“The Lunchbox” is the best movie since “A Separation,” and it doesn’t even have to be shunted off to the “food movie” category. The food is so seductive, though, that you know not to go in search of Indian afterward because it could never measure up to the celluloid vision. The director gets both the story and the eating exactly right. By contrast, “Tasting Menu,” obviously modeled on the last night at elBulli, is the most craven piece of crap I’ve sat through since the last free screening I couldn’t resist. As I came home and Tweeted, the message seemed to be: Cerebral food attracts truly stupid people. And what a terrible ad for Spanish wine — every glass seemed to be filled with water (they couldn’t even spring for food coloring?) Teh Stupid was so deep and dense it’s hard to list it all — the top two idiocies had to be either the world’s best chef spending her last night musing, yapping and sipping wine, not even throwing copper pots, or the owner losing his shit worrying that a solo diner might be a critic. It’s the last night. It could be AA Gill multiplied by all the female reviewers both in history and yet to be hired in a universe yet to be discovered. And what difference would it make? Cerrado es cerrado.
“Grand Hotel Budapest” is Wes Anderson’s most food-centric movie yet, not least because so much of the plot hinges on a confection. But I’m thinking he should get an Amtrak residency just for the great tip he passes on through his characters: Pack wine to avoid the cat piss on the train.
Even I initially got suckered into thinking that residency would be a cool thing — but I thought that mostly because the rail overlords didn’t need to go looking for writers when I had already done a few rolling odes on my own. It’s undeniably magical to sit in total comfort and type as you glide up the Hudson River and westward along the Erie Canal, particularly when it’s snowing and you know everyone else is stranded in airports. But it didn’t take long to realize the R word is just a press trip by another name. And everyone lauding the concept should be aware that that is how so much delectable travel-and-food sausage gets made. Even worse: It’s like the Pillsbury Bake-Off without the glory. There are no free rides. You take it, they own it.
Here’s how lame Woody Allen’s latest sucker magnet is: Halfway through, your mind starts wandering way off to Detailville. Didn’t San Francisco outlaw plastic bags in groceries? Would a cashier and her grease-monkey paramour really be drinking Moet? And out of the proper flute rather than a titty glass? But I guess it could have been worse. Cate Blanchett could have been offering to sleep with someone for a Cosmo and a cupcake.
Obvious question debated at HH one afternoon this week: Which came first, the food truck trend or the French with their food trucks? Not debatable was the silliness of a reviewer trashing a chef for producing dated food while describing his place as sounding like a go-go bar. Didn’t karaoke kill those off? In the last century?
All the suggestions (often bizarre suggestions) for Oscar-themed party food and dinners made me wonder why, if Hollywood is having such troubles, studios aren’t making more movies set in kitchens or restaurants or around tables. Look what that did for “The Help,” and apparently it featured a shit pie. Other nominees missed the whole food boat (witness the struggling for good “Hugo” or “Midnight” homages). Americans are obsessed with food on any and all screens, and the huge overseas audiences keeping the film industry afloat would eat it up, too. Imagine the tie-ins: “The Artist II” Wheat Thins, “now with no audible crunch.”
On our way to buy hardtack the other day, my consort and I stopped at an NYPL branch to return a carefully culled DVD and by chance found “City Island” on the shelf. I remembered several touts by our co-op’s own private Ebert, the Sun-thru-Thurs elevator operator whose taste is unerringly right-on, so we brought it home and watched it with great pleasure. Now all I want to know is why NPR’s producers weren’t mentioning it in their segment on the Butter Guzzler, the one that alleged her appeal is to “people who live alone or have fractured families.” I suspect what’s up is more the feeder/feedee dynamic the filmmaker ID’d in his quest for an obese actress in a celluloid world where 170 pounds is deemed over the top. And I don’t even want to delve into how Liberace had the same appeal to my lonely mom after her nine pregnancies in 8 1/2 years . . .
. . . “Into the Abyss” is one of the most retrospectively powerful movies I’ve seen. Werner Herzog definitely gets at Real America and its gated communities, so safe you could die for want of a clicker. The ending is beyond compelling, and even as I joke about my epitaph from the crematorium being “Twittered Away,” I am thinking more and more about The Dash. Mostly, though, I’m trying to get the crime scene with the vintage cookbook and the half-finished batch of cookies out of my head. Also, too, many furious thoughts about The Chimp and his enabler, Panchito. . .
“Contagion” was pretty much a waste of our discount coupons and 6 gazillion dollars for popcorn, but (big-time spoiler alert) the ending could have been even more chilling. Bad enough a chef wipes his mitts on his apron and shakes hands with a patron. Imagine if that hand had been in a glove. Used in a bathroom shortly before it went into a pig’s snout. . . .
On a related topic, though, I have to say I was glad I schlepped to a screening of the short film Terry Gilliam made for a pasta company based in Naples. Clearly, his sponsor did not get between him and his inner demons at all. This baby is dark. And funny, of course. You could almost call it “Mangia, Brazil.” And the best part is how it makes clear that as much as you may want to storm across a restaurant and throttle a screaming baby, it’s the bad parents who are the true villains in any piece.
“Bridesmaids” was worth my consort’s $26 for two for the alimentary canal lessons alone. There’s a reason Trump’s mouth makes you want to look away, and not south. But when the fat sister of the groom erupts after Brazilian (food, not wax) and can’t determine from which end, you realize why writing about food is such an ephemeral pursuit. Chick-fil-A or foie gras, it all comes out the same.
Okay, sap’s stopped rising. Back to bile. Is there anything sillier in a 140-character world than 30 gazillion words about a single recipe? Even without slogging through, I was reminded of the coulibiac in the marvelous “Decline of the American Empire” — all that yapping about fish in a blanket.
File under Out of the Mouths of Consorts: We were at AIPAD, the photo show at the Armory, and I stopped to gawk at an old Herbert Ponting news shot of the start of the doomed 1911 Scott expedition to the South Pole. It showed about 30 sled dogs on the deck of a ship loaded with supplies, and it looked so upbeat — unwitting animals being ferried on a noble human exploration of parts unknown. While I was “wow”ing and mulling and romanticizing, Bob just said: “Yeah. They wound up eating those dogs.” Please never tell me what happens in “Delicatessen.”
My favorite part of the not-overhyped “Social Network”? The sandwich scene. To think the whole friending business could have turned out entirely differently if the Wasp twins had had the good sense (and manners) to bring out cucumber on crust-trimmed white on a silver salver, just like he pictured it. But I also have to say I started to take the story most seriously after the 66 scene. The faux rang true.
And I always hate to say anything positive, but “Soul Kitchen” is not just an exceptional movie but can be seen at IFC, which has the best popcorn in town. It’s about a chef and food and a restaurant but about so much more. At a time when America is looking rather grim, this makes you feel more hopeful for the world. It’s a multi-culti place, and hot gazpacho has no place in it.