Friday, January 09, 2015

Onions Make Amy Sleepy

Critique and Decision of the Juror:

I find myself facing a more complex decision than I first thought. The “assignment” was to video an impression of “Amy after having eaten cooked onions”; as everyone knows, onions make Amy sleepy. No other instructions were provided. Once the assignment was made, it belonged to the contestants to make of it what they would.

I received the submittals in timely fashion and eagerly previewed them this morning with two other viewers, including the subject. Let me be clear that neither of these other viewers had a vote. The critical commentary and subsequent awards are my own.

Let me discuss Steve’s submittal first. Entitled, “Amy vs. the Onion,” this nearly five-minute, high-production-value, multi-scene film demonstrates the importance of having a collaborative crew and impressive post-production facilities for thorough storytelling. Its craftsmanship is unmistakable.

The filmmakers ably capture some of the whimsical black comedy of early Woody Allen “apartment” films. Quick shots, familiar rooms, background sound, and hand-held camera work combine to produce the intimacy these filmmakers presumably strive for. But what of the cross-dressing actor who plays “Amy”? Will other viewers, other than me, see flashes of Hitchcock’s Anthony Perkins dressed as his dead mother in Psycho? Chilling, truly chilling. And that bottle of Ambien appearing in virtually every shot? Did I SEE an image of Hitchcock himself on the bottle in one scene? No? Yes? Masterful, in any case.

Speaking of Hitchcock and Psycho, WHO is Larry? Why doesn’t he speak?

And what of the voice that calls Amy’s name as she sleeps fitfully with the crossword puzzle book on her stomach (for the non cognoscenti, this is so Amy)? Whose voice is it? I immediately thought of Kubrick, of course. The voice is . . . Hal! 

Finally, throughout the piece, we see the influence of the early 60s Italian and Brazilian filmmakers as we realize, slowly and painfully what the onions finally represent. I wish I could think of a word other than “masterful.”

Stacy’s Tone Poem 
Minimalist. Bare-bones. No-frills. A tiny diamond with many facets. A true tour de force in miniature. Stacy has accomplished all of this with a 43-second, breath-heavy monologue that distills the subject and object to their perfect essence.

We begin to think of poignant haikus and William Carlos Williams lines . . . “So much depends upon a red wheelbarrow . . .” I can’t believe she’s given us so much in those weighty seconds.

And we don’t feel anything is missing, do we?  We find we need not wonder about “others.” Did we ever require them? No scene changes, no dramatic shifts, nothing. We completely GET the beginning, middle, and end of this deeply disquieting subject. 

Obviously there were no makeup or costuming or craft services, either, but that goes to another discussion.

Stacy’s previous acting skills are in play here, in this one-woman show. I remember starring roles in her younger years, too many to mention here, and she has matured as an actress in a most ethereal way. Jennifer Aniston could take a few lessons from Stacy on being silent and still as the camera rolls.

Stacy, too, has produced a masterpiece.

The Awards
Best performance by an actor:  Stacy Ross
Best performance by an actor playing another gender:  Steve Murphy
Best director: Carol Murphy
Cannes Palm D’or Prize: Stacy Ross
Sundance Independent Spirit Award: Stacy Ross
Best picture Oscar:  Amy vs. the Onion

All prize monies have been generously donated to the subject of the film. She says thanks, and we're going to Target.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

If I EVER get the chance to do a new kitchen, I think this could be the centerpiece.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Well that was fast. Or was it?

Yesterday, appropriately Juneteenth (if you're not from Texas, ask somebody), was the fourth anniversary of my last chemotherapy! I was diagnosed just before Christmas in 2006 and had right-side mastectomy on Jan 31. Began chemo on February 28. Had five rounds, three weeks apart (except for a rescheduling in order to help wrangle Ann Taylor's and Mark Smith's wedding) and finished on Tuesday, June 19th! My, how time flies . . .

So much has happened since then. Aegis went under. Chuck had an angioplasty. Casey got weirder. I went to work for Exterran, then landed in what I thought would be my dream job. And that's when the nightmare began.

Now I'm able to "take it easy" between panic attacks. And what keeps me going, I am CERTAIN, is being able to work on my physical health. Seeing improvements in my strength and fitness gives me some of the satisfaction that I used to derive from my professional career. I don't know if I'll ever develop a PASSION for fitness and working out and sweating, but I'm able to do more of it with less whining, and that's a plus for everyone involved.

Happy Juneteenth to all . . . no matter what you celebrate!

