World Avent : Day 25

The Film: L’homme qui voulait vivre sa vie [The Big Picture] – France

The Big Picture (2010)Misplaced in the thriller genre this film isn’t enjoyable as a literal tale but as an allegory for starting again on your dream, having the fear and then courage to go to the roots of your passion — and make it happen.

The literal tale involves a lawyer who has given up on his dreams of becoming a photographer. He is married with children and they are unhappy. He’s suspicious of her distance and soon realizes she’s having an affair with a neighbor. When she asks for a divorce he goes to the neighbor, it’s casual at first.

The film picks up when the wife’s lover says Paul must have a modern photography setup, monitors, cameras, all the newest toys. The accusation infers that Paul is soulless and his wife is having an affair with the artist he used to be. They tussle in the back garden and the neighbor, Grégoire Kremer, is accidentally killed.

This is where the division between bad story and good allegory comes. Paul decides to take on Kremer’s identity. There isn’t enough depth in the narrative given as to why, it seems miles beyond what we’ve seen of his character, except that we’ve been told his wife hates that he pities himself for haven given up.

Paul poses as Kremer, taking some of his possessions, fakes his own death, and leaves France. He goes back to a place where had taken inspired photographs. He doesn’t take his new digital Canon, he takes the neighbor’s Nikon — but he doesn’t use that either. He buys an old camera, film, solutions to develop his work, and sets up a studio in a rented house with a great view. He pokes around taking new photographs, printing them. He takes some more. And more.

The allegory here as I see it is going back to basics. Strip it down. Find an old way to love something that makes what you’re passionate about new to you. Sometimes the complexities distance us from our own desires, our ability to create never needed much more than a basic tool and some paper — yet somehow we get wrapped up in finding the best tools instead of the best inside us to use them.

Another transition comes when Paul, now fully living under this new identity and talking about himself as if he were Kremer, is taking pictures with the Nikon. He is not himself, he is now who he wanted to be. This subtle thread starts another layer of allegory involving identity.

When Paul’s photos are picked up by the local newspaper, he gets the chance to have a gallery opening. But he’s concerned about photos being taken of him to publicize the event. His paranoia takes hold at the opening when the newspaper editor, a friend, says to him “Look at them. They believe your story. They even by the idea your talent only emerged here. So.. enjoy it. Enjoy. Enjoy. Enjoy. What difference does it make?”

This speaks to me about art and identity. If you’re creating, if your passionate, and you’re working your craft — who can tell who is the “real” artist and who is a fake? If you’re interested in more on this part in particular, check out the pseudo documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010).

Yet another twist comes when Paul decides to leave this identity behind as well and is smuggled aboard a ship. He’s told to stay in his room but he takes his camera out with him and photographs the crew beating some men up. When they strip a man and throw him overboard, Paul protests — revealing his location. He hides the film on his person before they throw him overboard.

The crewman who brought him on board secretly releases a lifeboat into the water in the ships berth. Paul and another man reach the boat. Paul holds onto this man, tightly. It cuts to the photos of the men being thrown overboard being sold — by the other survivor. Paul smiles at him as they part ways and the film ends. This was a little complication for the neatly packaged allegory (what was it adding?) and its timing in the film only confirmed my decision that the surface was only a mask for the concepts underneath.

I think there are a few ways to look at this last portion in relation to the themes of passion and identity. It comes at a moment when photography is building for Paul, a museum in London wants to exhibit his work and the curator says he will be put in front of the media to promote it. In one sense this spurs him to burn the car he’d been using and take off but in another it is the rejection of the distractions that would take him away from the passion he’s found in creation and the person he’s tried to become.

I still resent any implication that his earlier failures had anything to do with his wife and children. Although I think the movie does try to say it was Paul’s choice not to pursue photography, faking his death says more.

Someone mentioned in the book his wife is far more antagonistic and Paul suffers at work to provide her the freedom to follow her dreams. Congratulations to director Eric Lartigau and his crew of writers for whittling most of that one-sidedness away. If anything Paul seemed somewhat selfish which may be one reason it worked for me as an allegory, as a “what if” exploration. What do we need to create?

