The Grand Budapest Hotel, 2014

I believe I have mentioned C’s love of Wes Anderson films. After my success with Moonrise Kingdom, I was excited to give his newest, The Grand Budapest Hotel, a shot.

The characters here are the big winners. Funny, strange, and absolutely “on”, they all played in a larger-than-life sort of way that was charming and fun.

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Second big winner, the amazing look of the film. I don’t know the technical term for this (does it fall under cinematography?) but you could get lost in the details in these sets. They are so rich and striking.

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There were some strange moments for me in this one, and a little more violence than I had been expecting (content warning: non-explicit animal violence played for laughs), and gratuitous nudity that makes me a little annoyed. (Honestly, why is it always naked women? Can we just spread the objectification out a little and throw in some naked men once in a while? I mean, I know it’s too much to ask that we not include gratuitous nudity just because some people think it’s funny and that adults won’t see a movie without it because then it’s a “kids” movie. Even though a pornographic painting of two women is not only unnecessary for the plot, but frankly, distracting from it. And that’s not even touching on the issues I have with sexualizing lesbians for the pleasure of male gaze. Let’s not even go there, friends. But seriously, I’m not asking for a miracle. Just some penises to go along with all the breasts and vaginas. Ok? Movie makers? Even up the playing field.)  Ahem. Where was I? Oh, right. And although the plot (such as plots go in Wes Anderson movies) seemed to drag a bit in the middle, overall I enjoyed this movie.

K’s rating of The Grand Budapest Hotel: 6/10 mangoes

C’s rating of The Grand Budapest Hotel: 7.5/10 mangoes

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The Bluebonnet Cafe and Bakery – HEB, TX

20140403_185028C and I have date night on Thursday nights.  Usually date night is dinner at home, sometimes with candles if we’re feeling festive, a movie on netflix, or catching up on a show, and early to bed.  I still have work in the morning!  But occasionally we like to shake things up a bit and C suggested going out.

We hit up a little diner style bakery and restaurant in HEB called The Bluebonnet Cafe.  This wasn’t our first trip; it’s across the street from a local community theater called The Artisan Center Theater, where I used to frequent with my mom and little sis for theater on the cheap.

Back to the cafe.  There’s one reason we come here, and everything else is secondary.  I give you:

This is a delectable concoction of whipped heavy cream and butter.  It’s light and airy and makes the rolls (which, to be honest, are good but not great) sublime.  It may happen that one eats it plain on one’s finger.  It’s that good.

Oh yeah....

Oh yeah….

The food is good, decent home cooking style fare.  This isn’t our number one style of food choice – heavy and buttery is good on the taste buds but killer on the digestive track – so we tried to stick with somewhat “lighter” options (I say as I shove sweet potato fries in my mouth).

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Poor C didn’t ask what the soup of the day was before ordering the soup and salad.  Silly guy doesn’t appreciate creamy soups.  He gave it a valiant effort, though.

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Besides, we were saving our calories for this:

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This, my friends, is a southern institution.  The Buttermilk Pie.  If you have not had this, I can only feel sorry for you.  It is creme brulee in a pie.  It is buttery and sweet and pudding with a crispy sugary top and flaky crust.  It is… amazing.

So, come for the whipped butter (trust me), stay for the pies (you seriously have to trust me here) and fill up whatever room you have left with a pretty good meal!  The main drawback, this guy’s closed by 8:00 or 9:00 depending on the night and only open until 3:00 on Sundays, so late night pie is, sadly, not an option.

K’s rating of The Buttermilk Cafe and Bakery: 8/10 mangoes

C’s rating of The Buttermilk Cafe and Bakery: 8/10 mangoes

 

 

 

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Congo, by Michael Crichton

congoClocking in about 5 times as good as the movie, Congo, my latest Michael Crichton reread, was a pretty entertaining novel.

