Jackie Brown (Quentin Tarantino – 1997) A-

I went back and re-watched this one. I had not seen it since it came out probably. Everyone and their mother are making lists of and ordering QT movies from most to least favorite. It’s like the ultimate compliment to anyone’s work, you compare them to themselves. All his films range from good to excellent so the rankings are really a compliment…but if you had to order them. Many critics seem to think this one is both underrated and possibly Tarantino’s best movie. Huh? well I agree with the first sentiment. It is an excellent underrated movie, but not his best IMHO. It is a tight thriller, expertly made with multiple points of view for various sequences and it involves -from beginning to end- a smart heist of sorts. It’s almost like a French heist movie mixed with a Marlow noir flick. On top of all that we get very good performances from Pam Grier, Sam Jackson and a very cool Robert Forster.

So, what would my Quentin Tarantino ranking look like? Well, here goes (for today at least)

  1. Inglourious Basterds
  2. Pulp Fiction
  3. Once Upon a Time…In Hollywood
  4. The Hateful Eight
  5. Kill Bill
  6. Jackie Brown
  7. Reservoir Dogs
  8. Django: Unchained
  9. Death Proof
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Won’t You be My Neighbor? (Morgan Neville – 2018) B+

I did not grow up with Mr. Rogers on my TV, yet I’m glad that he was part of this world and a part of millions of childhoods. He was a legitimately sweet and decent human being who made this world a better place. This documentary illustrates that very well. A story with no major drama, no weird scandals or long battles with addiction. Yet, still very interesting.

The Skin I Live In (Pedro Almodovar – 2011) A-

It’s been a while since I’ve seen an Almodovar movie. Glad I caught this one recently. It straddles the line between horror, beauty, comedy and sexuality. It’s constructed like a mystery as we meet the seemingly captive Vera (Elena Anaya) in the big mansion owned by the brilliant doctor Ledgard (Antonio Banderas). She is very pretty, wears a full body suit for some reason and as far as we can tell she cannot leave her room. He is a genius who apparently can apparently transplant skin that he invented. We get some distractions with the science of it for a bit but that does not matter. The movie moves back and forth in time as we learn how we got to this point. It is a fascinating and shocking story marked by Almodovar’s eccentricities and excess.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (Edgar wright – 2010) B

Heard a lot about this one and finally caught up with it. Probably one the best video game movies (maybe the only good video game movie?) that is not based on a video game, but rather on a graphic novel. Scott Pilgrim has to defeat all of his girlfriend’s ex boyfriends in a series of creative explosive and fantastical battles. A lot of fun this one.

Don’t look Now (Nicolas Roeg – 1973) B+

It’s a jarring movie. A mix of horror, surreal drama, a meditation on grief and a whole lot of dread running through it all. Edited in a very interesting way with sharp cuts and turns. I cannot say I loved this movie but it does work for me. I like this type of horror that keeps the tension high and you never quiet can tell what it going on. The setting in Venice in the 70s is quiet interesting too and can be a character onto itself. Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie (the Baxters) both deliver excellent performances as the couple who are grieving the loss of their daughter. In Venice, he is an architect working on restoring an old historic church. They seem to be doing ok, very much in love and trying to recover. Then she meets two British ladies one of whom is blind and claims that she can commune with the dead daughter. He naturally scoffs at this and she wants to try and connect with her daughter, at the same time there are a series of murders in the city. A strange person appears to be wearing the same clothes as the dead daughter seems to come and go in front of the Baxters. An old photo from the inside of the church also has the same person wearing a red coat, that blood red coat. All of that adds up to a very tight and gripping thriller.

A Salad of Radicchio, Lardons, Green Goddess Dressing and 6-Minute Egg

Radicchio Salad

I crave this salad so much. Finally I managed to replicate it at home. Let me back out a bit. I travel a bit for my work and a few years ago I had a project in Portland, Oregon. A lovely city with amazing food scene and tons of restaurants. One of my regular places was a place called Tasty and Alder. I loved sitting at the bar, getting a cocktail or beer and try something new. I almost always ordered their Radicchio salad. It’s a delightful combination of flavors and textures that I never got tired of. When i figured out that the guys from the Tasty restaurants have a book out, I immediately got a copy.

This puppy is definitely inspired by the classic French bistro salad of chicory and thick bacon pieces (Frisee au lardons). Yet, it is very different. It takes the bitter green and uses red radicchio instead, switches the dressing from a vinaigrette to a rich green goddess dressing and adds some grated Manchego for more salty savory punch. With chunks of soft cooked eggs it is damn near perfection in my book.