On Good Reads a user posted an observation that writer Douglas Kennedy’s protagonist often describes “really great photographers as being passive observers who have freed themselves from the need to obsessively prod at the composition hoping that it will become more artful” I see The Big Picture as a struggle with passion, art, and identity — themes that have heavily been entering my life this year.

Which makes it a perfect way to end Advent 2013.  I probably don’t need to fake my own death but I will be asking myself — what do you need to create?

The Food: Blue Cheese and Toasted Almond Popcorn

Blue Cheese and Toasted Almond PopcornInspired by this recipe from Emeril and the desire for a savory popcorn with some body.

Blue cheese and popcorn are an amazing match. It’s a shocker there aren’t more ways to indulge in this combination.

  • 1/4 cup popcorn kernels
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder

In a skillet on medium toast the almonds. Remove the almonds and melt the butter in the same pan.

Make the popcorn according to your favorite method. Remove the unpopped kernels and place the popcorn in a large metal bowl with the almonds.

While popcorn is hot, add the blue cheese and pour the butter over the popcorn mix. Add the pepper, onion and garlic powder. Serve immediately.

If you want to add herbes de provence, or fresh herbs like chives, tarragon, or even rosemary and lemon zest. Serve with a dry white wine or dirty martinis and sliced pears.


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World Advent : Day 24

The Film: The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec – France

aTwo parts The Mummy one part Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Dick Tracy, with a dash of Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, there are equally as many reasons to like as dislike this film though it seems most things in the negative quality may be a problem with the source material.

The original graphic novel featured the titular character in far-fetched adventures and mystery-solving of its eponymous heroine, herself a writer of popular fiction, in a secret history-infused, gaslamp fantasy version of the early 20th century.

I started the film with low expectations and there were definitely elements to enjoy. It is creative, her relationship with her sister was well done as are the mummies who enter the story, but the style loses its way in the middle and doesn’t quite recover.

The hyper-stylized makeups are another mixed bag as some of the actors seem to realize how their looks would manifest in their movements and timbre and others almost act in direct opposition to it. In the end it doesn’t add to their interest, it inhibits a connection.

If you enjoyed Sahara this film is for you. On the other hand, fans of more well developed films such as Raiders Of The Lost Ark will be disappointed.

Oh how I wish it it had been slightly less silly. Comic I can handle but it feels like there was so much potential for a decent female lead supernatural adventure. Louise Bourgoin was able to pull off both charm and dead-pan humour, I would like to see more from her. That her motivation came from wanting to save her sister instead of a romantic entanglement made it all the better but there was just too much pomp and not enough circumstance.

The Food: Buttered Tarragon Popcorn

unnamedIn France you can get popcorn at the movie theater as sweet or salty. I thought this recipe would be a nice little combination and tarragon is one of those unique flavors that’s fun to use.

  • 1/4 cup corn kernels
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons tarragon
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon salt

Make the popcorn according to your favorite method.

Add the remaining ingredients in a saucepan on medium heat until the butter is melted. Pour over the popcorn and toss to coat.

For an additional flare add some French mustard to the mix!

Posted in Action, Adventure, Christmas, Comedy, Film, Film Genre, Food, France, Holiday, International Cinema, Period, Period Drama, Period Piece, Snack | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

World Advent : Day 23

The Film: Wild Target – UK

Wild TargetBased on the 1993 French film Cible Emouvante this witty comedy has a lot going for it. Namely that Bill Nighy plays a hit-man with such charm it’s impossible to not enjoy.

In some ways it’s unbelievably unique but there’s an easy predictability that makes it a pleasure to watch. Chief among these reasons is Emily Blunt, whose character is a wonderful mess of contradictions.

It also pokes fun at hit-man tropes which takes it beyond a standard sense of storytelling — the filmmakers are clearly in on the jokes but it never stops the story from progressing. Rupert Grint, whose character stumbles into the story, is a great addition to the dynamic. The odd trio really make this intelligent viewing.

None of their parts would work alone, it’s a really humorous combination of individual goals and they’re complex enough to be funny without weighing the comedy down. Writer Lucinda Coxon does an excellent job making Rose feel like an equal member in the story which doesn’t happen in many comedies like this. The relationship between Victor and Rose is certainly unique with a little depth toward the end that’s both sweet and grounds the film enough to make it satisfying.

