a couple who have shared a lifetime with each other and seek a way to make the best of their reluctant parting. Yglesias' best known novel is called Fearless yet this one seems to live up to that title even better(July 7).

In Joyce Maynard's Labor Day,13 year old Henry wishes that his lonely mother Adele could find someone to make her happy(and give him a more amiable father figure). When Henry meets Frank,a mysterious stranger looking for assistance,things appear to be looking up for him and Adele but complications soon arise that give Henry quite a few unexpected life lessons there.

It's also the story of Adele,who is struggling with a long hidden secret that's been putting a stranglehold on her emotional world for far too long. Frank's somewhat timely appearance helps to close that wound as well as open up her heart. Maynard has only written a handful of novels but her storytelling skills are finely honed indeed(August):


Sarah Dunant takes another turn into the pages of historical fiction with Sacred Hearts,set in a convent in southern Italy during the year 1570. Young noblewomen are sent to this place in order to be kept away from the prying eyes of society that would condemn them for their true desires. Sixteen year old Serafina is defiant about her enforced confinement and only with the consoling comfort of Suora Zuana,the mistress of the dispensary,does she find a way to cope.

The bond of friendship between the two women leads to Serafina connecting with other nuns and novices in the convent who have just as many trials and tribulations as she has,with some of them from the outside world threatening them all. Dunant is fast becoming a major player in the realm of historical women's fiction and if you haven't checked her out yet,here is your golden opportunity(July):


Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark Hunters have another thing coming with Bad Moon Rising,which focuses on Fang,a Were Hunter whose loyalties are being tested between his bond with his brothers and the women he loves as an all out war between lycanthropes is about to erupt.

Fang's decision to save his lady love may have serious consequences to more than himself,as their survival could end both of their races and bring about some serious bloodshed. Talk about your rock and a hard place there,yet Kenyon always manages to have her mystical warriors find their way home(August 4).

Speaking of mystical warriors,Vicki Pettersson has reached the fourth sign of her Zodiac series with City of Souls that has Joanna Archer battling the forces of evil that lurk around Las Vegas to protect an ailing little girl who has a strong touch of goodness within her that is also in danger of being prematurely destroyed.

Pettersson's earlier Sign of the Zodiac titles are readily available in paperback,as is City of Souls,and her writing style is as charming and stylish smart as the lady is herself. Pettersson was once a Vegas showgirl and her intimate knowledge of the casino world plays an integral part in making her paranormal characters come to life in such a realistic setting(late June,early July):


There are a couple of tasty foodie reads coming back into play this summer,with one of them being a true personal favorite of mine. Julie & Julia chronicles the life and times of blogger Julie Powell,who decides to take on Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking by making each one of the 524 recipes within a year. Her harried and humorous culinary adventure is highlighted with glimpses into Julia Child's life and love of cuisine.

A film adaptation of this marvelous memoir is due out in August,with Amy Adams and Meryl Streep in the title roles. While I'm eagerly salivating to see this flick,the book is a sweetly inspiring read(it's the reason I decided to blog in the first place)and should be savored as soon as possible:

Waiter Rant is another blog inspired book,only not as sweet natured as J&J. Steve Dublanica throws a harsh,yet satirical light onto the restaurant world from the viewpoint of waitstaff who appreciate good customers and dread the approach of those fiendish few that make fine dining a mini hell on earth.

While the book does vent some well earned steam,it does give folks some helpful hints about how to get good service when going out to eat and making things more pleasant on both sides of the table:

Hopefully,this mental menu has something to make your mouth water and offers up a bit of cultural comfort food as well. With all of the chaos swirling about us these days,those lazy,hazy,crazy days of summer are more in demand than ever before:

Monday, June 22, 2009

I'll take Culinary Comedic Moments for $200,Alex

I'm quite the fan of Food Network Challenges,mainly the ones involving cake. Seeing how those pastry chefs create such amazingly beautiful,almost too pretty or crazy cool to eat massive edible marvels is a joy to behold.

One of the most recent cake challenges had "Surprise Birthday Cake" as the theme,with the mystery client being none other than Kerry Vincent,one of my favorite judges who's considered the Simon Cowell of cake(I prefer to call her Professor McGonagall). She's a tough cookie but very sweetly skillful with cake art as the picture on the left of this paragraph shows.

Naturally,most of the chefs were a tad nervous about making a cake for Kerry but the one who really had it in for her was Stevie Famulari,a "misunderstood" artist type who has been judged by Kerry in a couple of past FNC and feels that she is (in her own words)"a rhymes with witch."

Clearly not the most cheerful participant in these proceedings,Stevie then went on to make one of the most memorable cakes on this show,mainly for how horrifyingly bad it became,not to mention that it wound up on fire and a crew member had to turn an extinguisher on that monstrosity:

On the bright side,everyone did have a good laugh(well,maybe not Stevie who was still peeved at Kerry for not getting her "vision")and it certainly was the talk of the town there. It also got me thinking about how both fictional and real life cooking mishaps,intentional or otherwise,are rather amusing,especially to those who are not directly responsible for that odd tasting dish or fallen ten layer cake.

