WASP Network (Olivier Assayas – 2020) B-

Good story about Cuban spies living and operating in Cuba to infiltrate the Cuban Castro resistance here. I had never heard of it. The actors do a great job and Assayas has not made a film I did not appreciate even if this one is not in the same tier as his others that I’ve seen recently.

Molly’s Game (Aaron Sorkin – 2017) B

She was an Olympic hopeful skier, had a freak accident and ended up running very high stakes poker games and eventually the target of the FBI. It is very good and solidly written and performed. There is one specific scene where Kevin Costner delivers a touching and and perfect monologue while sitting on a bench with Jessica Chastain who plays his daughter that I absolutely loved.

The Spirit of The Beehive (Victor Erice – 1973) A

This is a classic that I expected to be bigger and sprawling I think. I expected a rough and tough story about the war and the impact it has on rural Spain with Franco coming to power. What this turned out to be is a much more focused and delightful film told almost entirely from the perspective of a 10 year old girl, Ana, and her sister Isabel (I think she is maybe 13). It’s about war too, certainly, but war as in a far away concept from this remote village. One day the black and white classic film “Frankenstein” comes to their town and seeing that has a huge impact on them, especially Ana. That’s what this movie is about, the impact of movies. Ana sees the monster and it is real to her. She might even have one living in the old farmhouse that she passes on the way to school. We meet her parents but they barely speak much. Are the parents really that distant and silent? or is this the perspective of a 10 year old and how she sees adult? I am not sure. Movies like this rise and fall based on how believable a child’s performance can be. The two young actresses are very good and Erice uses them so well framing Ana’s face in shots that focus on her big eyes. They seem to see way more than the Castillian town where she lives, and instead the fantastical and surreal.

Blue Jay (Alex Lehmann – 2016 ) A-

Sometimes I see a movie and totally forget about it a day later. Other times, as it should with the good ones, it sticks. I saw this little black and white gem a while back and thought I already posted about it. I think about it off and on but somehow never did post here. It’s almost a play. 90 percent of it is us hanging out with the two leading characters played by Mark Duplass and Sarah Paulson. They were lovers when they were younger and they meet again in the small town where they both used to live when she is visiting. They hang out, talk, and of course the past with its good and bad comes back as if it was just yesterday. Duplass and Paulson are delightful and have excellent chemistry. One can rarely undo past decisions but for a day or so one can pretend.

 

Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley – 2018) A

Damn! This is out there. It’s not for everyone and that is totally fine. It’s a funny, tragic, horrific film set in the near-ish future. What happens when you take greed, desperation, race struggles and mix them all up with no real guardrails beyond money? A really terrible society it seems. This is like a bookend to the excellent Get Out and it goes places that I will not spoil.

The Daytrippers (Greg Mottola – 1996) A-

A simple handwritten letter from “Sandy” starts it all. Eliza (Hope Davis) is very happily married to Louis (Stanley Tucci) but on this morning after Thanksgiving she finds that latter on the floor. It could be nothing, it could mean a lot. Of course her mom (The late great Anne Meara) is immediately on the “he’s cheating” bandwagon. Eliza, her mom, dad, sister (Parker Posey) and her sister’s pretentious intellectual boyfriend (Liev Schreiber) pack into her dad’s station wagon and they are off to the city to clear the matter up with Louis. The film unfolds over that day trip in a series of conversations and confrontations and characters. It’s a favorite style of mine, this type of movie about very little and so much. It’s a classic.

Rolling Pasta By Hand – Tortelloni Burro E Oro

Making pasta by hand from start to finish, mixing the flour and eggs, rolling and rolling and then shaping and filling is really therapeutic. This is the old school way that Evan Funke in his book American Sfoglino (and his restaurant in Venice, CA) preaches. He apparently despises pasta machines and blames them for inferior pasta that lacks the proper texture and firmness.

Well, I am not throwing away my pasta machine anytime soon. I am a firm believer in convenience as much as I love good food. So, I leave the hand rolling of the sfoglia (that’s the pasta dough sheet) to those days when I want to take my mind off work and stress (lots of stress these days). Those days where I do not mind taking my time and stretching and rolling egg dough with a long wooden dowel until it is as thing as paper. Truth be told after doing this a few times now it barely takes much longer than dough rolled with the old Atlas pasta machine.

The dough is only eggs and flour gradually mixed together by hand. Initially the mass is ragged and had dry spots here and there. Then slowly with some cutting action from a dough scraper is starts becoming more homogeneous. After it rests for 15 minutes or so I divide it into 2 pieces and knead each one very well, then wrap in plastic and leave them alone for a couple hours. After that they are ready to roll.

I do not have a specialty cool artisanal matarelo (long rolling pin) but i do have a long round dowel that works pretty well. For a surface you really need a good wooden board. Something large that will accommodate the big sheet of pasta you are about to roll. The first time I tried this on just my granite counter top it definitely did not work too well. It either kept sticking or I had too much flour. So, I now use a large cutting board i have and it works great. It has the right texture and surface to roll and then cut the dough. It also fits a Negroni on it at the same time!

Funke has a good clear method for novice pasta rollers like myself. He basically directs us to roll the dough into a large circle and using an imaginary clock as a guide. Always roll at 10, 11, 12, 1 and 2:00 o’clock then turn the dough clockwise and roll….until it starts getting thin and can be rolled on the matarello and gently stretched, rotated and rolled again. The end result is a thin round sheet that you can almost see through it. He recommends different thicknesses depending on the final dish you are making but I do not find the directions of “As thick as 7 post-it notes” very helpful. So, I judge it by eye until I am happy with how thin it is.

Tortelloni2

When the pasta sheet is rolled it is ready to be shaped into whatever you want. Simplest form is to roll it over itself like a loose jelly roll and slice it into noodles like Pappardelle or Tagliatelle. This time around I went with a stuffed pasta and made a filling of ricotta, eggs and Parmesan cheese.

I used an accordion cutter to quickly make squares of the sfoglia and with a piping bag I put a dollop of filling in each square and shaped them into cool Tortelloni. For a sauce I served most of them with a simple tomato butter sauce. This is a ridiculously easy sauce I first heard about it from the late Marcella Hazan. An onion is gently simmered in pureed tomatoes with a good dose of butter. In the end the onion is removed and you have a wonderful Burro e Oro sauce. I also tossed some in browned butter and walnuts for variety. Both delicious but the butter tomato sauce is fantastic with the perfect pasta and the creamy filling especially after a good shower of Parmesan cheese.

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