Sunday, February 22, 2009

The BIG Night!

Well, tonight's the night--the night all movie buffs around the world wait for eagerly! OSCAR NIGHT! We are about an hour and a half before the stars begin making their way down the red carpet. And before they do, I want to post my Oscar predictions list. I feel pretty good about my choices, as I did see almost all of the (English language, feature-length, fiction) films. But Oscar can be like a fickle suitor, and his affections may not always be predictable. So my list includes absolute certainties as well as some possible upsets.

[ ] The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
[ ] Frost/Nixon
[ ] Milk
[ ] The Reader
[ X ] Slumdog Millionaire
A no-brainer. Bet everything you have on it.

[ ] David Fincher, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
[ ] Ron Howard, Frost/Nixon
[ ] Gus Van Sant, Milk
[ ] Stephen Daldry, The Reader
[ X ] Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
Symmetry with Best Picture.

[ ] Frozen River
[ ] Happy-Go-Lucky
[ ] In Bruges
[ X ] Milk
[ ] WALL-E these are my "predictions," as in what WILL win, not necessarily what SHOULD win or which nominee I'm rooting for. My vote would go to "In Bruges," which was so well done and SO funny (albeit, darkly funny). And even though the first half of "Wall-E" is basically silent, it's such a wonderfully inventive story.

[ ] The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
[ ] Doubt
[ ] Frost/Nixon
[ ] The Reader
[ X ] Slumdog Millionaire
Part of an almost-certain tidal wave of awards for the "little indie that could."

[ ] Richard Jenkins, The Visitor
[ ] Frank Langella, Frost/Nixon
[ ] Sean Penn, Milk
[ ] Brad Pitt, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
[ X ] Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler
Now, this is going to be a close race! It could very well go to Sean Penn, and perhaps should. He is probably the finest actor of my generation, and he is marvelous in this role (in that “Method” way of his, dissolving himself completely in the characterization of Harvey Milk). But the thing is, he’s won already. And American LOVES a comeback! I’m going to go out on a limb and call this one for Mickey Rourke, just to keep things interesting. This is his one shot at Oscar gold. (When will he ever find another role like this where his messed-up face actually works for him?) And I personally want to see him thank his Chihuahuas again like at the Golden Globes. ;-)

[ ] Anne Hathaway, Rachel Getting Married
[ ] Angelina Jolie, Changeling
[ ] Melissa Leo, Frozen River
[ ] Meryl Streep, Doubt
[ X ] Kate Winslet, The Reader
Kate is in her prime, she had a great year with two excellent roles (winning Golden Globes for both “The Reader” and “Revolutionary Road”), and she’s been nominated for the Oscar six times and has never won. It’s time. (Plus, never bet against anything having to do with the Holocaust when an Oscar is on the line--as the prophet, Ricky Gervais, hath foretold.)

[ ] Josh Brolin, Milk
[ ] Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder
[ ] Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Doubt
[ X ] Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
[ ] Michael Shannon, Revolutionary Road
The only thing more certain than “Slumdog” winning Best Picture is the very dearly-departed Heath Ledger winning the Oscar. Yes, he’s a shoe-in because he’s deceased, but more importantly, he deserves it and would have won it even if he lived. (And I say this as the most devout RDJ fan who absolutely ADORED him in “Tropic Thunder.”)

[ ] Amy Adams, Doubt
[ X ] Penélope Cruz, Vicky Cristina Barcelona
[ ] Viola Davis, Doubt
[ ] Taraji P. Henson, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
[ ] Marisa Tomei, The Wrestler
This is SUCH a tough call because, as usual, all of these nominees are amazing. I am going with Penelope on this one, because she’s been nominated before, and because Woody Allen always seems to help his supporting women win the big prize. And she was wonderfully passionate opposite Javier Bardem in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.” But my heart belongs to Viola Davis. She had only one scene in “Doubt,” but was it ever powerful! And anyone who can hold her own in a scene with Meryl deserves the little bald statuette!

[ ] The Baader Meinhof Complex (Germany)
[ ] The Class (France)
[ ] Departures (Japan)
[ ] Revanche (Austria)
[ X ] Waltz with Bashir (Israel)
Another “duh.”

