Shattered Glass (Billy Ray – 2003) B+

I so disliked Hayden Christensen as Anakin Skywalker. Everytime he was on screen he seemed like he was ‘acting’. He had no charisma, screen presence and authenticity. Well in Shattered Glass, a film about the real Stephen Glass who fabricated news stories for The New Republic, these characteristics seem to be just what the doctor ordered. All supporting characters are very well cast too, especially Saarsgard and Sevigny.

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The General (John Boorman – 1998) A

What a likable character this General is. Even when he is nailing an underling’s palms to a pool table you cannot help but like his bearish eccentricity.

The Illusionist (Neil Burger – 2006) B+

Even Jessica Biel actually delivers a good performance here. I am usually weary whenever she is in the cast, cute but usually a dud when it comes to acting. Norton and the always brilliant Giamatti deliver fantastic performances as well. Add to that the spectacular photography and lighting and you have a very entertaining experience even though the plot is quite benign and predictable.

Lady in The Water (M. Night Shyamalan – 2006) D-

Not sure why I think this is better than his last movie, the utterly dumb The Village. This one is pretty bad too. Confusing, patched together and absolutly rediculous. Even though it opens with a very good shot of Paul Giamatti killing bugs and has a very interesting character played by Bob Balaban, this is still and utter piece of crap.

The Sea Inside (Alejandro Amenabar – 2004) A-

Two things at least deserve praise here. One, the expected part, Javier Bardem’s stellar performance. Two, a total surprise, is the cinematography. This film had way more beautiful scenes than it needed. Some of these, like the flying sequence, were so unexpectedly exhilarating in a film with basically a very grim plot.

Lebanon 2007: Sweets

 I am really not going to do the sweets you can find in Lebanon any justice here. As far as I am concerned (and a few million others in the region might agree), the place called Abdul Rahman Hallab & Sons (a.k.a The Sweet Palace)in Tripoli, North Lebanon, is the best middle eastern pastry maker in the world. This place is simply unrivaled in terms of freshness, artistry and taste. I never think of driving through Tripoli without a stop here. Unfortunately, my useless brain managed to forget the camera when I did stop on this visit and the chance of taking photos of the place is lost till next time. So, here is the consolation prize. My grandmother on her way to Beirut stopped there and picked up a couple of trays of delicacies. Glad she did!!

Znood

Znood2 

 These here are ‘Znood El Sit’, meaning ‘The Lady’s Arm’. You’ll find many Arabic desserts named after women’s anatomy. I guess, they are more attractive than saying ‘Big Burly Guy’s Arms’. Anyways, these particular ones here are delicious for only a few hours after they are made. They are filo dough, brushed in butter, filled with cream, deep fried and soaked in syrup!! They are absolutely addictive when fresh.

Mshakal

Mshakal2

 These 2 pictures above are of the usual ‘Mshakal’ (Combination) tray you get from Hallab. This one travels very well, and I made sure to bring a couple of pounds with me. All I have to do is let them know that I need them packed for travel and they’ll give me individually wrapped pieces in a strong cardboard box.

 The following pictures are from another well known sweet shop called Sea Sweet. There are a few of them around the country, mainly in and around Beirut. Sea Sweet makes very good western style pastries and candies in addition to their -mediocre- middle eastern stuff. They do make excellent ice cream though.

 SeaSweet

SeaSweet2

 SeaSweet3