The View From Atherton Court, Part III

Cake; Meat Pie; Also, Movies!

 

Cake!

So, week five (?) of this whole quarantine thing went pretty well. Alec’s birthday happened! He made his own cake (because I don’t really bake), but let me assure you I am helping him eat it. I am there for him, in that way. I will save him from the menace of eating a whole cake by himself.

Have you, dear reader, become really, really interested in food lately? I know I have. There is a fascination about the question of what is for dinner. I find it compelling.

Alec is also making mushroom ketchup from an 18th century recipe, because one of his many new interests is historic cooking. Actually, it isn’t exactly a new interest for him, but he is really exploring it at the moment.

But I know you are yearning for the pie update. You are, aren’t you? Oh, just say yes. It will cheer me so, and it won’t harm you, much.

 

PIE!

A couple of days ago, Alec got very mysterious about the kitchen. By “got very mysterious about the kitchen,” I mean “he screamed like a puma whenever I came in.” It turned out he was experimenting with a new kind of pie. We’d been idly discussing, a few days before this incident, the joys of beef bourguignon, and how good it would be as a pie filling. Alec was, I discovered at the dinner hour, attempting to do just that—fill a pie with beef bourguignon. Of course, he was working within certain limitations. Beef bourguignon is, I understand, generally made with nice big beef chunks and a decent burgundy; we had ground beef and box wine. Still, the filling was reminiscent of beef bourguignon, which I consider a win in itself.

But! The really amazing thing about this pie was the crust. It was almost supernaturally perfect. The trick seems to be to make the crust several hours before the rest of the pie and let it sit.

Movies!!!!!

We have also kept up our movie-a-day habit. Some of them have been unspeakably awful, and I am not going to talk about them. Or think about them. Ever again. Here are the ones that I did more or less enjoy:

Pitch Black (2000)

YES. I loved this one. It was fast-paced sci-fi action from beginning to end. Vin Diesel was just great, even if he does kind of mutter a lot of his lines here.

The movie begins on a spaceship. I guess it is designed for a pretty long journey because everyone starts off in cryo-sleep or whatever. Oh, actually everybody’s asleep except for Vin Diesel, who is too awesome to sleep. He explains about this in a voiceover.

Anyway, then there is a disaster, something slams into the ship or something, the captain is killed, and they crash-land on a deserted planet. Actually, they soon learn that it hasn’t been deserted that long, but I feel like I’m getting ahead of myself. I was going to say more about Vin Diesel. Right. He plays a scary murderer who is being taken from one jail to another. There’s a sort of space cop guy (sort of) along to keep an eye on him and to explain to everyone else how bad news it is that Vin Diesel has escaped.

Anyway, eventually everyone kind of teams up with Vin Diesel, and everything is going great except that they keep getting eaten. And I feel like I’m getting into spoiler territory here, so I’ll stop. It is a fun movie. Lots of action, lots of (muttered) banter, lots of interest, and the monsters are neat. If you like fun of the sci-fi action sort, you could totally watch this one.

Predator 2 (1990)

…was okay. It lacked a lot of the primal charm of the first movie (and by “primal charm,” I may mean “Arnold Schwarzenegger”), but the concept was interesting. A Predator is hunting again, but this time, he’s hunting in a city, in the middle of a Los Angeles torn apart by a massive drug war. Danny Glover stars as a stressed-out cop who is also the Predator’s primary target. Gary Busey plays… some sort of alien-hunting federal agent. The X-Files? I really don’t know. Anyway, there are clashes between two rival gangs, and clashes between the gangs and the cops, and clashes between the cops and the weird federal agent people, and lots of shouting, and the Predator kills everyone and hangs them from ceilings.

Glover does a good job as a seriously pissed-off cop. Busey is okay as a mystery-Fed. I kind of liked their shiny suits in the Predator-hunting scene.

But mostly, this movie was a disappointment. I really wanted to see more of the actual battles between the Predator and his various victims. I mean, I get that, a lot of the time, there just isn’t a battle, because the Predator is so awesome and invisible and all, but… look, there’s this one moment in the film when the head of the Jamaican drug gang is facing the Predator, and he draws a sword from his sword-cane (man has a sword-cane) and looks like he’s about to do some seriously awesome fighting… and the next shot is the Predator with his severed head. That was a big let-down. I wanted that fight. And there is some evidence that the Jamaican guy put up a decent fight, too, because the Predator saves his skull. So there was a cool fight, but we don’t get to see it. And I cannot emphasize enough how awesome it looked like it was about to be.

So, Predator 2 was okay. Not brilliant, not bad. Sort of meh, but not too meh.

