The little plate of digital evil

This weekend has NOT been good for ye olde diet.

First, M+LK invite us over to their place for dinner, and it turns into the predictable feast: a huge charcuterie board, then grilled pork chops (finished with flaming bourbon), a (surprisingly?) delicious cabbage dish with pancetta, a butternut squash galette, and roasted veggies. Then a tray of desserts so ridiculous it beggared belief. Plus, a seemingly-endless supply of terrific wine, including a Thirty Bench 2010 Benchmark red.

In other news, my hand is scratched all to shit from playing with their kitties, Sam & Dean.

Today we welcomed Jenna (aka Nellie Jr) and a friend over for brunch. Nellie made Caesars and mimosas and cinnamon buttermilk pancakes and breakfast sausage and I needed a serious nap. I woke up just in time to see Josh Donaldson hit a walk-off home run.

Right now Nellie’s grilling up some steaks while a bottle of Two Sisters red warms up in the decanter.

The scale tomorrow will not be my friend.

Cover photo from the TIFF site


Our planned TIFF schedule wrapped up last weekend (except Nellie’s Norman Reedus expedition), but for the second year in a row we found ourselves invited to a Gala, just to supplement things. Last night T-Bone filled in for Nellie, who was destroyed with a summer cold.

The film in question was Stonewall (imdb | rotten tomatoes | tiff) and…oh boy. I went into this with some dread about what Roland Emmerich would do to such an important story, but tried to keep an open mind. Unfortunately, Roland Emmerich went ahead and made this into a Roland Emmerich film. I mean, there were no aliens or monsters or impending doomsdays, but he chose to present an inherently dramatic situation, and an absolutely pivotal moment in the history of the LGBT rights movement, as a 20-minute episode wrapped in a two-hour clichéfest. There were at least two scenes which should have been emotional or powerful, but were so hackneyed and stilted that the audience — a very friendly one, by the way — laughed out loud at the clumsiness.

The film was almost saved by full-on performances from Jonny Beauchamp and (in a smaller role) Vladimir Alexis, and the evening itself was saved by pre-film drinks with good company, but…man. Roland Emmerich.

Cover photo from the TIFF site

#TIFF15: Film 5

Late (and late) on Sunday night we saw High-Rise (imdb | rotten tomatoes | tiff | av club) at the Visa Screening Room. Despite being quite close to the front of line, we had our worst seats ever. In our long history of going to that theatre we’ve never once had to sit in the balcony, let alone the upper balcony. I think the joint was full of media and industry people before we even walked in. Anyway.

I hadn’t paid attention to who the director was when picking this one — it sounded interesting, and Nellie was on board because The Hiddleston — so when Cameron Bailey introduced Ben Wheatley, we were excited. We saw Sightseers at the festival three year ago and loved it. Wheatley introduced most of his principal cast — Tom Hiddleston, Elisabeth Moss, Jeremy Irons, Luke Evans — before getting down to business.

Unlike many in the audience that night, neither of us had read the J.G. Ballard book on which the film was based, so we had no idea what we were in for. It was showy, to be sure…completely over the top while still clinging to a bit of staid, boring civility. So, the 70s, basically. The actors all did excellent work, but it seemed to veer from deep layers of style and eyebrow-cocking dialogue to utter anarchy in the span of a single scene.

I didn’t love it at first, but as I’ve let it sit I’ve appreciated it a bit more. But it’s not a movie I’d ever feel compelled to watch a second time. 6.5/10

And, with that, my TIFF was all but finished. Nellie had an extra screening tonight (because The Reedus) and we have a gala Friday, but to me the galas aren’t really a part of the festival, so…thanks, TIFF15. You were fun.


Cover photo from the TIFF site

Cover photo from the TIFF site

#TIFF15: Films 1-4

We’re seeing seven festival films this year, which makes it our most ambitious in several years. In 2008 (right after I finished the MBA) I did thirty films and Nellie did twenty. Since then we haven’t done more than five in a single year. This year we bought our customary 10-ticket package, plus single tickets for a screening later this week, and we’ve been invited to a Gala near the end of the festival.

We kicked things off in prototypical TIFF fashion: Michael Moore’s newest documentary Where To Invade Next (imdb | rotten tomatoes | tiff). We were the first audience to see it. No one even knew what it was about, and the teaser image they put in the programme book was deceiving. Rather than an anti-military polemic, this was a domestic-issues plea. Moore stuck around after the film (before the bidding war started) to answer questions, and talked about how the crew called this “Mike’s happy movie” since it presented near-Utopian solutions rather than just rail about problems. Maybe he’s softening in his old age, but he’s still awfully entertaining. 8/10

Our token Midnight Madness entry was a big miss. Baskin (imdb | rotten tomatoes | tiff) started off SO well…so creepy, so tense, so gripping…and then wasted it all on a ridiculous set piece in the final act. After the screening the director said he was heavily influenced by French new wave horror and old Italian horror cinema. This felt derivative of both. 4/10

With only a few hours’ sleep following our Midnight Madness miss, we got up Saturday morning to see Sicario (imdb | rotten tomatoes | tiff), Denis Villeneuve’s latest. This had the most star power of any film we’ll see this year, and is already scheduled for a broad release in a month or so. Still, it was worth it: this was a better version of a straight procedural (written by Taylor Sheridan, who I mostly remember from playing small parts on Sons Of Anarchy and Veronica Mars) and shot with such skill by Roger Deakins. It was engrossing from the very beginning — despite the man hacking up a lung one section over and the dude next to me whose phone kept flashing like an emergency beacon — and watching Benicio Del Toro evolve (devolve?) over the course of the film was masterful. 8/10

The Lobster (imdb | rotten tomatoes | tiff) was…weird. Basically, you start by accepting the premise that all single people must go to a hotel where you have 45 days to meet someone to pair off with, else you’re turned into an animal of your choice. Colin Farrell, playing a frumpy architect, chose the titular lobster. This is a darker, less symmetrical Wes Anderson film (the same dryness and absurd humour live here) which maybe went on a little too long. Part of the problem was that the movie stopped dead halfway through, and re-started 20 minutes prior to where it cut off, so we watched both the funniest part and the most awful part twice. Eventually they got it back on track, but I found it a little tough to put myself back in that world after the projector took me out of it. Oh, and the chick in front of us having a total fucking meltdown because, I don’t know, her friend was mean to her or she couldn’t find a parking spot or something. Still, Lobster: points for creativity. 7/10


Cover photo from the TIFF site

Cover photo by Jason Sweeney, used under Creative Commons license

“Please, tell me you are seeing this, too.”

