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Peter the eater

Food Movies: The Topic

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Went to see 100 ft Journey. It's a food movie; what's not to like? The candied beet is gorgeous. It's a love story, on many levels; what's not to like? He ( chef) is gorgeous; what's not to like? Food breaks down biases and leads to mutual respect; what's not to like??

 

I thought, apart from the food scenes (which were very good indeed, except for the modernist garbage), that it was a dish of pablum best reserved for invalids.

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On 100ft Journey - I was waiting for it to be over. I love a sappy romance but this did not even hit Lifetime TV  movie channel heights. I was hungry in the few Indian cuisine scenes, but the haughty classical French and the lame fusion - nope. What surprised me was that the other two ladies I went with really liked it. One said "Oh my gosh I think I never really taste/experience my food. How cool". So it opened her eyes/stomach I think. 

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For those who use Netflix, First We Feast posted a list of the food movies that are currently streaming, including Kings of Pastry, a documentary about the Meilleur Ouvrier de France competition that I enjoyed recently.

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It may have been mentioned before, but the Indian movie, "The Lunchbox" is great.

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The first of the Godfather trilogy has a delicious moment when Clemenza tries to teach Michael, who's hiding out after shooting down a police captain in an Itallian restaurant, just how to make Italian spaghetti and meat balls. This kitchen scene is worthy of Julia Child at her best. Watching it certainly made my gustatory juices flow. There is a tenuous link in "real life" with the mob & gastronomy when the reputed mafia boss, Paul Castellano, was wacked by a team of shooters as he was about to enter one of New York's finest steak houses, "Sparks". I don't think that the Peter Luger Steakhouse - arguably New York's finest - ever saw anything quite like this on its doorstep. Phew!

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Watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi last week and indeed I dreamt of sushi that night! That was weird.

 

Tampopo is another good one and the ending of Big Night is classic. The gangster in Tampopo is meant to symbolize excess or gluttony vs appreciation or good taste.

 

A funny scene in the French mockumentary film Man Bites Dog has the serial killer angrily insisting on the out of season(?) moules and the waiter sincerely trying to discourage this choice. Scene cuts to the man helplessly puking into a bucket held by the film-crew... :raz:

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On Netflix, Spinning Plates was a good one, im not sure if that one was already mentioned.

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It's very British - in fact, very London, but "Life Is Sweet" is simultaneously funny and tragic and in places harrowing. Food dysfunction.

 

Some great British actors, including the terrific Timothy Spall


Edited by liuzhou (log)
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I went to see the movie Chef this summer and now I am obsessed with grilled sandwiches.

I really liked Chef too, a lot.  This thread is good to re-visit when looking for a film to watch, but it's pretty obvious that many of the films listed here aren't "food films" but just films that have a bit of food in them.

 

Chef is a real food film.  It's so much more subtle than Ratatouille, the language feels authentic.  Scenes like the father buying his son his first knife are really nice, but done in a very casual way - nothing like the in-your-face lecturing you get in Ratatouille.  And now that I have seen the film, I always butter the outside of my toasties!  The chef's rant about the chocolate lava cake had me giggling for ages.

 

Another film which hasn't been mentioned yet is "The five year engagement".  Like most of the other films mentioned, this is not a true "food film" like Babette's feast - but it does have a very authentic food related theme.  At the start of the film, one of the two main characters is an up & coming chef at a high-end, modernist restaurant.  When the couple move for his fiancé's career, he finds himself in a small town with no other options except to work jn a deli / sandwich shop.  The film itself was pretty average, almost boring, but I did enjoy the food-related scenes and could really sympathise with the chef character.


Edited by ChrisZ (log)

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19 hours ago, Wayne said:

 

My local library has this on order and I'm first in the queue.

 

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/city_of_gold_2016/

 

I'm not familiar with Jonathan Gold's writing however it is receiving very favourable reviews.

Anyone seen it?

 

 

 

I just watched this, thanks to your heads up.

 

Mr. Gold comes off as a not very likeable character. To start with, he has a face (and body) perfect for radio or writing. Then we see him in his home talking about what a procrastinator he is. This is filmed with him filling up his double-wide arm chair.

 

His sister/manager says how frustrating it is to work with him. In Jonathan's own words, he tells his sister he needs a "cattle prod" to finish the piece.

 

His brother (an environmentalist) is frustrated that M. Gold by his own words, "eats everything, I'm trying to save". Although, to Jonathan's credit, he did come down on the side that "finning" sharks for soup was a bad idea.

 

It helps draw the viewer in that the protagonist is an appreciator of art, music and books, and takes his research seriously. Apparently, he's a talented cello player, in both classical and punk rock. There is WAY too much hip hop dancing for my taste. 

