The Functional Hermit

musings from a homebody

Archive for March 2010

Best NCAA Tournament ever?

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So far, this may have been the best NCAA men’s basketball tournament ever. I can’t remember another with more upsets and unpredictability. Everyone’s brackets that I know of are totally shot. All regional finals were decided by seven points or less. The Tennessee/Kentucky game was down to the wire.

If there was ever a better reason to sit at home and watch sports for hours and hours, day after day I can’t think of it. The NCAA tournament might just rank up there with chili cheese fries and football as the all time greatest American inventions. I’m the Functional Hermit and I approve this sporting event…

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Written by the bee dub

March 29, 2010 at 5:52 pm

Hermit Cinema: Everything is Illuminated

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This surprising little movie came across my radar a few times but never prompted me to act. Recently my buddy and associate, Wired Tight, gave it a strong endorsement so I finally took the plunge. It felt a bit slow to me at times, but its deliberate nature clearly adds to the movie’s slow journey towards revelation.

To oversimplify, this is a ‘road’ movie. Three (and a half) characters embark on a journey that is as much psychic as it is one traveled in miles. Jonathon Safron Foer (Elijah Wood) is an eccentric ‘collector’ of trinkets, out on a journey to find the woman credited with saving his grandfather from the Nazis during World War II. However, his idiosyncrasies pale in comparison to the Ukranian trio guiding his journey; a anti-Semitic grandfather/driver (Boris Leskin) who very unconvincingly pretends to be blind, his American culture-loving grandson/translator Alex (Eugene Hutz) who has a charmingly poor command of English and the grandfather’s dog/’seeing eye bitch’ Sammy Davis Jr. Jr.

They’re off to find the Ukranian village where Jonathon’s Jewish grandfather narrowly escaped death. None know where the village is. Grandfather/driver and Alex are constantly bickering. Sammy Davis Jr. Jr. is about as neurotic and bizarre as a dog’s personality can be. All this slowly simmers together to become a surprising story of friendship and self-discovery.

Hutz, who also fronts the band Gogol Bordello, steals a lot of scenes with his obsession over Hip Hop, African-Americans (“…a premium people…”) and inappropriate use of slang heard in American action movies. In fact, it’s a less over-the-top use of the same material Sascha Baron Cohen mines for Borat.

The story isn’t what is remarkable here. Frankly, the plot follows the conventional road movie template. But what the actors do with their roles really brings out the most from the material. I like Liev Schreiber as an actor but here, he’s behind the camera as the director and co-writer. Both jobs are very nicely handled.

This is a very quiet, fairly slow movie that leaves a strong yet ephemeral impression. When I try to describe how the bigger themes come together, I can feel the explanation slipping through the fingers of my mind as I try putting it together. But when I don’t consciously think about it, what the movie represents is something I’m glad I experienced. And when you see the sunflowers, you’ll see one of the prettiest frames every caught on film.

I give this movie a solid B.

Written by the bee dub

March 28, 2010 at 2:58 pm

Hermit Cinema: Taken

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This is a fairly enjoyable movie that ends up feeling like a hybrid of Tony Scott’s Man on Fire and a Vice City-like video game where you follow one character taking out about a hundred people on the way to achieving his goal.

The story follows Bryan Bills, a typical father (Liam Neeson) who is struggling to reconnect with his just-turned-17-year-old daughter, Kim (Maggie Grace). Of course, his efforts and birthday gift can’t seem compete with her stepfather’s fortune or house that looks fresh out of Cribs on MTV. Bryan let his relationship with both wife and daughter disintegrate under the requirements of his job as a highly trained and shadowy government operative.

He’s retired, living in Los Angeles to make up for lost time with his daughter while stuck in constant disagreement with his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen). His experience overseas has also made him every teenager’s nightmare; seeing boogeymen behind every corner and situation. When Maggie asks if she can go on a trip to Paris, Bryan is only willing to agree if he can come along. He eventually relents. Yet Kim and her traveling companion aren’t in Paris for more than a few minutes before being abducted by mobsters who are making a killing in human trafficking.

From there, Bryan uses all his training and skills to penetrate this unseemly world to get his daughter back. If you’re saying that’s pretty good match for Denzel Washington’s quest to retrieve Dakota Fanning in Man On Fire, I’d say you probably did a whole lot fewer bong hits than I did during my younger years. (That’s a compliment to you, the reader by the way…)

Instead of Dakota Fanning here you get Maggie Grace who doesn’t have much material to work with but comes across so very convincingly as a young, sheltered and suburban teenager. In other words, it’s a different take from her role as Shannon for you LOST fans out there. And instead of Denzel here you get Liam Neeson in a role as physically demanding as Matt Damon playing Jason Bourne. It was refreshing seeing Neeson duke it out hand-to-hand as opposed to Damon and his Robocop physique.

