Blue Jasmine (Woody Allen – 2013) A-

Cate Blanchet as Jasmine is fantastic in this tight drama. Jasmine fell from Park Avenue grace when her filthy rich crook husband got put in prison. She is forced to move in with her sister and her two kids into a small one bedroom apartment in San Fransisco. This is one of those movies that is tough to categorize or describe it’s “plot”. I love those. They force you to look at each character as a real person and consider their choices, motivations and dialogue. We have the sister, her ex-husband (really good performance by Andrew Dice Clay of all people!), her current possibly-loser boyfriend and Jasmine’s husband who we see in flashbacks.

Woody Allen tells the story in two parallel lines, mostly from Jasmine’s perspective. We have the “now” with her trying to “learn computers” so that she can get her interior designer degree online. We see her dispensing advise to her sister about the kind of man she needs to date. Meanwhile, she can barely maintain her sanity as she tries to catch a new husband. We also have her flashbacks as we learn about her previous life, her husband, their extravagant lifestyle and his many affairs. I recently criticized an older Allen movie for trying to do Bergman and the attempt coming off as just an imitation. Here I see characters and dialogue that remind me of Bergman as well. However, this is unmistakably Woody Allen’s film and not an imitation. It’s funny at times but really tragic as a whole. It’s the portrait of Jasmine fading as she hopelessly tries to hold on to her prior glory with alcohol, Xanax, stories and nice clothing.

Mom’s Cooking

Stuffed Chard

It’s been longer than I normally would like to wait before posting a food related item here. However, I do have an excuse. My mom was visiting from Lebanon. We were busy, had a good time and really enjoyed some fantastic Lebanese cooking from her. I do have a couple of posts that I will be putting up soon but wanted to put up this blurb to highlight some of her food.

Atayif

My mom enjoys her time in the kitchen. That’s very good for us as we enjoyed some of the dishes that I rarely make or if I do make them they never seem to come out as good as hers.

In an attempt to recreate some of them, I actually sat with her and took some notes about the recipes including her kibbeh with yogurt sauce, mujadarra, stuffed chard leaves (siliq) and even her very simple but damn delicious braised green beans with onions.

Fatayir Jibn (cheese pies)

Fatayir

Kibbeh done in three variations, fried, baked and simmered in yogurt (after frying)

kibbeh-3 ways

Siyadiyeh, the name vaguely translates as “fishermen’s fish”. This one has fried and flaked fish, spiced rice cooked in fish stock and the dish is topped with fried nuts and served with tahini sauce.

Siyadiyah

She also ventured into the sweet side of things and prepared a couple of her specialties. She made the Atayif (yeast-risen pancakes stuffed with cream) and the decadent Chocolate Cake with Whiskey.

chocolate whiskey cake

Slow West (John Maclean – 2015) A-

It took me a while to realize it and in hindsight that this is a tragic-comedy. A quirky oddball comedy set in the old west. At it’s center we have another great performance by Michael Fassbender who plays Silas, a bounty hunter helping a young fellow, Jay, find his fugitive girlfriend. On their heals is a band of outlaws meaning to capture the girlfriend (dead preferably) and collect the reward. The motives of Silas are not always clear and e is not a very scrupulous dude. This is in many ways a very traditional western. It’s bloody, rough, violent and cruel. On the other hand we have the character of Jay who seems to not belong. He is sweet, honest, kind and cannot shoot a gun.  There are lessons learned here and characters changing but the movie does not really end up how one might expect.

Another Woman (Woody Allen – 1988) B+

This feels like Woody Allen doing Ingmar Bergman. Allen did several movies that overtly mimic the Swedish director’s work whom he really admires. I do not think I’ve seen too many of those but I will focus on them soon. This one is the story of Marion, an author, who is writing a book but becomes entranced by a series of conversations she can over hear through the pipes of her old NY apartment. The conversations are those of a pregnant woman talking to her psychiatrist. These seem to cause her to examin her marriage, life choices and her future decisions. Typical of many of Allen’s movies from that time it focuses on relationships, love and fidelity. Ultimately it is not as solid as something like Hannah and Her Sisters but it is another good work by one of my favorite directors.