 

Little Shop of Horrors (the 1986 version)

I’ve always meant to watch this one, but I never had… until now! And… yeah, it was fun. I really liked Rick Moranis, and Steve Martin as the sadistic dentist is great.

I won’t summarize this one extensively, because I bet you know about it already, but basically, Rick Moranis plays Seymour, who works at a failing florist’s shop on Skid Row. He loves his co-worker Audrey. He finds a plant at an outdoor market during a total eclipse of the sun, buys it, and brings it back to the shop. Turns out that the plant is a blood-drinking, meat-eating alien with schemes for world domination. In the short term, the shop flourishes, because everyone wants to look at the weird plant. In the long term, several people get eaten.

Now, here’s the thing. It is a musical. I knew that, but I’d sort of forgotten what that means. It means that, for every classic, fun song that I kind of already knew, they’ll be two or three (at least) kind of crappy songs that I have to sit through as my eyes glaze over. I loved the Dentist song—Alec and I are still singing it. But I absolutely hated Suddenly Seymour, and now it is stuck in my head, possibly forever. And I’ve only retained like two lines, so they just repeat, endlessly.

And, by the way, about Suddenly Seymour. The most loathsome thing about it is that it makes Seymour seem really full of himself. If only Audrey had started the song off, by saying, in essence, “hey, it’s great that you’re here, Seymour,” it would work. But no. Seymour starts the song off, saying, basically, “hey, Audrey, I’m here, and so your life is going to be great!” That is not only repellant, it is also totally out of character for shy, modest Seymour. Also, Seymour has been drooling over Audrey since forever, so it isn’t sudden, for him. It is sudden, for Audrey. She should really take the lead in the song.

We saw the version with the happy ending. I hear there is another version, and I am deeply curious about what that is like. Anyone seen the version where the plants take over the world, or eat everyone, or whatever? Tell me about it in the Comments.

Anyway, on the whole, the movie was lots of fun.

My Blue Heaven (1990)

Speaking of Steve Martin and Rick Moranis, we also saw My Blue Heaven. Steve Martin plays Vinnie, a mobster who has gone into the witness protection program. Rick Moranis plays the federal agent in charge of keeping Vinnie alive and making sure he testifies. Joan Cusack plays the local D.A. Anyway, it is a charming comedy with some really good lines. The plot itself is pretty basic and may not actually matter very much. But it is fun to see Martin and Moranis work together on this one. Also, Joan Cusack is an actress that I want to see more of. She’s in Grosse Pointe Blank (aka The Best Movie Ever–no really, it is!), and, as far as I’ve seen, that’s it. Anyway, she’s in this, and that is cool.

I hear, by the way, that Martin was actually supposed to play the federal agent, and that Arnold Schwarzenegger (!) was supposed to play Vinnie, but that, at the last minute, Arnold ditched the film to go be in Kindergarten Cop. Martin then stepped forward to be Vinnie to save the movie. His Vinnie is pretty good, and I can’t really picture Arnold in the role.

 

And Now…

And now, I’m going to tell you about a bad movie that I kind of enjoyed in spite of itself. Kind of. I am not recommending this one. I’m just saying that I watched it, and that I thought it had its points. I apologize in advance. This is necessary, because I am going to tell you about Vampire Hookers (1978).

We saw this movie reviewed on YouTube channel Dark Corners, which specializes in exactly this sort of thing: really bad movies that are sometimes also fun. And in this case, we felt that we had to know more. Also, it is available for free on Amazon Prime. So… so we watched it. It was terrible, but we watched the whole thing, and I can’t say I regret it.

 John Carradine plays a vampire who is basically sick of most things, and has therefore retired to a nice underground complex in a graveyard for some peace and quiet. He has three vampiric lady friends. These ladies go into the nearby city, pretending to be prostitutes. They then pick up men, and take them back to the graveyard. All four vampires then have dinner. A simple, pleasant way of life, I think you’ll agree.

This way of life is, however, totally spoiled by two sailors (who are I guess technically the main characters), who are trying to figure out what happened to a friend of theirs (hint: he’s been murdered by vampires).

John Carradine’s part is kind of fun here. He keeps claiming that various historical figures must have been vampires, and backing up his claims with quotations. But my favorite character in the movie is Pavo. Pavo is a minion, played by Vic Diaz. He works for the vampires. And he wants to be a vampire so badly. He keeps doing little comic bits where he practices cape-swirling and makes vampire-faces. I liked his role a lot. Because I get it. It would be cool to be a vampire. It wouldn’t be fun, or a good idea, or anything. But it would be cool. I think we can all kind of relate to that. I could do without the fart jokes, though (but then, I almost always can).