There’s nothing new here. Bad guys are evil. The French are untrustworthy. Pistols can shoot over a hundred bullets without reloading  anytime there’s a gun battle.

That doesn’t make Taken a bad movie. Frankly in my estimation this movie accomplishes everything it set out to do. One thing I give the makers credit for is the length. Too often these days I find myself saying that a movie could have trimmed away about ten or twenty minutes.

You don’t have to think about who is good and who is bad. In fact, you’re not supposed to think about anything. If you’re stuck inside on a rainy day like I was, there’s worst ways to spend ninety minutes your time.

In the end…this movie gets a B-minus.

Written by the bee dub

March 21, 2010 at 4:26 pm

Ultimate Sandwich: Chicken Cutlet Avocado

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I would have taken a better picture except I was dying to shove this thing in my belly.

I can make a mean mother-fucking sandwich. No shit. Sounds like I’m bragging I know, but if I had any balls at all I would open a sandwich place and make a fortune. (But since I have no balls, instead I’ll continue muddling away at my mid-level job and salary.)

Sometimes the best sandwiches are the product of circumstance more than anything else. This is one of those sandwiches. I had a perfectly browned chicken cutlet leftover from making a batch of chicken parm the night before. I heated that up in the oven which got it nice and crisp. Melted a little American cheese on top. Topped that off with a sliced avocado. For the bread I toasted some soft, sliced Pepperidge Farm sourdough and spread a little mayo over that.

This is the kind of sandwich that becomes so famous that the restaurant that sells it puts up a sign that says, “Home of the Whatever Clever Name They Came Up With.”

Written by the bee dub

March 12, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Posted in Hermit Grub

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Olympic Finale Menu: Pork Bulgogi Lettuce Wraps

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Man, what a hockey game. The USA – Canada Gold Medal Final was intense. Can’t believe we couldn’t pull it off after tying it with just 24 seconds left. Had the US pulled it off, it would have been the only thing that would have made dinner taste more delicious. Overall this has been a pretty good Olympics. Or maybe I was just more into it than usual.

In the international spirit of the games, I made pork bulgogi lettuce wraps. I made these once before and am trying to play around with it so it’s more about being a lettuce wrap than the pork. We were going to experiment and add some other stuff to wrap in the lettuce but nothing really sounded right. So here’s the deal: red-leaf lettuce, brown rice, pork bulgogi and some hot sauce. Boom. Next time I may try a different kind of lettuce. We’ll see.

It all starts with pork. I got a 2-plus pound ribeye pork roast. Froze it. The thing was rock solid. Then I put it in the refrigerator for an hour or two and then on my kitchen counter for another hour. It was still frozen but it made for easier slicing. The pork is better when it’s cut thin.

With this much pork I needed a lot of marinade. In a very large bowl I combined 12 minced garlic cloves, 6 sliced green onions, 1/2 cup of soy sauce, 4 tablespoons of sesame oil, 2 tablespoons of sugar, 4 teaspoons of freshly grated ginger, 1/2 teaspoon of fresh ground pepper and a good amount of hot sauce. Mix well to combine the ingredients. You’ll know you’re done when the sugar’s been completely dissolved.

Add your pork.

Top this off with one sliced onion.

Mix well. I like to use two very big spoons to handle the job.

This was a lot of meat so I moved it into a big, plastic container. We’ll probably be cooking this in batches over the next few nights as well.

Now that the meat’s all ready, it’s all a matter of timing. It doesn’t take more than five or six minutes to cook a batch of meat. The brown rice takes 45 minutes so I got that simmering first. Next I got a head of red-leaf lettuce, peeled off a few large leaves and rinsed ’em off.

I broke out my weird convex-shaped grill pan. I keep forgetting to take a picture of it but basically it’s like cooking on a small, little dome or an upside-down wok. When the time is right, get that sucker nice and hot and throw on a batch of pork.

The pork stays nice and juicy while the outside carmelizes a bit. When assembling a lettuce wrap, I don’t use a whole leaf. Instead I tear off a palm-sized piece, lay down a small mound of rice, some pork and then some hot sauce for a little fire. I have a feeling we’ll be making this more often. All in all, the meal was a nice finale to the Winter Games.

Now it’s time to immerse myself in all the hype and overblown coverage of the NFL Combine. Baseball is just starting to get underway as well.

Written by the bee dub

March 1, 2010 at 11:06 am

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