Slacker (Richard Linklater – 1990) A

I finally got around to seeing Linklater’s breakthrough flick and liked it much more than I expected. The main characters here are the camera and the city of Austin as Linklater follows seemingly random strangers as they walk and talk around Austin. We are the fly on the wall as we listen in, walk with them a bit, they meet someone else and then we follow those and on and on. It’s very difficult to describe why it is good, probably the ease by which these people seem to exist and spew their dialogue or maybe it’s the ultimate voyeurism that this unique format provides. It’s an approach I love in this style of movie making that Linklater honed and perfected in future films like the “Before” trilogy.

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Enemy (Denis Villeneuve – 2013) A-

It’s a moody strange and captivating movie. Some parts make sense some parts are utterly insane. It’s one of those that get you going to the interwebs looking for “theories” and explanations. I read a few and some are very out there others make some sense and are in sync with the sense I could make out of it after seeing it a couple of times. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Adam, a university professor. He is dating a pretty blond and seems introverted and maybe depressed. One day he sees himself in a movie. He has a doppelganger who is a C-list actor. Naturally Adam gets curious and starts tracking him down. Well, he is also married to a pretty blond, and is expecting a baby soon. This guy though, who goes by Anthony, he is more assured, more outgoing. The two meet and they have much more in common than is reasonable for your run of the mill doppelganger. They soon become obsessed with each other. The film is drenched in yellow tones and seems to take place in a sparsely populated Toronto that looks very alien. I have not mentioned the sex club angle or the bizarre spider imagery that pops up leading up to one hell of a final shot that kind of turns everything upside down.

Ivan Ramen: Toasted Rye Noodles

Toasted Rye Noodles5

Noodles are just awesome. Italian spaghetti, Vietnamese bowl of Pho, a bowl of spicy Thai curried noodles…they are all awesome. A bowl of Japanese ramen is right up there in the culinary Pantheon of noodles. I’ve had a lot of the stuff and I’ve cooked it at home a few times. I have never made the ramen noodles from scratch though. I’ve always bought them.  This time I made the labor intensive and long recipe from Ivan Ramen, the book by Ivan Orkin (well, I did have to make a few concessions when some ingredients where pretty much impossible to find). The noodles are a major component of course and I decided to make them at home this time around.

Ivan uses an interesting and non-traditional mix of flours to make the noodles including rye and some cake flour. Rye is there for flavor and the cake flour for a more supple and tender texture. Before adding the rye I toasted it for about 4 minutes to add an extra layer of flavor. The traditional ramen noodle texture is kind of firm, springy and slippery. It also has a yellow tint (NOT from food coloring). We get that by adding a substance to tilt the mix to be more alkaline. Traditionally a product called Kansui is used. According to this site it’s a mixture of Sodium and Potassium Carbonate.

Toasted Rye Noodles

I did not use Kansui. Years ago, Harold McGee published an article in the NY Times about baking some baking soda to make it perform the same job as Kansui. From the article some cool scienc-y talk (I love Mr. McGee and everyone should have his book On Food and Cooking)

“Baking soda is sodium bicarbonate, which already includes one proton and so has a limited ability to take up more. But if you heat baking soda, its molecules react with one another to give off water and carbon dioxide and form solid sodium carbonate, which is proton-free.”

 In his book, Ivan also recommends using this technique. So, I baked some baking soda and added that to the mix.

Toasted Rye Noodles2

Toasted Rye Noodles3

The rest was pretty easy. The flours and liquid plus baked baking soda are mixed for a good bit, about 10 minutes, in the Kitchenaid mixer. Then the dough is allowed to rest and hydrate and soften for 30 minutes. I was concerned that the cake flour will make the noodles too difficult to handle. Indeed, I needed to pass the dough a few more times through the pasta machine’s thickest setting than normal. In the end it came together well and made nice, rye-speckled, alkaline-smelling (in a good way) sheets.

I cut them on the thinnest setting and spread them in a baking pan after tossing them well with corn starch. After our first dinner a few hours later, I stored the remaining noodles in the fridge, covered in plastic wrap, to see how they keep. Again, worked out pretty well. We ate ramen for a few days to follow and the noodles did not stick or turn too brittle. The noodles are delicious. They are slippery but maintained a nice toothsome texture and had a lovely flavor that stood out to all the savory richness of a bowl of ramen. I will be making them again but I might try the Momofuku version next to see how they compare.

Toasted Rye Noodles4

Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Christopher McQuarrie – 2018) A

It’s just amazing that the 6th entry in a movie franchise that is over 20 years old is so damn good. It might arguably be the best. MI really is the best action movie franchise. This one picks up -sort of- on the trail of the previous film (preposterous plot and all of course) and proceeds to one up it with set piece after set piece of just amazing action, chases and spectacular shots. We also get the full set of characters including Luther (Ving Rhames), Benjy (Simon Pegg) and Ilsa Faust (Rebecca Ferguson). I love them all. Cruise is a real action star and he delivers over and over again. Not sure if his on-foot full speed chase is my favorite or his insane high altitude sky dive or maybe the nutty helicopter chase scene …oh hell, I have to watch it again to decide.

Ant-Man and The Wasp (Peyton Reed – 2018) C+

It’s fine, perfectly fine. Rehashes some of the first movie’s tropes but improves others. Evangeline Lilly (Wasp) is given much more room to breath here. It does get a huge knock for weak villain and a side story with some “other villain” (Walton Goggins who I really love usually) that felt shoehorned in and added nothing to anything.