Anyway, one major problem with this movie is the ten minutes of soft-core pornography right in the middle of the film. It is boring and unnecessary, and it just keeps going.

Oh, and one of the vampire ladies has tan lines. Maybe she had them when she became a vampire? Anyway, it seemed a little weird to me. And, I mean, you have plenty of time to speculate about those tan lines, because, as I mentioned, ten minutes of porn.

So—let me re-emphasize. Not recommending this one. It is just that I didn’t absolutely hate it, and if you are a bad-movie connoisseur, you might enjoy it also. There is, at least, fun in it.

Atherton Signs Off

Well, that’s it for this week, folks! Do any of these movies sound fun to you? Have you seen any of them before? If so, what did you think? Also, have you ever tried to make a historic recipe? Did you have to find cheesecloth? We had to find cheesecloth.

Right! Stay healthy, stay sane, and say hi in the Comments section!

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14 Comments

  1. Hi Mel
    The Pie sounded yummy. Did the crust hold up to the amount of liquid?

    I love Little Shop of Horrors. I’m a theater teacher, so yeah, I’m good with most musicals. Little shop has some great moments. Ellen Greene was the perfect fit for the role as Audrey. Moranis surprised the hell out of me. Yes, there is a darker ending, which coincides with the original (non-musical) version from 1960, Directed by Roger Corman. Things don’t end too well for many. I won’t say anymore on that.
    I’ve seen most of the other films except the softcore porn one. If you like Predator, Dark Horse Comics has a lot of mini-series that were excellent. Mainly the early issues. Really worth the time finding the trades. Library checking helps.

    I liked Pitch Black, and have watched it a couple of times on TV. One of the first deaths pisses me off to this day. I won’t say who, but someone who has been in a Far better Scape series.

    Historic cooking/baking is smooshed down into trying to replicate my Grandmother’s cooking for the holidays. No one in the family knows how to make her Apple Cake. We just loved eating it.

    Stay safe and healthy

    • I hope you didn’t get soggy bottom!

    • The Pie was quite yummy, though I admit that you are correct in your supposition that the bottom pie crust was pretty soaked. The top, though, was sublime.

      I thought Audrey was well-cast, too. And yeah, there are definitely some great moments in Little Shop. Though for me, the musical is a difficult format to love. Then again, I saw Hedwig and the Angry Inch performed and thought it was amazing– but seeing a musical on a stage and seeing a movie version are two different experiential animals, I think you’ll agree. Anyway, I liked Little Shop quite a lot. And I have now officially seen the darker ending, which is pretty wild. I have heard of the Corman version, but haven’t seen it. Is it worth a look?

      A mysterious Apple Cake, eh? That must get frustrating. Is it… kind of a carrot cake with apples? Or something else?

  2. Okay, firstly, may I borrow your husband for a while? I do like baking, but always nice to meet someone creative in that area. 🙂

    I haven’t seen any of those films you mention, but that bit in Vampire Hookers about the wannabe vamp reminds me of Darren Shan’s Cirque Du Freak. In it, the hero’s friend wants desperately to be turned by the circus’s vampire leader because it’s so cool. The vampire thinks that’s disgusting and refuses!

  3. There’s also a desperate vampire-wannabe in “What We Do In the Shadows.”
    I’m more of a desperate pie-eating-wannabe. Vampires do not appeal to me, but pie does. I don’t cook because I find cooking intrinsically enjoyable; I cook only because I find eating enjoyable, and it’s my job to provide the family with meals so that we can all eat, which we enjoy. I do occasionally like to bake, but so far have been sticking with the comfort basics of our household: banana bread, cinnamon sticky rolls, and brownies.
    I watched “Little Women” yesterday, and today we finished “Lord of the Rings,” which has lasted over a week. Neither featured porn, but one featured a fair bit of decapitation. I’ll let you guess which.

    • “What We Do In The Shadows” is something I’m interested in, but have not, as yet, seen. I hear it is good. In fact, I hear that it is good so often and from so many different sources that I am now worried that it has been over-hyped for me, and will now be a disappointment no matter how good it is. Is it, in fact, good?

      Pie is very wonderful. I do like to cook (though I don’t like to bake), but I have to check my urge towards wild experimentation, because it rarely works out well. But sometimes, I look at the spice rack, and I think dangerous thoughts. Like whether cinnamon would taste good with the beef I am cooking. Usually I am able to talk myself down: sometimes, though, in goes the cinnamon, because I have to know.

      We do not do banana bread, but we’ve done cinnamon sticky rolls and occasionally brownies. Yum.