A super evil data mining (maybe? that was sort of unclear) company that wants a special kind of boron laced diamonds for world domination (aka money) loses a team in the Congo* rainforests. They send in a back up team led by a young, brash, arrogant, inexperienced leader for her first field assignment (what can possible go wrong here?) who believes that gorillas attacked the first team.  She recruits an animal researcher that has been teaching a young gorilla, Amy, sign language and a mercenary guide to lead the way.  Chaos ensues.

What amazes me about Crichton’s stories is that although he puts his characters into these fantastical and terrifying situations (new breed of killer gorilla, cannibalistic natives, pygmies with poison darts, an exploding volcano – and that’s just in this novel), the thing that always gets them in the end is their own greed and stupidity.  Sometimes I wonder if Crichton really had such a poor view of humanity, and then I read the news and realize he’s going to easy on us.

Just like Jurassic Park, the arrogance of the human species and our intense desire to control nature, rather than to be a part of it, plays a huge role in theme and story here. It’s not surprising that the most sympathetic character is Amy, who remains loyal, brave, and honest throughout the narrative.  But I couldn’t stop thinking about the new Planet of the Apes movies as the next logical step in Crichton’s line of thought about animal research.  I wonder what he would of thought of them.

K’s rating of Congo: 7/10 mangoes

*interestingly, or perhaps not, the country was actually called Zaire when this book was published but is back to being called the Democratic Republic of the Congo now.  Although the geographical area and river are still just called Congo, hence the name of the novel, I suppose.  What’s with all this name changing of the country you ask?  Well, given the horrendous amounts of foreign intervention (read: stealing of natural resources), the DRC has been subject to civil wars, genocide, and decades of violence over the minerals and trinkets the western world steals. A country that awash in highly desirable goods still has the (one of the?) highest infant mortality rates in the world, low literacy rates, and people dying from malnutrition and starvation.  Just something to think about the next time you consider upgrading to the new iPhone.**

**Seriously, though, and judgement aside as I sit typing this on a computer and checking my emails on my cell phone, it is really hard to rid oneself of any items that profit from conflict-zones or poor labor practices or non-sustainable mining, etc.  But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be informed and aware, and at least make out decisions with full knowledge of what our choices mean.  And advocate for change.

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I read this on the internet – Murders at the Lake

Welcome to a new feature!

One of my favorite things to do on the internet is read cool articles.  I’ve posted to a couple before that I’ve found via Longform.org, one of my go-to sites for good reads.  I’m going to post links to my favorites occasionally.

The inaugural post:

The Murders at the Lake is a complicated investigative piece looking at the 1982 murders of three teenagers in Waco, TX, the decades of investigation that have followed, and the questions the cases still pose.  Bringing up difficult questions about the death penalty (especially in light of DNA-based convictions being overturned, and doubly especially the way it is used in Texas), as well as access to decent lawyers and the role money, class, and race play in convictions, and the power imbalance present when a zealous prosecutor and/or investigator shapes a case against someone, this was a compelling and interesting read.  Kudos, as always, to Texas Monthly for their reporting and writing.

image from the article at texasmonthly.com

image from the article at texasmonthly.com

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Mistress of Mellyn, by Victoria Holt

Guess what, I started a book club!

Our first meeting was a week ago or so, and I’m so excited to get together with some awesome women to talk about books, and hopefully be introduced to a lot of things I wouldn’t have found before!

Here’s the first book we read, going for something light, short, and little bit guilty pleasure:

Mistress-of-Mellyn

Mistress of Mellyn is a “romantic novel of suspense” published in 1960 by English author Eleanor Hibbert (Victoria Holt is one of many pseudonyms she used over 50+ years of publishing) and was recommended by a friend who loves this book.

Martha Leigh is a gentlewoman of little fortune and no husband, and is therefore in need of going to work for other wealthy individuals as a governess.  She travels to Mount Mellyn and the home of Connan TreMellyn where she is to take charge of his daughter Alvean. While learning the ropes of governess-ing, Miss Leigh also hears rumors regarding the death of the former mistress of Mount Mellyn who died in a train accident the night she ran off with her lover.