Saturday, June 04, 2011

I choose to try to stay focused on something

Please take a look at this new website. A half dozen "middle-aged women" are going to take the mountain. Kilimanjaro, in September. I am not kidding. The theme is WE CHOOSE TO CLIMB!

I train with them some days, and in my imagination I will be going with them. But in real life, the odds of my going are slim and none. Nevertheless, I am enthusiastic about their cause and their motivation motivates ME! Go figure!

Wednesday evening, the group made a trek of about 6 miles; I did four and was pretty impressed with myself. It was 98 degrees at 6:30 in the evening when we started out; when I drove home at 8 pm, it was down to 93.

Friday morning, I thought I'd do it again and decided to go to Memorial Park to walk the 3 mile circuit. I had my morning chai; then I ate a hard-boiled egg. I was going to eat some other stuff but then got on the phone for a while. When I noticed it was 11 am, I thought, "I'd better get out of here." Started walking at 11:15 with a light backpack, hat, sunscreen, two bottles of water. I was fine. Until mile 2, when I ran out of gas. I wasn't too hot, my legs weren't sore, I just couldn't GO. The sun was exactly overhead, so there was little shade. I slogged a few hundred steps, then rested. Then slogged a few more. I honestly wasn't certain I was going to make it. I'm embarrassed to say that it took me more than an hour and a half. So now I know: don't go without having eaten. Shana says two eggs and oatmeal. I'll try that tomorrow morning and see if I can do it without fainting this time.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My Favorite Thing About Houston

Experienced it again the other night: Houston Ballet. Oh geez oh pete, as Fred would say. Our ballet just gets better and better with each season. Chuck and I have been ballet fans for a long time, and we feel like we've watched it grow up into this world-class dance company.

We're not the only people who feel this way; witness the run of "Mao's Last Dancer" at River Oaks Theatre. A great story of Li Cunxin, it's also a love letter to Houston Ballet. Should have been a two-week engagement, generally speaking, but it has played for more than a month now. Wow!

So, Saturday night's program, Jewels, was spectacular. And I recommend reading Molly Ancelin Glentzer's Chronicle reviews ahead of time to both educate and generate excitement. Balanchine is the reason for neo-classical ballet, and seeing these three pieces helped me better understand the source of the lines and movement and rhythm that I've come to love.

In the middle of the Ruby piece was the Faure movement that Carole and I used to play as a flute and piano duet. What an evocative melody, for so many reasons.

The Diamonds piece showcased Mimi, the prima ballerina, and our new Chinese dancer. He's going to be our next Li!

That's all I know about ballet and music. But love me some Houston Ballet.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Carnitas, Extra Crispy

Here's my version of that Spanish Village treat. I think mine were almost as good, and Chuck says this version ranks among my top two or three best Tex-Mex dishes. Start this early in the day so you can have it ready for dinner.

4-5 lb pork shoulder roast (sometimes called a butt, but then so am I)
2 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. cumin powder
2 tsp. crushed MEXICAN oregano (if you don't have that, don't use any)
2 tsp. salt
3/4 c. orange juice
Vegetable oil

Mix spices and salt together in a big mixing bowl. Then cut the roast into two inch cubes, and trim outer fat away. There will be a lot of fat still in the cubes, but it will braise away, so don't beat yourself up over it. Also, the cubes don't have to be perfect in shape. Toss the cubes in the spice mixture.

Heat a big, oven-proof dutch oven with a lid on top the stove, add some oil and begin browning the cubes, in ONE-layer batches, until they are brown on at least two sides. Remove them to a plate and brown the next layer. Should take about four batches to do this. Don't try to hurry this step; use tongs to resist the urge to stir.

Turn oven to 300 degrees. Pour orange juice into the dutch oven and bring to a boil, stirring to deglaze the bottom of the pan, then dump the cubes back into the pot. Add water to barely cover the meat, bring to a simmer again, clap the lid on and bake for three hours.

Stir after first hour and second. When the pork is very tender, about hour three, remove the pot from the oven and remove the cubes from the pot. Then let the liquid sit for a while (I put the whole thing in my big freezer for about 40 minutes)until the fat rises to the surface. Skim ALL of that off. Simmer the liquid for another hour or so, until reduced. Remaining fat can be skimmed off with a cold tablespoon.

In the meantime, go through each cube and tear into smaller chunks, removing the fat that didn't melt away. This is VERY easy to do. If you still want to remove more fat, run very hot water over the meat in a colander.

Now you can stop, put the whole thing in the fridge and wait until later. OR . . .

Spread the meat on a rimmed cookie sheet (or jellyroll pan), spoon some of the sauce over to "wet" it. Try not to drink the rest of the sauce.