[ ] Bolt
[ ] Kung Fu Panda
[ X ] WALL-E
This movie is so good, it deserves to be nominated for Best Picture, not just Best Animated Feature. No contest.

[ ] The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)
[ ] Encounters at the End of the World
[ ] The Garden
[ X ] Man on Wire
[ ] Trouble the Water
The only one I’ve heard a lot about.

[ ] The Conscience of Nhem En
[ ] The Final Inch
[ ] Smile Pinki
[ X ] The Witness - From the Balcony of Room 306
Random guess. Like the title.

[ ] La Maison En Petits Cubes
[ ] Lavatory - Lovestory
[ ] Oktapodi
[ X ] Presto
[ ] This Way Up
The only one I saw, but it was very entertaining! (This was shown with “Wall-E,” remember? The magician and the rabbit? Yeah, that was “Presto.”)

[ ] Auf Der Strecke (On the Line)
[ ] Manon20on the Asphalt
[ ] New Boy
[ ] The Pig
[ X ] Spielzeugland (Toyland)
Again, I have no clue, but again, never vote against a Holocaust film.

[ ] The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
[ ] Defiance
[ ] Milk
[ X ] Slumdog Millionaire
[ ] WALL-E
Part of the “Slumdog” deluge, I’ll wager.

[ ] "Down to Earth" - WALL-E
[ X] "Jai Ho" - Slumdog Millionaire
[ ] "O Saya" - Slumdog Millionaire
Ok, soapbox time. This may be sacrilege to say, but I am no fan of Springsteen. Yet it nothing short of CRIMINAL that his song “One Trick Pony” from “The Wrestler” was not nominated! The song was heart-breakingly PERFECT for that film, and its omission is a travesty. Having said that, I must go with “Jai Ho.” It’s catchy as hell!

[ ] Changeling
[ X ] The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
[ ] The Dark Knight
[ ] The Duchess
[ ] Revolutionary Road
“Benjamin Button” disproves the old adage about the whole being more than the sum of its parts. But it is a technical marvel and amazing to look at!

[ ] Changeling
[ X ] The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
[ ] The Dark Knight
[ ] The Reader
[ ] Slumdog Millionaire
Ultimately, the Academy usually goes with the “prettiest” picture here. “Dark Knight” fans will protest, but I think that picture is too….dark….to win this award.

[ ] Australia
[ ] The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
[ X ] The Duchess
[ ] Milk
[ ] Revolutionary Road
My vote would be for the period-perfect fashions of the 50’s in “Revolutionary Road,” but Oscar LOVES overly-ornate period garb for this award.

[ X ] The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
[ ] The Dark Knight
[ ] Hellboy II: The Golden Army
I know, I know. The Joker’s makeup was instantly iconographic, but it’s all about “Benjamin Button” here. Amazing work!

[ ] The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
[ X ] The Dark Knight
[ ] Slumdog Millionaire
[ ] WALL-E
[ ] Wanted
I’m throwing TDK a bone here!

[ X] The Dark Knight
[ ] Iron Man
[ ] Slumdog Millionaire
[ ] WALL-E
[ ] Wanted

[ X ] The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
[ ] The Dark Knight
[ ] Iron Man
It can go no other way. When Brad Pitt walked out of the shadows at the end of the movie and looked exactly like he did nearly 20 years ago in “Thelma and Louise,” that’s when I called it.

[ ] The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
[ ] The Dark Knight
[ ] Frost/Nixon
[ ] Milk
[ X ] Slumdog Millionaire
I guess I’ll choose “Slumdog” here for the masterful interweaving of its narrative. (But “Benjamin Button” seems a fine choice, too.)

Alright, so those are my picks for tonight's big event. I am neither hosting nor attending an Oscar party this year (boo hiss), but I still had to create a small, movie-themed menu for myself, as is my way. Since it is only me, I wasn't going to make five dishes to honor each one of the Best Picture nominees, because that would just be too much food, even though I enjoy leftovers. But I did hit three out of the five. The two that were not represented in my meal were Frost/Nixon and The Reader. If I had party guests and a need for multiple appetizers, I would have made mini-cheeseburgers (from their telephone conversation in Frost/Nixon) and for The Reader, I think a crockpot full of mini-weiners cooked in sauerkraut with a pinch of caraway (a nod to German cuisine).