The book mostly follows three story lines – Miss Leigh’s inroads with Alvean (who is spoiled and difficult) and another young girl on the property, Gilly, Miss Leigh’s relationship with Connan TreMellyn, and Miss Leigh’s interest in his late wife Alice, and what became of her.

Although a little predictable and borrowing quite heavily on gothic novels such as Jane Eyre and Rebecca, Mistress of Mellyn was a fun little read.  (SPOILER ALERT from here on out) Although I would have loved to see Connan TreMellyn to have been involved in the murder plot, after all I just didn’t believe his declarations of love – they seemed sudden and out of nowhere, much like the first kiss he forced on Miss Leigh – the end was still fairly satisfying.  We knew she’d find Alice, and we certainly suspected the chapel for all it’s spooky foreshadowing, but little Gilly’s role is saving the day was downright charming.

I’m not sure that I enjoyed the writing enough to seek out other novels by Eleanor Hibbert, but it was a quick read, and if you are a fan of Jane Eyre, and more specifically Jane Eyre fan fiction, you might enjoy this one.  In fact, there was a certain moment after Connan TreMellyn’s declaration of love that I thought, this is kind of like Jane Eyre in an alternate universe, had Mr. Rochester killed Bertha rather than locking her up in a closet and Jane hadn’t had the sense to leave when he was acting a fool the day he was discovered.  (Alas, it was not to be.  Although, that is a story I’d like to read!)

K’s rating of Mistress of Mellyn: 6/10 mangoes

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CTIFOTI – Brave New Voices

Keeping with the general theme of me being WAY behind the rest of the world in terms of just about everything, I saw a link to this video on tumblr recently (h/t fangirlfeminists):

And then I sat and marathon watched these videos.

These kids are amazing. I am speechless. Here’s the website for the organization that sponsors these competitions, and apparently there is also a show on HBO. Amazing. Makes me feel like there is hope for us.

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The Silence of the Lambs, 1991

Okay, the first real question is: How old does a movie have to be to be considered a classic? Because if you had asked me that before I watched The Silence of the Lambs, I would have said it had to at least be older than me.  But, perhaps because this movie is SO famous and I’ve never seen it, it kind of felt like watching a classic.

On to the movie. Some thoughts:

creepy- It wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought it would be, and I was happy to see that it fit more into my idea of psychological thriller than say, horror/slasher movie.  I had put all my “scary movie rules” into place (C is not allowed to leave the couch for the duration, snacks for distraction, watch only during early daylight hours, don’t make me shower by myself the next day), but I didn’t really need them.

stottlemeyer - “Liar, liar Stottlemeyer.”  (Or as I like to say it, “liah, liah Stottlemeyah.” Name that show.)

- I now realize that I actually had no idea what this movie was about.  Hannibal the cannibal was not the serial killer being chased!  I kept waiting for him to do something dastardly, or to find out he was secretly controlling Buffalo Bill.  Also, while he was super creepy, I kept waiting for him to do something scarier to Clarice.  What was with all the warnings (that she absolutely did not heed in any way) to stay far away from the glass?

jodie - I love Jodie Foster.  That woman is a force.

- When did the term transsexual get replaced with the term transgender?  Or has it?  It was jarring to hear that term, because I have the impression it’s not PC, but maybe it is still clinically meaningful to differentiate between sex and gender for trans individuals in regards to terminology and self-identification.  Needless to say, this movie did nothing for the stereotype linking trans individuals with mental illness. Bleh.

hannibal - This movie felt so personal, I’m not sure I have seen a movie shot in such extreme close up so often.  It was disconcerting, but in a way that added to the mood of the movie, rather than just being annoying.  Interesting.

 

K’s rating of The Silence of the Lambs: 8/10 mangoes

C’s rating of The Silence of the Lambs: 9/10 mangoes

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