 

There are too many segments of Mr. Gold driving in LA, In his own words, "the single most polluting vehicle" according to Consumer Reports. Some of these segments are teasers for food lovers, as he drives by with a shot of  the restaurant facade only, without a stop in for any food footage. Not endearing.

 

Some of the actual food footage is bereft of descriptions of any kind. There is footage of a Oaxacan restaurant with something that looks a little like a pizza made on what I think? might me a really giant flour tortilla, but we won't know from this video.

 

I also did not like the fact that so much time was devoted to the 1996 LA riots over Rodney King, but in the closing segment, where Jonathan Gold reads an essay he wrote you can see what the big deal over his writing is. His fawning fans eat this up.

 

It's more a movie about a Pulitzer Prize winner than it is about food, but devoted fans of Jonathan Gold will love it. There are a few good food segments as well. YMMV

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@Thanks for the Crepes

Thanks for that thoughtful review. It appears the film doesn't shy away from showing him 'warts and all'. I'll repost when I view my library's copy (it can take some time for an ordered item to arrive).

 

 

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@Wayne,

 

I would be interested to hear your impressions. I will say this, I had not heard of Jonathan Gold either, but now I'm very interested to read his writings. I think that may be where he shines.

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And here's another thread that was fun to participate in:

 

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On 10/18/2016 at 4:48 AM, Wayne said:

My local library has this on order and I'm first in the queue.

https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/city_of_gold_2016/

 

I'm not familiar with Jonathan Gold's writing however it is receiving very favourable reviews.

Anyone seen it?

 

I'm a long time fan of Jonathan Gold's writing.  As @Thanks for the Crepes would predict, I very much enjoyed the City of Gold documentary.  When I first heard the title, I sort of rolled my eyes, but after seeing the film, it's entirely appropriate as it's as much a documentary portrait of LA as it is of Mr. Gold.

Two little nuggets from the film that stood out to me were the comment from the woman who said that his use of the second person in his writing was unappreciated or undervalued (I can't remember her exact words).  I've certainly been aware of it and always felt that it gave his writing a relaxed, conversational style.  She pointed out something more - how it forms a bond between reader and writer.  I hadn't fully appreciated it but have since recognized it almost every time I read a review.  It's not that he writes every review as a personal letter, just that he has a very deft touch in the use of that tool.

The other nugget was from a commencement address he gave where he asked himself whether his own college learnings had prepared him for his career. Certainly it's been a career that he probably couldn't have imagined at the time.  Anyway, he had a number of things to say.  One was to the effect that both the comprehension of form and the ability to describe abstract sensation were things he had learned in his music and art classes and were really all he needed to know.  That statement delights me and his ability to craft it so concisely impresses me greatly.

 

There's a bit more background on the film in this interview with filmmaker, Laura Gabbert.  It's from Evan Kleiman's Good Food podcast/radio show and also includes an interview with Jonathan Gold, who is a regular contributor.

 

@Thanks for the Crepes's observations about the lack of actual food footage or description are correct.  This is a portrait of a writer and the city he writes about.  The people who own, cook and serve in the restaurants he visits play a supporting role but the actual food itself isn't a big part of the story at all.

 

I look forward to hearing your thoughts after watching.

 

And a little aside:

On 10/19/2016 at 1:03 AM, Thanks for the Crepes said:

There is footage of a Oaxacan restaurant with something that looks a little like a pizza made on what I think? might me a really giant flour tortilla, but we won't know from this video.

The Oaxacan restaurant was Guelaguetza and the dish was tlayuda. From this recent LA Times article on the best local offerings:

Quote

The  base is a large, thin corn tortilla toasted on a comal until dry and firm. The base is spread with asiento, the brown drippings from rendered pork skin. Next comes a layer of mashed black beans, the preferred bean in Oaxaca. (It's common to cook the beans with the anise-scented leaves of the aguacate criollo, the native Mexican avocado tree.) Then on go shredded cabbage or lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, Oaxacan cheeses and Oaxacan meats. The big three meats are tasajo, which is thin-sliced beef; cecina, which is spiced pork; and Oaxacan chorizo. Some restaurants also offer carne asada and chicken.

Yum!


Edited by blue_dolphin (log)
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4 hours ago, blue_dolphin said:

The Oaxacan restaurant was Guelaguetza and the dish was tlayuda. From this recent LA Times article on the best local offerings:

 

Thank you for this link and all the other information. That dish looked so good, and I was so disappointed it wasn't delved into in the film. 