As for what I did prepare, for my appetizer, I made a mess of Slumdog Tandoori Chicken Wings with a Carrot-Garlic-Cilantro Yogurt Dipping Sauce. And for my entree, I am currently grilling up some Benjamin Button Pork Chops that I had coated in creole mustard and a zesty cajun spice rub in a nod to the film's New Orleans setting (where, by the bye, I'm going for spring break---yeah!).

Along with the pork chops, I'm serving a delectably decadent...wait for it....Sean Penne with MILK and Cheese Sauce. (That would be infinitely funnier if I had a box of penne on hand, but I had to use regular elbows this time.) I loosely followed a recipe that I had seen on a Food Network show called The Cooking Loft, and it just may have brought me to an epiphany. I already knew that I didn't like eggs in my macaroni and cheese, but now I've come to think that I don't need a roux at all--no flour to make it too thick or grainy. Maybe it just needs cheese and cream.

Ok, enough with the chit-chat. I need to finish grilling my pork chops, download some pics for you, and add a couple of recipes, all before the awards are presented starting at 8:30 (red carpet at 8)! Enjoy the Oscars, movie fans!

Slumdog Tandoori Chicken Wings with Yogurt Dipping Sauce

Chicken Marinade:
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2-3 tablespoons prepared Tandoori paste
1 tablespoon garam masala (or curry spice blend of your choice)
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
a couple of pinches of salt and enough pepper to suit you

Yogurt Sauce:
1 cup plain yogurt
1 carrot, grated finely
1/4 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon hot sauce (or to taste)
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large bowl, toss 20 chicken wings (that's with the drumettes and flappers divided--or 10 whole wings if you'd rather) with all of the marinade ingredients and refrigerate for at least four hours (or overnight).

Grill on all sides until cooked through (it took about 40 minutes on my little indoor grill). Mix all of the ingredients for the yogurt sauce and serve on the side with the wings.

Sean Penne with MILK and Cheese Sauce (aka Macaroni and Cheese)
(Source: Adapted from Food Network's
The Cooking Loft and Alex Guarnaschelli)

10 cups water
kosher salt
3 cups penne (or elbow macaroni)
1 quart heavy cream (can use 50% half-n-half)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed with the back of a knife
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
3 1/2 cups grated Gruyere (I used half Gruyere and half sharp cheddar), divided
freshly ground white pepper (or black if you don't care if it shows)
1/2 cup finely grated parmesan
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar (I upped this to 1 1/2 cups and cut the Gruyere back to 2 1/2 cups)
Worcestershire sauce, to taste
hot sauce, to taste
1 cup toasted bread crumbs (I mixed untoasted panko with a little parmesan, 1/2 cup Gruyere, and a good sprinkling of granulated garlic)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large pot, bring the water to a rolling boil. Add the salt. Taste the water. It should be salty like sea water. Add the pasta and stir, with a wooden spoon or large slotted spoon, to ensure the macaroni does not stick to the bottom of the pot as it cooks. Cook until the pasta is still quite firm, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

In the same pot, bring the cream and garlic cloves to a simmer. Add the mustard and the Gruyere (reserving half a cup). Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer gently, stirring constantly, until the cheese is melted and has integrated with the cream. Add the parmesan and cheddar. Stir with a wooden spoon and simmer again until smooth. Add a splash of Worcestershire and a splash of hot sauce. Stir to blend. Taste for seasoning.

Remove the pot from the heat, add the pasta to the cream, and stir gently to blend. Allow the macaroni to rest on the stove, 5 to 10 minutes so the pasta absorbs the flavors. Remove and discard the garlic cloves.

Fill a baking dish with the pasta mixture, top with the bread crumbs, the remaining half cup Gruyere cheese (and maybe a little extra parmesan) and bake about 35 minutes, or until the bread crumbs brown and crsip up on top. Let cool for ten minutes or so before serving.


Natalie said...

Although, I enjoyed your live blog of the event after reading this blog and seeing all of your lovely food ---- I really would have rather been in your living room, watching it and partaking in such delicious sounding/looking yummies!!!!!

Felipe en Chicago said...

I'm going to make the Sean Penne this weekend.
How about some tapas for Vicki Christina?