The Film: Nueve reinas [Nine Queens] – Argentina
If you love the original — great, maybe the remake will have something to add. Oh, it doesn’t? Good thing you watched the original first. Alternatively, maybe you hated the original. Good thing you watched the remake and found something you liked. Of course, there is a third option. But it’s so rare.
If foreign film cinephiles had a sacred experience — this would be it: liking both versions. There, I said it. Some people don’t believe it’s possible but my personal experience says it is, with the caveat that we all know we secretly love one just slightly more than the other.
Is all this leading to the discovery of a third option? Nope. This seems to be more like the fourth option: the mixed bag.
Nine Queens is an Argentinian con film and like all con films — the less you know the better. Which is exactly why my experience was runied by having watched the American remake first. When a film is based on subversion, which all con films are, it’s often hard to evaluate the film when you know the trick.
I never had the moment of even questioning how the events would unfold. There was something that just didn’t sell for me. I kept waiting for a twist to the twist I could see was there so the film would be smarter than I was and I would be able to look back and enjoy it. But then the end came and there was no further layer, no real complexity.
I remember a similar issue with the film Confidence, there weren’t enough players to hide the trick. Con movies are like magicians. If you see how it’s done, you just can’t pretend it’s magic. The funny thing is I never believed enough in the con in the remake either. In that way, maybe Criminal really is good. It’s just only as good as its source material.
Serious spoilers ahead. It reminded me a lot of Matchstick Men. Con against con. Both relatively simple cons. In some ways I like those movies more than other forms as the targets are even less sympathetic — but they’re also the films that prevent my suspension of disbelief so early that the puzzle is rarely interesting so it falls to the secondary plot of relationships. Matchstick Men succeed in presenting the relationships as the primary which is why it had an additional layer to process and potentially enjoy. I think this is really what was missing from Nine Queens. An added layer of relationship, of stakes to care about, would have drawn attention away from the con.
That said, there are some great things in Nine Queens. Ricardo Darín is amazing. My introduction to his work, The Secret In Their Eyes, is probably why I picked this film up and watched it to the end. His performance is so natural it doesn’t seem like he’s acting — that’s the greatest trick in the movie.
The Food: Chimichurri Popcorn
It’s pity there are only a few words that come to mind when I think of Argentina. Tango, gaucho, dulce de leche and beef. There are recipes for de leche popcorn but I was looking for something savory, something different. I was seriously contemplating how to make beef popcorn when I realized I could use the spices in a steak rub. Chimichurri. Of course!
Chimichurri is a sauce used for grilled meat but you can make it as a dry rub or spice mix to add to oil, vinegar, and lemon juice. The key ingredients are parsley, oregano, garlic, olive oil, and vinegar. But there are a few additional options I decided to include. My sister told me her vegetarian friends loved Old Bay seasoning, which they had never had before, because it’s mostly used for fish. It does taste amazing on popcorn so I added bay leaf. I thought the paprika would be a nice addition not just for color but added depth. Feel free to add hot pepper flakes, lemon zest, coriander, basil, or cumin.
For the fresh sauce taste:
- 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
- ¼ cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
- 1 tabespoon finely minced onion
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- 2 teaspoon powdered garlic
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ red wine vinegar
Mix together in a small bowl. Use your favorite method to pop 1/2 cup corn kernels. In a large bowl slowly toss the chimichurri sauce into the popcorn to evenly coat. Spread out onto a baking sheet and let cool.
- 1/2 cup popcorn kernels
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon dried paprika
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon dried parsley
- 1 tablespoon dried onion flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon bay laurel powder
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons vinegar
Set the oven to 300°. Mix the dried ingredients together in a small bowl. Place a pan on low and add olive oil and vinegar. Use your favorite method to pop 1/2 cup corn kernels.
When the oil and vinegar is warmed, add the dried ingredients to the mixture. Slowly drizzle sauce over popcorn, mixing to coat. Spread out onto an empty baking sheet. Bake for 5-10 minutes, until dry. Remove and eat!
That warm olive oil taste is really unbeatable.