      Beth’s tragic decapitation has haunted me since my childhood. 😉

  4. I also love Little Shop — especially the musical version (although the 1960 non-musical version with Jack Nicholson playing a character named Wilbur Force is interesting.) The alternate Moranis version is available on the BluRay as the Director’s Cut. The happy ending Theatrical version is on the same disk. I’ve seen both, but I prefer the happy ending.

    As for historic cooking, I’ve roasted a goose and made Yorkshire pudding, supposedly the way they did it in Dickensian England. I’m not not sure the pudding turned out the way it was meant to — which of course is nothing like what we think of as pudding, but I make a mean steamed cranberry pudding with hard sauce that I got in 1972 from a college friend who had received it from his grandmother on her death bed. I was already an old family recipe back then, and I was sworn to keep it a secret from an old biddy named Frances Hill.

    • Ooh! Jack Nicholson is in the 1960 version, is he? I didn’t know that–though I have seen him in a Corman film before, The Raven. In that one, Alec and I just gaped and blinked when he came onscreen, until one of us (I forget which) tentatively whispered, “is that… Jack Nicholson?” And the other one was like, “…yeah. I think… I think it might be.” Because young Jack Nicholson is like Nicholson without the faceful of character he acquires in later years. It is just… weird… seeing him look so very oddly young. Or that is how it struck us, anyway. Kind of like seeing Vincent Price in, say, Laura (1944), where he’s just this handsome giant of a man, without a lot of the character he will later acquire.

      Also! These are impressive credentials, cooking-wise. I am especially impressed by any recipe handed out on a death bed. I will not, of course, ask you to reveal the secret. Why, by the way, are these things so often passed on in secrecy? I mean, I kind of get it, because (I guess) you don’t want to show up to the Robinson’s dinner party and find that they are serving your special chicken marsala. But does that sufficiently account for all the secrecy? I am not sure.

  5. Oh, also — Joan Cusack was in School of Rock, and voiced Jesse in the Toy Story series. She’s done lots of stuff I’m not familiar with, but was also in Addams Family Values and Netflix’s Series of Unfortunate Events.

  6. Hi Melanie!

    I’m enjoying the view from Atherton Court very much. I wish my life included more pie at the moment. I started to write a reply to your first post and then the internet ate it (sob!), and then life got in the way (sob, sob!), and I couldn’t bring myself to rewrite it.

    Anyway. I was going to suggest that not all pies need to be meat filled. You could have a vegetable pie as an accompaniment to some other form of protein. Have you come across the Redwall Chronicals by Brian Jacques? You can find recipes for Deeper’n’ever Pie online.

    Dickensian yorkshire pudding? I don’t know about that, but the yorkshire pudding which MUST be served with a roast I make is a bit like a pancake mix but cooked in the oven. The secret is to make sure the oil is really hot in the pan you use, before you put the batter in. Also worth making the batter well in advance and letting it rest. You can make some reasonably big ones and fill them with, e.g., beef bourguinon.

    Oh! I remembered the other thing I was going to suggest the first time around. If Alec has perfected his pastry and wants to try a different pie-crust, you should have a look at medfouna, which uses a sort of bread-dough crust. Properly I think you are supposed to use fillet steak, but you can use pretty much anything, I think, although other cuts might need more in the way of precooking.

    Grosse Pointe Blank is indeed an excellent film, possibly John Cusack’s best. Joan can get a bit OTT at times, but this works well in the Muppet version of It’s A Wonderful Life.

    We quite liked the Professor and the Madman (available on Prime), but switched off The Machine after about 20 minutes.

    On the book front, I think you might like Warlock Holmes.

    Stay safe!

    • Hello David! Um! I love Warlock Holmes! I eagerly await The Finality Problem, which I may have pre-ordered. I generally listen to them in audiobook form, because I really like the reader. Huzzah! I am glad that you mentioned that excellent series.

      I am also glad that you like Grosse Pointe Blank. I love that movie.

      You are correct about pie, of course. It doesn’t have to be meat-filled. I think the theory we’ve been operating on, though, is that, if the pie has both meat and vegetables in it, that’s kind of your whole dinner, right there.

      I have heard of, but never read, The Redwall Chronicles.

      I will explore this alternate crust notion with Alec. But, I mean, our crust is much improved, but it isn’t actually perfect. Yet.

      Anyway, I am really thrilled that you mentioned Warlock Holmes. Because I love those books. It is funny, I hesitated to get into them at first, because I’ve read, in my time, a lot of very very bad post-Doyle Holmes stuff, and I am now wary of anything new with Holmes in it. But then I decided to give the series a try, and I am really glad I did. Even some of the titles (ex: “Silver Blaze: Murder Horse”) crack me up. I love the way the Warlock Holmes stories are dark mirrors of the originals.

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