There are problems. The bad guy played by Rupert Everett, is too over the top to be enjoyable. There certainly wasn’t enough time spent on getting the right balance from the character and by the time Martin Freeman rolls around there’s not much else they can squeeze from that plot. At times the editing seems ungraciously choppy, as if they were going for lean but ended up removing the connective tissue. Toward the end the taught sense of humor disappears and the tone runs amok. There’s a brief moment reminiscent of Hot Fuzz but it doesn’t fit the personal side of the story, which is actually the more interesting.

I’ve refrained from encapsulating the plot here as it really takes such little effort to watch that I don’t want to give much away. The real meat of the story, though it is lean, is better left for you to discover as it’s quite amusing. The lack of seriousness to the black-comedy makes it all the more enjoyable when the more interpersonal moments are in play.

It bodes well for a film if you laugh more the second time you watch it and this one has it. If you enjoy British comedy, and who doesn’t, it’s a winner.

The Food: Orange Cranberry Popcorn

Cranberry Orange PopcornIt’s Christmas eve, time for some good old fashioned Christmassy flavours. Inspired by popcorn and cranberry garlands this is one warm, gooey, bright popcorn.

Inspired by this recipe, I added orange juice to the sauce which was genius. The warmth plumps the cranberries, the crunch of the popcorn gives that yummy cookie feel, and the soft coating makes it melt in your mouth.

  • 1/4 cup corn kernels
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon orange juice
  • citrus zest, to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup orange flavoured cranberries

Make the popcorn according to your favorite method. I recommend a dry pop. Remove the unpopped kernels and place the popcorn and cranberries in a large mixing bowl.

On medium heat melt the butter, sugar, vanilla, honey, orange juice, and zest. I suggest going heavy on the zest because the bright flavour cuts through the sweetness. You can even add more to the popcorn itself.

Let the mixture foam up. Unlike other caramels, this should only cook about 5 minutes. There should still be a liquidy look to the mixture.

(The cookie taste comes from the proportion of baking soda. If you want to, you may cut it to 1/4 teaspoon.)

Add the baking soda and stir to make it puff up. Pour immediately over the popcorn and mix together to coat. Serve warm! It’s incredible.

I didn’t test baking it to dry the coating but you’re welcome to. It would also be great with additions like candied ginger, nuts, or cinnamon.

Posted in Adventure, Christmas, Comedy, Crime, England, European, Film, Film Genre, Food, Heist Film, Holiday, Independent, International Cinema, Romance, Snack, UK | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

World Avent : Day 22

The Film: Sound of Noise – Sweden

Sound of NoiseIf you’re looking for boring, dry, art house — this ain’t it.

What is it? Creative. Creative. Creative. With all of the remakes and rewrites and reimagings coming from Hollywood, it’s truly, refreshingly exciting to see such an original film. It’s so original if I told you the plot you might not watch it. But the plot isn’t the point of watching — it’s just such a unique experience.

Now most of the time when someone says that it means the movie isn’t good and I’m not sure sure I could say this is good I just know it’s not bad. It’s incredibly watchable.

IndieWire named the film Bonnie and Clyde on drums, Alissa Simon in Variety called it a delightful comic cocktail of modern city symphony, police procedural and love story. Words like bohemian, absurdist, and avant-garde are aren’t quite enough to capture what is really likeable about this film — which I think is that the filmmakers are having fun.

I’m not going to lie and tell you there is some great meaning you will find, unless choose you make one. Although the ending makes sense, it’s not really going somewhere that’s incredibly satisfying in a traditional sense. What’s unique is that it presents both sides of an idea without presenting one is right. I’m refraining from stating much here because it’s not about what happens — it’s about watching something unbelievably entertaining.

There are good films and bad films, and some in between but it’s not often you can release your desire for traditional narrative filmmaking and just watch get into a whole new genre.

What more can I say without giving anything away?

It’s fun, easy-going, enjoyable — it will make you smile and tap your toes. When’s the last time a remake did that? If you have a sense of humor, if you’re tired of traditional but you’re not pretentious enough for most art house see Sound Of Noise.