Just before you're ready to serve, turn on the broiler and slide in the cookie sheet for about 6 - 8 minutes.

You will already have put on the table: warm tortillas (I like corn but do both); a lettuce and carrot salad dressed with lime cumin dressing; my home-made tomatillo sauce; guacamole; and possibly frijoles a la charra. Dump the carnitas on a big serving platter and watch people go nuts.

Other recipes available on request. Here's my frijoles a la charra recipe: Drive to El Rey on Shepherd and Washington. Order two large.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Why Facebook Is Fun!

Here's a July 4th post from my niece Suzy Wente Villareal and comments that follow. Digression is so much fun sometimes . . .

Shout out to Suzy and Lesley!

Suzy Villarreal (Suzy Wente)
More progress on the rent house today. Next...BBQ. I'm pretty due our forefathers would have wanted me to celebrate with cheese filled hamburgers, sweet potato chips, fried pickles and mushrooms.

David Torres
We are so on are waaaaaaayyyyyyyy!!!

17 hours ago Suzy Villarreal
Queso made with hatch chilis and sausage. I've nearly eaten the whole damn bowl. Ya better hurry.

16 hours ago Lesley Inman
Dang! I am hungry now...thanks! Feed me!! Do I have to stand out in front of your house w/ a sign, and my mower? "Will mow for SVR's food"

12 hours ago Pat Wente
Who's Lesley Inman? Are we related? Suzy, your great-grandmother (Ruth's mother) was named Lee Dora Inman. Ruth's favorite person in the world when she was a little girl was her Grandpa Inman.

2 hours ago Lesley Inman
You may be related to my X husband's family...Inman was my married name. While we were married, we did find a lot of relatives w/ his last never know! I could ask him if he recognizes the name...

about an hour ago Pat Wente
Ours were from southeast Missouri. Suzy's dad can show you the whole genealogy.

about an hour ago Lesley Inman
Cool..that may mean she has to invite me over for a, um, see the family tree! lol! She amazes me w/ her domestic abilities, I sit in awe of her!

about an hour ago Suzy Villarreal
Sorry i missed out on all of this. Just awoke from my hamburger coma.

about an hour ago Lesley Inman

about an hour ago Lesley Inman
Yeah, we didn't need you! j/k..we figured it all out. You are having me for dinner to figure out how you and my X husband are related! lol! y'all kinda' resemble each other...hmm....

about an hour ago Pat Wente
The Inmans (some of them) were pretty sleazy. Actually that's not true: they MARRIED sleazy -- my great-grandmother and great-great grandmother were both married to Inmans (uncle and nephew). And that's a sicko story in itself. G-G-grandmother ran a "boarding house" which we think was probably a whorehouse.

56 minutes ago Lesley Inman
LOL! You said it, not me! Yeah, there were some unsavory character's that I met at family reunion's...There seems to be a trend w/ the Inman men...not the nicest bunch!

43 minutes ago Pat Wente
They must have mixed with our Meadows and Bewley clans. Those were the ones who moved to MO from Arkansas after the murder indictments came down.

35 minutes ago Lesley Inman

34 minutes ago Suzy Villarreal
Wow, brothels, murder and incest. Awesome. That makes for a cool reunion. "Jim Bob is from the murdering side, keep him from the knives. Jimmy Wayne, he's from the incest side, keep your daughter at yer side. Priscilla Jo, she's an entrepreneur."

23 minutes ago Lesley Inman LOL!
Funny Suzy woke up!

18 minutes ago Lesley Inman
btw, Audrey still refers to you as "funny Suzy!"

18 minutes ago Suzy Villarreal

17 minutes ago Lesley Inman
We could at least write a bad country song at the reunion!

17 minutes ago Suzy Villarreal

12 minutes ago Pat Wente
Steve Murphy and I wrote one at his ranch, entitled, "I'll help you shove your gut-shot elk cow into the front-loader with my red leather gloves, because I love you. Darlin'." That's the chorus.

4 minutes ago Pat Wente
We'd been drinking. The messy-dead elk cow, front-loader, and red-leather gloves were taken from real life experience. Ask him.

2 minutes ago Pat Wente
I still can't put those gloves back on.

2 minutes ago Suzy Villarreal
Love it. Red leather gloves!!!

2 minutes ago Pat Wente
In defense of the Meadows family, the neighbors started it. They killed Meadows' livestock after the War (Civil) because the Meadows family had been Union sympathizers. So, in retaliation, the Meadows boys and their Bewley cousins killed the neighbors' -- uh -- family members.