 

I love pizza; I love Mexican food; I can make corn tortillas from masa. I can see making this in my future, but I will be limited to seven inch tortillas by my lack of skill at laying them onto the cooking surface without creasing them. That just means I don't have to share, or maybe could have two with different toppings.

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@blue_dolphin

Thanks for the link to the interview with the filmmaker. I also read a few of his reviews at the L.A. Times.

I like his style. It helps quite a bit that he writes about the type of food I would research beforehand and search out when I visit a new city or country.

I'm looking forward to viewing the film and will be sure to post back.

 

 

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I recently watched another LA-centric food documentary, The Migrant Kitchen, on KCET, a local public TV station.

It was produced by KCET and Life & Thyme as on-line series of 5 short episodes that explore the stories of Guatemalan, Mexican, Filipino, Middle Eastern, and Korean-born chefs who work in LA.  

The individual episodes and the hour-long documentary that combines them together and aired on TV are available here on the KCET site or on LinkTV.

Evan Kleiman interviewed one of the directors last week on Good Food.  You can listen to that interview here.

 

City of Gold did interview a few immigrant chefs, but I believe they missed an opportunity to delve a bit more deeply, as is done here.  

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My local library has received their copy of 'City of Gold' and I should be able to view it by next weekend. Looking forward to it.

 

It was timely that @blue_dolphin posted the above link to 'The Migrant Kitchen'. Although, as stated, the documentary is LA-centric the individual episodes describe experiences that would be commonplace in many large urban areas with culturally diverse populations. They would certainly be commonplace in the cities where I've lived.

 

Well worth watching.

 

 

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Finally had the chance yesterday evening to view 'City of Gold'.

 

I enjoyed the film and feel it was extremely well done. The film is about Los Angeles, narrated by Jonathan Gold, as seen through the prism of his role of a food critic. It is also quite obvious that Gold loves the city he grew up in and lives in. The film does touch on the immigrant experience and the physical sprawl of L.A. I found it interesting that one of the talking heads, Dr. Michael Dear UC Berkeley, refers to Gold as a "critic of urban living".

 

Another facet that I found interesting was the discussion on the role of the professional food critic, with respect to both responsibilities and limitations, by both Gold and various talking heads. These concerned the amount of preparation and repeat visits that ultimately contribute to a review, the need to approach those visits with an open mind,  and comments on Yelp type reviews. It was nice to see an appearance by Calvin Trillin and David Chang's comment on wishing New York had a similar critic stood out.

 

Some random observations and comments:

The scenes shot in his home made me laugh. Go to IKEA and buy some bookcases xD. That said I wouldn't say no to having a look through his 'library'.

With respect to the comments by @blue_dolphin and @Thanks for the Crepes concerning his training in the arts and music and how they contributed to his present career did stand out for me. Particularly his commencement address.

I have a rather broad appreciation of music that includes, but is not limited to, jazz, rock, classical and opera however my defining genre is punk and it's nice to see a kindred spirit.

 

I'll be picking up "King Georges" https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/king_georges tomorrow: a documentary on Georges Perrier of Philadelphia's Le Bec-Fin. Well reviewed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Edited by Wayne (log)
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1 hour ago, Wayne said:

 

I have a rather broad appreciation of music that includes jazz, rock, classical and opera however my defining genre is punk and it's nice to see a kindred spirit.

 

 

That's pretty much the core of my listening, too. I remember such a glow of paternal pride when my kids were 10 and 6, bombing down the highway outside Halifax with them in the back seat singing along lustily to the Buzzcocks and the Ramones. 

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Tampopo is back, and in 4k! Don't know when the disk will come out, but it's touring art houses around the country right now and we saw it Saturday. Almost all of the scenes deleted in the VHS/DVD versions past are back (except for two around the businessmens' French lunch), and the sub titles have been updated. Great to see an old friend back! Restored Tampopo trailer.


Edited by NancyH (log)
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I saw 'The Founder' a while back and found it really interesting. The film shows how bad many diner type restaurants were, back when fast food was in its infancy. (yes, chains like White Castle, A&W, and Chick-Fil-A had their start a few decades earlier but they were small and regional) It also showed the McDonald brothers developing their ideas about speed and efficiency. (and how they cared about the food tasting good, too!)

 

I was left thinking about so many 'what might have been' scenarios: the brothers retaining control, franchising the service system out to other types of restaurants (what if they had bought into KFC and Taco Bell way back when?), the food quality staying high (no frozen fries, no chemical 'shakes'), etc.

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Anyone watched Burnt yet?  I can't comment completely because I've tried twice to watch it and have missed the first half both times.  I found the parts about the Michelin Star people and how you can tell they are there interesting (if that stuff is all true).

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