The Food: Cardamom Almond Popcorn 

Cardamom Almond PopcornCardamom is so warm, it really fills the taste buds with a cozy feeling that we crave in the winter.  This flavor goes perfectly with Scandinavian films and is the sweet opposite of yesterday’s caraway dill and just like that recipe, it’s best served with a deep cup of coffee.

I made a larger batch this time, which was smart thinking because this stuff is awesome. As I knew the amount I was looking for to share with guests, I made popcorn in 1/3 cup batches until the popped corn equaled the volume I was looking for.

  • 16 cups popped popcorn
  • 1 cup chopped slivered almonds
  • 1  cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat the oven to 250°.

Grease a baking sheet and set aside. Make the popcorn according to your favorite method. Remove unpopped kernels and place the popcorn in a large metal mixing bowl with the almonds.

In a saucepan on medium heat combine brown sugar, butter, water, vanilla, and salt. Bring it to a boil then continue cooking for about 5 minutes as the mixture foams.

Remove from heat and stir in the cardamom and baking soda. Stir it as the mixture puffs up. Pour it over your popped popcorn and almonds, stirring to coat.

Pour onto a baking sheet and bake for 40 minutes stirring several times during baking. ENJOY!

For an extra Christmassy flavour add some orange zest to the caramel before you bake. God Jul!

Posted in Action, Cardamom, Christmas, Comedy, Crime, Drama, European, Film, Film Genre, Food, Foreign Film, Holiday, Independent, International Cinema, Netflix, Romance, Snack, Spices | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

World Advent : Day 21

The Film: Kon-Tiki – Norway

Kon-TikiI was really looking forward to the potential of this film. I had read some things about the production when it was still in theaters and was excited to see the look of the film. But it’s always hard to watch a film when you have previous knowledge because no matter how hard you try, it leads to expectations.

What I expected was out of the window when they started speaking English in the first scene but the biggest hurdle for the film is that it states its motivations but does nothing to help you understand them.

Usually movies about a historical figure who does something brave and crazy are all motivation and very little exploration into the processes once it’s begun. This movie is all process and no motivation which leaves it feeling very dry and sadly, pointless.

The goal of real life explorer Thor Heyerdahl, as portrayed leaves you with the impression that science is enough of a motivation, and it just isn’t. Not at this level of stakes. Not when he’s sacrificing the future of his wife and children or the other men on the raft.

The chance to establish motivation happened at the very beginning when Tor was told by his parents to promise he never do anything risky again after nearly drowning in his attempt to retrieve something across a half frozen pond. The film cuts to a scene of him, as an adult, in an exotic country. At first I loved this because it recognized of the fact that we know, before we even hit play, that he will do something risky so why waste time building to it any further. It was interesting to not show the exact moment he made the choice to continue to have adventures. But then the movie continued in the same pattern, skipping over too many important decision making moments.

It’s one thing if he makes these decisions as a boy but when his wife tells him she hopes his children have a father, skipping over the deeper intricacies of these decisions makes him seem callous.

The same is true when he asks his fellow sailors to have faith that they will reach their destination. He offers them nothing but asks for blind obedience which seems irrational for his character. If he were either a man of science or of faith he would have offered them more of one or the other. Awed looks at the symbol of Kon-Tiki painted on the sail does not provide an accurate depiction of the way humans function in such intense circumstances. As such, the characters seems as though they were written by someone with Asperger’s syndrome.

For a person who is afraid of dying in water, as I am, I didn’t get a real similar impression from the crew at any point. Even from one of the crew who couldn’t swim, it came out more as awe than fear. This awe carried through their journey as an overarching feeling to the task they were undertaking as if they had knowledge of it’s future impact, but it lacked strong, interesting, motivated reaction to the details of their experience.

I often ask for films to not masticate their teachings for us but there is  a difference between processing on our behalf and providing something for us to process.

The film states that the legacy of Kon-Tiki was the spirit of adventure after World War II which isn’t a feeling I’ve seen expressed before. Most of the perceptions I’ve heard through various sources World War II was the adventure and most people just wanted to be safe at home and get back into the life they were fighting to protect. But then maybe I’m misunderstanding their idea of adventure and discovery.

