Into the Wild (Sean Penn – 2007) A-

I enjoyed this film quiet a bit. `I sympathized and could relate a bit to Chris McCandless, the subject of this movie. It stayed with me even if his actions were very extreme in abandoning all that he has on life after graduating from Emory and setting off on a nomadic life of sort hitchhiking, doing various jobs, and making his way to Alaska. It did not end well for him due to a mistake he made foraging in Alaska and possibly some miscalculation. Yet, what we see on the screen by and large is a young man who traveled the country, met interesting people and did not ask for much. Beyond the philosophical or social points of view though, this is a beautiful movie. It looks great and is very well made. Emile Hirsch delivers an excellent performance and exudes passion and love for life throughout (I had to rewind a scene where he is basically eating an apple!). I quiet liked how Sean Penn who directed and wrote this chose to tell the story of McCandless starting from the point of him getting to Alaska and then flashbacks of his sister, parents, privileged upbringing and the long road that got him here.

Judas and The Black Messiah (Shaka King – 2021) B+

Very well-made film about the Black Panther’s Chairman Fred Hampton and the FBI informant Bill O’Neil who played a key part in his assassination. Daniel Kaluuya delivers and amazing performance as Hampton and the movie plays like a thriller with excellent pace. It is good to learn a bit more about the Panthers as a whole. They were not as one dimensional as most portrayals of them in movies seem to show. It is also terrible of how Hampton was literally hunted by the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover and how O’Neill -who was 17 at the time- was used/coerced to help.

Tenet (Christopher Nolan – 2020) A-

I saw this a few weeks back and will definitely be watching again, ideally in an IMAX theatre once and if that ever becomes possible. It is probably the most challenging Nolan film. It’s convoluted, ambitious and maybe it makes no sense yet I enjoyed it a lot. He takes his fascination with playing with timelines and perspective to a whole new level here. We have seen this thread before starting from his first movie Following through The Prestige and Inception. Even what should’ve been a straightforward war story in Dunkirk had some odd timelines and story telling. All that is to say that this Nolan dialed up to 11 and it will not work for everyone. It worked for me.

The Dig (Simon Stone – 2021) A

A perfect sweet little British movie about digging in someone’s backyard for a buried treasure right around the start of World War I. It’s a story about doing something and doing it well since there is so much more to digging an ancient artifact besides just…digging. I loved the beautiful cinematography, nuanced subtle performances all around and solid restrained direction that eschews overdramatization or splash. We will be checking out the Sutton Hoo exhibit if we ever make it back to London.

Confit de Porc

Confit has to be one of the most reward to effort ratio meat preparations that exist. Salt and season, cook gently in fat, store, reheat and eat. That’s it. In these cooler months it is a comforting, relaxing and delicious preparation.

No, there is not that much more to it. Pork confit is what I am posting about here using pork shoulder and it is a classic one as is duck and goose that are key for a proper Cassoulet. Chicken, turkey legs or any tough meat can also be prepared in a pretty similar fashion.

I started the confit a day or two before I planned to cook it by getting the salt and spice mixture on the meat. The main element to pay attention to here is the salt. I use 1.5% of the weight of the meat in salt. The spices and other flavorings can be varied and changed up as needed and I never weigh them. I usually stick with classic flavorings like I did here with garlic, bay leaves, thyme, parsley, shallots, black pepper and juniper. I use a similar combination for duck confit. This process and recipe is adapted from Paula Wolfert’s classic “The Cooking of Southwest France“.

To get a good extraction of flavor, I use my mortar and pestle to pulverize the salt and spices. The meat gets coated with this tasty paste and rests in the fridge for 24-48 hours. After the curing time I put the meat in a heavy pot where the meat fits snuggly in and covered it with lard along with a head of garlic cut in half and stuck with whole cloves and a few bay leaves. I start the cooking on the stove top to get it going and then the meat cooks in a low oven (about 200 F) for hours until very tender and then allowed to rest until fully cooled in the fat. Traditionally the confit is stored in that fat that preserves it. I rarely do that. At times when I cook the confit sous vide (I usually do that with duck confit) I only use a couple of tablespoons of fat per bag and freeze the confit in the bags until ready to use.

When the meat is cooled I removed it from the fat and stored it in the fridge. A couple of byproducts of the process is a very flavorful lard and a pork jelly/jus which is an awesome concentrated flavor boost to any stew or meat sauce. Now, what to do with the confit? Another classic French preparation is to make rillettes. To do this, I very finely minced some of the meat and packed it in small ramekins with a layer of fat on top. Delicious on top of toasted bread with a smear of mustard and fig mostarda.

It is delicious on it’s own as the main component of a dish as well. In this case I roasted a winter squash and pureed the flesh with butter. I crisped up the pork chunks on all sides and glazed them with a few spoons of the confit jus. To serve, I topped the squash with the pork, added a handful of bread pieces that I had crisped up in oil for texture and a few slices of pickled plums for a much needed acidity.

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (Cathy Yan – 2020) B+

Harley Quinn is apparently dumped by the Joker and she’s fair game to all those who hold a grudge against her. That’s the premise of this good entry in the DC universe. Margot Robbie carries a lot of this film as Harley Quinn. Good supporting cast as well with Rosie Perez and Mary Elizabeth Winstead. It’s a movie that works because it keeps the story simple and definitely does not take itself too seriously.

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