Green Goddess

Green goddess dressing is an emulsified dressing that is rich and pungent with herbs. This one is based on a whole raw egg, a couple of hard-cooked egg yolks, avocados, vinegar, green onions and tarragon. These get blended well. Then, as if making a mayonnaise, oil (canola in this case) is added slowly until the whole thing is a creamy thick luxurious sauce. The recipe in the book, Hello! My Name is Tasty makes more than I would need for one or two salad bowls. Good thing too. I used it for all kinds of stuff over the next few days. It’s delicious as a dip for raw vegetables, mixed into a chicken salad instead of mayo or as a sandwich spread.

Egg-Dressing-Lardons

I always have homemade bacon on in the freezer. If you do not, a good quality store-bought thick cut smoked bacon would work. For this one I actually used home-cured smoked pork jowl bacon.  I sliced it slightly thick, cut it into 1 inch pieces and slowly crisped it on the outside and kept it a bit chewy.

Soft cooked eggs are the best but peeling them always was a pain. That was until I learned the method of pricking a tiny hole in the “rounded” end of the egg before cooking it. I don’t much care what the science is (I think it has to do with the air pocket the egg has there or something) but this works pretty much all the time. I do not remember mangling an egg since I started doing that. It’s very easy. I use a thumbtack or small pin and gently poke a hole in the bottom rounded end of the egg and then gently drop it into simmering water. 6 minutes will give you nice soft-runny yolks, 8 minutes are more like a hard cooked yolks. These times are for large size eggs. Then chill the eggs in an ice bath and peel. For this salad, I cooked up 6-minute eggs.

Radicchio

Radicchio Salad3

To prepare the radicchio I cut it into bite size pieces. Then I soaked it in ice water for a bit. It helps it retain a lot of crispness and removes some of the bitterness. Still, it remains plenty sharp and bitter as it should be. So, if you do not like the taste of radicchio, this is not going to help much.

To serve it I tossed the leaves with some of the dressing, black pepper and added shredded Manchego cheese (I also tried it with Parmesan and that works great too). Towards the end of the tossing I added pieces of the tender eggs, the lardons and a handful of more cheese on top. This can make for a wonderful hearty side to steak or chop, but I enjoyed a large bowl as a dinner on its own and satisfied my craving. The rest of the book has a ton of amazing sounding recipe as well. I would love to dig into some more dishes.

Radicchio Salad2

Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino – 2019) A

I saw it once and really enjoyed it. It’s a layered film and stayed with me as I thought about those amazing characters of Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) and Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and the world of 1968/69 Los Angeles that the film is set in. Tarantino’s latest is even more than any of his other movies a film about films, about actors, his unabashed love for cinema but it is about more than that. At its heart is a very sweet friendship story between the actor Rick and his long time stunt double Cliff. These two guys are probably QT’s most well developed, multi dimensional and interesting male characters. Good thing too since the vast majority of this deliberate and quiet picture is us hanging out with them. Maybe a third of the running time is with Rick doing his work. Did I say this was a quiet and “slow” movie? Well, it is, somehow in a departure for QT. It’s possibly the least violent too. Really until the final 10 minutes or so this is a meticulous and character-driven drama. Then I went back and saw it again. Yes, this is a great picture, a mature and confident one.

The film is set in 1968 mostly…and some in 1969. Rick lives right next door to Sharon Tate (Margot Robbie) and her husband the director Roman Polanski right up on that very infamous Cielo Dr. Rick is a one time famous TV show star and still gets the occasional role but somehow he missed the movie stardom boat. We hang out with Tate too while Rick is busy on a TV pilot set and Cliff is running errands, fixing Rick’s aerial and giving rides to cute hippies to their weird ranch…She goes to see a movie, buys a book and seems like a really sweet person. The main reason most of us have heard of Sharon Tate is because of those grizzly Hollywood Hills murders but here she is allowed to be more than that. A fun loving person who is happy to be alive. Robbie, Pitt and DiCaprio all deliver excellent performances here.

There really is so much to unpack and talk about, so much that I loved, but I’ll stick to one more piece of praise. Damn does this film look great and sound great. The LA of the late sixties is meticulously recreated and so real. For the entire run we are living there with nothing out of place. The cars are right, the buildings and billboards and streets. They all feel lived in and tangible. Not sure how much CGI went into crafting this world but I really do not think much. Tarantino pays so much attention to the details and everything is lovingly created.

Once Upon a Time…might be set in the real world but the line of where fact ends and fiction begins is at times difficult to tell. I did not expect Tarantino to make a biopic, I did not want him to and he did not. This is a fairy tale.