Or maybe the movie simply didn’t state to its fullest intention what the impact of the Kon-Tiki exploration really was. The voyage made newspapers and proved a scientific theory but those things just aren’t enough when you don’t show us the further emotional impact it has on the persons who fought so hard to make the events happen. They can’t be removed from something like this. I suppose this has a lot of do with where the film decided to start and end.

I would have been far more interested in starting with the construction of the Kon-Tiki far more satisfied had it ended further down the road where we could truly understand the impact. Perhaps the filmmakers were trying not to read too much into or modify an account of history by seeking these deeper motivations. Perhaps they were attempting to avoid Heyerdahl’s ethnocentric speculations. But there has to be a happy medium between creating melodramatic tales and presenting dry facts.

The film was made in open waters but there’s something about the style that doesn’t feel quite like it was. Although the layers of special effects once they’re in the water are amazing, there’s something not fleshy enough. Films like Cast Away and others have been able to touch on these notes in a more human way.

I also would have appreciated this film if it hadn’t been in English. The language was far too simple. It felt very much as though it was not being properly communicated. Apparently the US version was cut by 30 minutes and specifically filmed in English. Ugh. Whoever thought so little of US audiences clearly misunderstood the power stories have when they are in their own language. It wouldn’t, however, have saved it completely as a brief look into the facts shows the filmmakers have taken unnecessary creative license that in the long run doesn’t add anything — some poor decision-making all around.

You could try to watch the original version which was nominated for the Academy Award as Best Foreign Feature Film and is the highest grossing movie of all time in Norway. But there are direct sources which might fare better including the 1948 book about the expedition written by Thor Heyerdahl and the 1950 documentary about the expedition which was directed by him and received an Academy Award in 1951.

Ultimately, Kon-Tiki didn’t feel like the story of men who did something amazing for themselves, their families, the world. It felt like the story of the raft and sadly the emotional journey of balsa wood just isn’t interesting enough to recommend.

The Food: Caraway Dill Popcorn

Caraway Dill PopcornI love unique flavors. The sort of spices and seeds that aren’t used in everyday cooking. Lavender was one of those exciting new tastes and caraway is another that I just don’t get to use often enough.

This tasty combination comes from the idea of an open-faced sandwich on rye bread with butter, dill, lemon, and cold shrimp. Minus the seafood.

  • 1/4 cup corn kernels
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon butter
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Make the popcorn according to your favorite method. Remove the kernels. Place the popcorn in a mixing bowl.

Melt 1 tablespoon of butter and add the caraway seeds. Cook for 3 minutes. Add the teaspoon of butter, dill and black pepper. When it’s melted pour over the popcorn, mix to combine. Serve warm with some good cardamom coffee!

If you’re looking for a variant try making the popcorn as kettle corn by adding sugar to the kernels as it pops before adding the seasoned butter for a sweet and salty taste.

Posted in Adventure, Cardamom, Christmas, Film, Film Genre, Food, Foreign Film, Holiday, Netflix, Norway, Screenwriting, Snack, Spices, WWII | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

World Advent : Day 20

sapphires-poster The Film: The Sapphires – Australia

There has been a lot of talk in the last few years as films have been pulling more and more from preexisting sources including headlines and history, about creative license when it comes to films based on real events.

Most of the sources I’ve heard from Hollywood say the history cannot stand on its own, that entertainment cannot sustain accurate depictions of events.

I understand there is a difference between a fictionalization and documentary but forcing changes to the actual account to meet the same mandated story-beats which occur in every mainstream film essentially eliminates all variants that made the story unique and worth telling in the first place.

Laurel Robinson, Beverly Briggs, Naomi Mayers, and Lois Peeler were a all-female Australian aboriginal singing group. In the movie the women are represented by characters named Cynthia, Gail, Julie and Kay.

Co-writer Tony Briggs’ mother, Laurel Robinson and his aunt Lois Peeler, were two of the original Sapphires members to perform in Vietnam. But their story is not told with anything but a kernel of reality. Briggs said he “found it liberating as a writer to expand the number of characters” as it made the dynamics of the story richer — which sounds to me like he didn’t know how to write about the interior workings of female characters in the time period.