Therefore,let us look at a few crazy cooking results that had added so much silly spice to our entertainment entrees:


Hung on Season three of Top Chef was certainly an unique individual to be sure and his offbeat creativity turned a strange corner during a Quickfire Challenge. He made a breakfast "village" of sorts that was made even more bizarre by his elaborate explanation of it:


People think that Gordon Ramsey is just a loud mouth lout in the kitchen,but consider that the man has not one but two cooking based reality shows where he has to taste some of the worst food around(I've actually seen him get physically ill after trying some of the swill being offered to him)and you'd be cranky too,if you had to swallow one bite of what Gordon's had to stomach.

For example,check out what one of the contenders on Hell's Kitchen whipped up on the Season four premiere as his "signature dish." Believe it or not,this guy actually made it to the Final Two,something you would have not predicted based on the greasy mess infamously known as "hen in a pumpkin":

On Kitchen Nightmares,the scariest part of the show is when Gordon first tastes what the troubled restaurant in question has to offer. You know your food is bad when even a cookie causes a customer to gag:


On the first Thanksgiving themed episode of Gilmore Girls,Sookie was dismayed when her new husband Jackson decided to deep fry the turkey for their family celebration. While the technique itself was well handled,things soon got out of control and by the time Lorelai and Rory stopped by on their way home,Sookie was serenely able to give them a through recap of the deep frying frenzy:


Speaking of Turkey Day,Rachel's attempt to make a proper English dessert is hilariously tasty. The best part has to be Joey's enthusiasm as he chows down on the not so sweet treat that has everyone else running for cover:

I hope you don't think that I have no respect for the art of cooking based on some of this silliness. On the contrary,kitchen calamities make me appreciate a good meal all the more and long for the days when friends and family could just sit down together and leisurely partake in a well prepared dinner. Nowadays,we're all in such a rush to get those basic daily gatherings over and done with,like a boring business meeting whose only holding interest is in how soon it ends.

Perhaps taking some time out to enjoy a good giggle as well as a good meal is one of those little things that make life worth living:

Friday, June 19, 2009

Why Humoresque is my pick for a Father's Day film

Certain things in life can remind you of a loved one who has long since passed away and the ones that get to you the most are those that hold a special meaning just to you and no one else. A number of pop culture items bring my dad to mind,particularly as Father's Day draws near and I'd like to share with anyone who's reading this out there one of his favorite movies,Humoresque.

It's considered a Joan Crawford film but most of the story is centered around John Garfield's character,Paul Boray. Paul is a Lower East Side kid when we first meet him,the son of an small grocery store owner who falls in love with the violin and spends a good portion of his youth learning to play it well.

Only Paul's mother and his sarcastic yet soft hearted piano playing music teacher(brilliantly played by Oscar Levant)have faith in his talent but soon enough,all of that hard work and time play off for Paul as he rises to the top of his field:

As Paul makes his way up the social ladder,he meets Helen Wright(Crawford),a wealthy patroness of the arts who doesn't let her marriage of convenience interfere with her pursuit of casual lovers. Paul's strong will and dominant spirit draw her in and the feeling soon becomes mutual,much to the dismay of friends and foes on both sides.

Helen and Paul do manage to find some moments of happiness together,but it becomes clear that the real obstacle between them is Paul's devotion to his music above all else. There's also the matter of Helen's past affecting the future of his career if they get married and her mood swings,which ultimately lead to some very melodramatic results:

My dad liked this movie for many reasons;he was a fan of both Crawford and Garfield,who many thought was miscast in this part. In my opinion,John Garfield was perfect for this role,due to being the most unlikely looking person to become a world class violinist. The whole point of his character was that this working class fella had the raw talent and the drive to make his mark in the arts,something my father tried to do for most of his life.

He was a painter by vocation,who studied the works of the Dutch masters like Vermeer and other classical figures such as Rembrandt and devoted himself to oil painting for many years. Later in life,he turned to watercolors and was pleasantly surprised at how good he was at them. I think he identified his artistic struggles with Paul Boray's quite a bit.

He also adored classical music and loved the use of it throughout the film. There's a great sequence in the movie where Paul is performing in front of a packed house,with Helen in the balcony and his whole family(including a childhood sweetheart of his)sitting in the audience. Paul's playing and eye contact with Helen during that piece make their relationship painfully obvious and says volumes to all involved. It's one of my favorite scenes in Humoresque,a movie that I know and love thanks to my father.

My father died in 2003 but in some ways,he's never left. Our home has most of his artwork on display and many of the books,films and music that he shared with us are an integral part of my emotional life. I do have my own personal preferences but a good portion of what I find to be mentally nourishing is based upon what my father introduced to me all those years ago.