In between all the nice weather this past weekend we decided to binge-watch a new show: Narcos (imdb | rotten tomatoes), another Netflix joint. It’s not an acting masterclass, but they told the story really well. I remember hearing Pablo Escobar’s name when I was young, but didn’t really absorb much detail about him beyond being a drug lord, so I was really hearing and seeing this fairly unbelievable story for the first time. That’s what made it so compelling. We killed it in three days.

On Monday we decided to watch the first episode of another new show which has just started airing here: Mr. Robot (imdb | rotten tomatoes). I was hooked in the first five minutes.


Cover photo by Jason Sweeney, used under Creative Commons license

A last northern wish

Eight years ago I missed the Rheostatics last run because I had shingles (don’t ask). I’d seen them live half a dozen times before, but I always regretted not being able to see them that one last time before they broke up.

Last night I got a second chance, in maybe the most Canadian way possible. The Rheos had re-formed, along with Kevin Hearne (and Hugh Marsh on violin) for a run of three shows at the Art Gallery of Ontario, on the 20th anniversary of Music Inspired By The Group Of Seven. That album had been commissioned by the National Gallery of Canada to accompany their retrospective on the Group Of Seven. So yes, I was watching a hyper-Canadian band play an album commissioned by the national Canadian art gallery about a century-old Canadian art collective. Peak. Canadian. We bumped into M2 and H2 and their friend, and drank (of course) a Collective Arts beer.

After we all filed inside the band walked out and played the first six songs, silently. Well, almost — just as the band was about to begin playing “Blue Hysteria” Martin quietly said, “OK fellas…”, and I can’t be sure if he was preparing them or himself. I know that by the end of the song I was pretty emotional.

Dave finally broke the silence as he introduced “Northern Wish”, which played — like the entire album — over Jennifer Baichwal and Nicholas de Pencier’s silent video and archival footage, projected onto the walls of the art gallery’s central court where we stood. They played the rest of the album, adding so much more texture and intensity to songs like “Biplanes and Bombs” and “Lightning” than comes through on the studio album, and keeping the banter to an austere minimum, matching the quiet beauty of the northern Canadian videos playing all around us. Finally, with “Yellow Days Under a Lemon Sun” they closed out the set, beautifully, wonderfully. They tried to say goodbye, like Winchell Price’s parting comments on the album itself, but we were having none of it.

They walked back onstage and played four songs: “Claire” (their biggest hit, which I’ve never particularly cared for, but was certainly happy to hear live one more time), one from their kids album The Story Of Harmelodia (“It’s Easy To Be With You”, I think?), the best version of “Christopher” I’ve ever heard, and then an absolutely riotous take on “Horses” that ended with Martin and Dave collapsed in a mutual heap, and Dave’s signature pork pie hat flung to Don Kerr on the drum kit. I hoped it was the end. Don’t get me wrong: I’d have dearly loved to watch them play all night, but I can’t imagine a better way to go out than yelling “Holy Mackinaw Joe!” back at them over and over, before that song’s Ragnarok ending.

OK fellas. I’m good now. Thanks.

Bye bye.

Cover photo by katherine of chicago, used under Creative Commons license


Last night T-Bone and I finally managed to meet up for dinner, after about five months of planning and juggling schedules. We’d scoped out a few places, but eventually landed on rasa. I hadn’t heard of it, but of course trusted her judgment.

I arrived fifteen minutes early, and discovered that the place lacks both air conditioning and proper fan coverage. Oh, and it was 36 degrees. So I sat there in my own sweat for a while, only cooling after I downed a glass of cold Falanghina.

Once T-Bone arrived and we managed to stop talking for a few seconds, we ordered our shared plates for the night:

  • MINI MUFFINS, corn, cheddar, poblano, semolina, lime butter
  • SIDE STRIPE SHRIMP, chilled coconut, pineapple, thai basil, taro root
  • BACON & TOMATO, pork belly, tomatoes, buttermilk, baby gem, pimento cheese
    • CAPRESE, albacore tuna, bruschetta, basil, dehydrated olive, padano crisp
    • TARTARE, yellowfin tuna, yuzu chili aioli, apple slaw, ponzu glaze, taro chips
    • JERK TROUT, steelhead trout, cilantro crema, pineapple, jerk sauce, plantain
  • OCTOPUS, chorizo, ‘nduja puree, poblano salsa verde, peperonata, crispy lentils
  • WAGYU BEEF RIBS, corn puree, grilled corn, pomme frites, scotch bonnet sauce

Everything else was goddamn delicious. Honestly, there wasn’t a single mediocre dish. I mean, I always find beef ribs a tiny bit disappointing because they look SO BIG when they arrive but yield very little meat, but that’s my problem, not the ribs’. They were tender and delicious. The wine selection was better on the white side than the red, but we still made out just fine.

I’d definitely go back. Wearing shorts.


Cover photo by katherine of chicago, used under Creative Commons license