What he did co-write with Keith Thompson is a story about an Irish guy failing at life who becomes teaches an all-female Australian aboriginal singing group soul music and becomes their manager. The true story is that Robinson and Peeler were introduced to soul music in Vietnam when they sang backing vocals for a New Zealand Maori band they had previously performed with in Melbourne. Now that’s interesting!

The original play by Tony Briggs that the film is based on is set at the time of increasing calls for Aboriginal rights and before the credits roll it says each of the singers worked and made pathways for those rights. I don’t think the story needed to be a different genre to have dealt with the topic in a more satisfying way. Now, perhaps what the film was communicating is that the struggle for racial equality in America really did have an impact on Aboriginals in Australia — but it certainly felt more like the writer’s musings than a deep cultural connection.

And therein lies the problem. It’s not the unique story it should be. Although Tony Briggs is very much responsible for the content — the distinct cultural perspective just wasn’t there. It felt too much like That Thing You Do!

Somewhere in the process this story decided to speak to a Western audience. Struggles must be surmountable, love must overcome all impediments, and characters should express themselves with a knowledge beyond their moment in history so anything to be learned can be masticated for you. Director Wayne Blair doesn’t offer much in the way of subtly which is my subtly way of saying he doesn’t offer any. The film tells you exactly how to feel each moment and emotionally, the notes are singular. There isn’t much satisfaction to be had here in terms of telling the story of actual Sapphires.

Compare this film to another Australian story like The Dish. There are very mainstream moments in the film which is based on true events, uses fictional characters, and alters historical details for dramatic effect but it has something very unique to offer. The distinction between the films lies not only in a cultural presentation but in the style of filmmaking and promotion. The Sapphires has been presented as being a real story whereas The Dish has a cheeky way of acknowledging it is a fictitious perspective on actual events.

The most interesting part of The Sapphires is the love story — and it’s completely fictitious. I mean completely. The manager played by the lovable Chris O’Dowd never existed but his relationship with Gail, played wonderfully by Deborah Mailman, makes this film watchable and I’ll tell you why.

There are two reasons which interlock to the point where you cannot have one without the other. The first is O’Dowd and Mailman have chemistry. It’s clear from their first scene and the fierce cuteness of their relationship just keeps growing. But more importantly — it’s so wonderful to see a woman of a different body shape with a strong, rough, personality be the romantic lead. And for the guy to be attracted to her because of that rough strength. In this, the writers and director have managed to shove aside some average romance tropes and reflect reality.

To my opening paragraph: There are problems with presenting history as entertainment and most of the time the reason the deviation from reality becomes so liberating is that you’re telling your own story. We would all be better off if filmmakers decided that instead of modifying history to meet certain tropes of entertainment they had the freedom to create original and diverse narratives.

If you can lower your expectations and simply enjoy a small film that doesn’t require much to watch and rewards with a few really good moments, grab a snack and get watching.

The Food: Lamington Popcorn

100B7240A lamington is a dessert of Australian origin. It consists of squares of sponge cake coated first in a layer of traditionally chocolate icing, then in desiccated coconut.

It was named after Lord Lamington who served as Governor of Queensland and are often sold as fund raisers for youth groups. Apparently they’re also popular in Cleveland, Ohio.

From what I can tell they’re supposed to taste of cake and frosting with just the coconut flake on the outside so I resisted putting coconut powder in the chocolate. If you so desire you may be a rebel and add the extra layer of coconut.

Also, I chose not to create a sticky base and bake this recipe into a crunchy popcorn. I felt like the texture and warmth would be more similar to the taste of the moist cake and I wanted the clarity of the two main ingredients to shine instead of the additional candy taste of a coating.

I think it turned out wonderfully although it may require a spoon to eat.

  • 1/4 cup corn kernels
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened coconut
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Make the popcorn according to your favorite method. Remove the unpopped kernels and place the popcorn in a metal bowl.

On medium heat put the chocolate in the pan to melt. When it does, add the butter and stir with a heat-resistant rubber spatula. When the butter is incorporated add the vanilla and stir. Pour the chocolate over the popcorn and add the coconut, mix together and enjoy!

Posted in Australia, Christmas, Comedy, Film, Film Genre, Food, Holiday, Independent, International Cinema, Netflix, Romance, Snack | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

World Advent : Day 19

The Film: 千と千尋の神隠し [Spirited Away] – Japan

Spirited AwayI had heard of the works of Hayao Miyazaki and seen bits here and there, but watching this  movie years ago was my first full experience. I watched the whole movie, internally on the edge of my seat. The story felt familiar, playing like an old fairy tale or legend that has become an accepted part of culture, but both the beautiful animation and the deeply emotional narrative went to fresh places.

From Wikipedia: A sullen ten-year-old girl who, while moving to a new neighborhood, enters the spirit world. After her parents are transformed into pigs by the witch Yubaba (Natsuki), Chihiro takes a job working in Yubaba’s bathhouse to find a way to free herself and her parents and return to the human world. Miyazaki wrote the script after he decided the film would be based on his friend’s ten-year-old daughter, who came to visit his house each summer.

The world, or rather other world, of this film is unbelievably bewitching. The story is so well crafted by Miyazaki’s emotional intelligence and it’s magic so grounded in the reality of the fantasy that it reminds me very much of reading The Chronicles of Narnia. Both authors seem th have a similar understand of the way a child’s mind works and manage to tell a great story for children and adults by never talking down to the audience.

The details in the animation are so intricate that the smells and tastes of the world come through the screen. The textures and light are pleasingly cinematic but the plot and technique go hand in hand. There is comedy and adventure, love, and loyalty — there are also elements of the macabre but it doesn’t turn into grotesque — there is an Alice in Wonderland tone to the fantasy. There are also some overlapping themes but this film breaks fantastic new ground.

The amazing animation is such a fertile visual environment that you will find yourself drawn in, even if you are not well versed in animation. Be warned however, you’re not in for princesses with evil step-parents and sassy talking horses. What makes it so interesting is that it is far from the typical animation.

If you’re a fan of animation, Miyazaki films, or even if you’re new to the genre — Spirited Away is fantastic entertainment with an emotionally savvy core to share and enjoy!

The Food: Soy Sauce & Butter Popcorn

Soysauce & Butter PopcornAfter yesterday’s sweet goodness I was looking for a savory popcorn without the use of any sugar.

If you’re looking for a hard popcorn this isn’t the recipe for you. I would suggest making this from the more robust kettle corn, with it’s crunchy shell, and some combination of powdered butter and soy sauce.

I’m sure there are many ingredients I could turn to that are more interesting but I happen to absolutely love the soy sauce I have. Until I found this one I always thought soy sauce tasted only of salt water. But this sauce has a delicious and complex taste I find myself tasting extra drops whenever I whip it out. If you like your popcorn warm and full-bodied, try this fantastic combination.

  • 1/4 cup corn kernels
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter or reduced salt margarine
  • 1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

Cook the popcorn according to your favorite method. Remove the unpopped kernels and place the popcorn in a metal mixing bowl.

Put the butter, soy sauce, pepper, onion, and optional pepper flakes in a sauce pan on medium heat and cook for 5 minutes. The sauce should be a little caramelized from the soy sauce.

Now here comes a very specific step: I read in some other recipes that if you try to pour the sauce over the popcorn it will turn into mush. It will happen, trust me. The sauce is hot and is too liquidy to stick to the popped corn. What you do is take a high temperature rubber scraper and gather some of the sauce on in, then stir the popcorn with the scraper.

Frito Lay, Mike Soy Sauce & Butter Popcorn

As the sauce cools you will be able to drizzle it from the scraper into the bowl without fully saturating the pieces. The point is to get droplets into the bowl, not a giant stream of hotness.

Continue stirring until the popcorn is evenly coated. Serve immediately.

It may be possible to bake the flavor into the popcorn by putting the oven on a low setting so that the moisture is removed. I was not patient enough to try and I happen to enjoy the warm, soft taste where the flavors bloom as you eat.

Apparently this is a popular flavor combination in Japan. If you’re looking for something a little more complex I suggest adding rice seasoning mixes, almonds, candied citrus peel, crushed fried onions, wasabi peas, sesame and honey, or include hot mustard in the sauce.

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