The Film: Shaun Of The Dead – England
Everything about this film defies the common expectation of a foreign film. Granted, there is generally a difference between foreign language and global film, but whatever reason someone has to avoid films that don’t come from Hollywood — this film will change their mind.
Before the zombie craze, Shaun Of The Dead took on a dead genre. Not only were there few modern successful zombie films at the time but they weren’t genre-mashing satires filled with British humour and staring essentially unknown actors.
First came Spaced, a TV series written by Jessica Stevenson and Simon Pegg, and directed by Edgar Wright which starred Stevenson and Pegg along with Nick Frost and a hoarde of other great UK actors. The humour never ran out on that brilliant show and three years after it ended came the first in the The Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, also known as the Blood and Ice Cream trilogy — Shaun of the Dead.
The smart writing is ahead of it’s audience at every turn. It’s quotable popcorn fun but each enjoyable moment is countered by proportionate dramatic moments about relationships. Pegg does this comedy to drama reversal better than anyone allowing you immerse yourself in the story.
As a black comedy it has a few dark moments, but it never lingers there too long. It’s also a romantic comedy, although if you’re looking for a cute story of true love, search somewhere else. Ultimately you will find the romance is a bromance, and cute isn’t in this movie’s vocabulary — which is why it’s so loveable.
The comedic timing and editing here are matched by the stylish, but restrained, directing. The greatest thing about Wright’s work is his ability to direct with an entertaining kinetic energy but maintain absolutely clarity. The camera is in such the right place it has a natural feeling, you don’t question the motivation of the lens. Yet it isn’t for lack of creativity or expression, it’s not unnoticeable because it’s uninteresting. Every shot is done so impeccably well, there’s nothing to pull your attention to it. That’s what I call perfect directing.
Shaun of the Dead doesn’t fit the general stereotype of a foreign film. It’s not black and white images intended to be a philosophical debate, a depressing drama, opulent period piece, story about nothing, or too ethnic — whatever that means.
It’s smart, it’s hilarious, and If you’re looking for zombies or bromance, this is your film.
Holiday Spirit: +4
The Food: Chinese Savory Beef
This recipe, from the More With Less Cookbook doesn’t fit any idea of what authentic Chinese cooking is. Ginger and soy sauce don’t make it Chinese.
But it’s one of my all-time favourites for a cozy meal at home. Try it, I know you’ll agree, whatever it’s origins — there’s nothing as easy and comforting.
- 2 pounds of beef, cut in bite-sized pieces.
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 slices of ginger or 3 teaspoons of ginger powder
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 2 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 3 cups water
In oil or using beef fat, fry the meat. I’ve often fried the fat trimmed from the meat in a little oil for the additional flavour, then removed it before adding the pieces meat.
Add and quickly fry the onion, garlic, and ginger. Add the sauce. Bring to a boil, turn heat down to simmer, cover and simmer for 3 hours more. Add more liquid as needed. Add other vegetables if desired 1/2 an hour before serving.
If you want a thicker sauce you can always add some cornstarch to either water or beef broth. Pour into the pan and heat to thicken.
This is an awesome meal in the winter. Serve it over rice or buckwheat noodles. It’s perfect for potluck dinners as it’s easily doubled or tripled and pairs deliciously with this superb cabbage salad.
Holiday Spirit: +4