While we did go off on different paths of taste over time,certain things we always did agree upon and Humoresque was one of them. It's not the most ideal choice for Father's Day,perhaps,but it is a film that makes me think of him fondly and with a little sweet sorrow. If you're unfamiliar with this movie,it is worth watching and not just because my dad said so. It's because Humoresque is a real hidden treasure waiting to be discovered,much like my father and his artistic dreams:

Thursday, June 18, 2009

TC Masters get Lost,more trouble brewing for The Next Food Network Star and a fresh taste of True Blood

On deck for round two of Top Chef Masters were Elizabeth Falkner,Suzanne Tracht, Graham Elliot Bowles and Wylie Dufresne,who has been a frequent guest judge for the regular TC seasons. The first challenge handed to this quartet was the infamous Vending Machine Amuse Bouche that had three former TC contenders as the taste testers(Betty,Michael and Ilan from Season Two).

While they did like Graham's tuna salad with lime and shallots,it was Suzanne's onion rings with Dr. Pepper ailoi that took the early win here. For the Elimination challenge,the chefs were asked to make a meal for the creators and writers of Lost,using only a select set of fresh ingredients and canned items that they were allowed to purchase from a master list.

Wild boar was one of the meats offered up and Elizabeth Falkner chose to make a duet of it,one with a coffee poach and the other braised. Unfortunately,time was up before she got a chance to add sauce to the plates,which made the meats a tad dry despite being tasty. Also,the yam pudding on the side was compared to baby food by Gael Greene(Ouch!).

Wylie did a witty play on the whole chicken and egg question with a specially poached egg served up with his roast chicken pieces and a banana mustard that everyone adored. The only slight misstep was that one of the judges received a plate sans chicken but that dilemma was quickly solved(his nearest table companion had been given the extra portion by mistake)and made for a good laugh had by all.

In the end,Suzanne won the whole shooting match,thanks to her idea of a "holiday" style meal for folks trapped on an island. That overflowing plate,which served up an uni risotto,mango salad and boar strip loin amongst other edible items,seemed to be a mess at first sight but everyone agreed that all of the items blended together amazingly well.

So Suzanne takes the second slot in the Championship round and gets ten grand for her charity, the VOVA food bank. Next week should be fun,as the new batch of chefs have to recreate another tricky TC challenge from the past,street food:

This week on The Next Food Network Star,Jamika did very well as her choice of food fit for New Year's Eve won the Good Housekeeping Holiday Recipe challenge. The corn bread and collard greens combo not only tasted great but had a lovely back story tied into it,which pleased both the magazine folks but the Food Network execs as well.

While Debbie was on good behavior this time out,Brett picked up the bad sportsmanship ball and ran with it,much to his deficit. He and Teddy both offered to help Melissa(a stay at home mom who's not quite used to the fast pace of competitive cooking just yet)with the plating of her Mother's Day breakfast in bed,which she accepted.

However,Brett felt the need to point that out during the judges' table and try to make her look bad in front of everyone. Teddy stayed out of it as much as he could,but he appeared to agree with Brett in spirit. Talk about having no class;maybe it's just me but if you offer to help someone out,it's poor form to be resentful later on when that person does well. Brett wound up being sent home and good riddance,I say:

True Blood made it's second season premiere(finally!)and delivered up some expected delights as well as some sweet surprises(which are not so sweet for those involved)with Sookie trying to come to terms with Bill's bloodthirsty notions of chivalry and his duties toward bratty new vampirella Jessica,Jason diving headfirst into the lemming pool known as the Fellowship of the Sun and Tara's connection with Mary Ann getting way too close for comfort.

While I know that Mary Ann is most definitely up to no good,her take down of Tara's selfish bitch of a mother was brilliantly brief and well deserved:

While I am happy to see Lafayette is still alive and kicking on this show,his imprisonment by the local vamp authorities is chilling to see. Some may be less than thrilled with this major departure from the Charlaine Harris books,but so far I haven't heard any complaints from her about this and if she's fine with it,so am I.

Bonus points for continuity should be given to the writers for having Lafayette meet up with an old adversary from Merlotte's during his time on the chain gang and hopefully,our favorite cook will not be in such dire straits for long:

SCARY SPOILER ALERT!(if you haven't seen the S2 premiere,that is)

The next episode looks to be even more intense,as the tensions between Sam and Mary Ann heat up and Sookie makes a major league mistake by letting Jessica near her human family,setting the stage for one hell of a reunion. Yeah,not a good idea,Sookie,not at all:


THE VAMPIRE DIARIES: Another bloodsucker themed show is heading our way this fall,courtesy of the CW. I'm not familiar with the YA series of books that this is based on,but comparisons to Twilight will be made regardless and whether those will be fair or not remain to be seen: