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Short takes #01
Compact appraisals of things I've eaten and watched
Do what you want. An imperative to follow resolutely at all times that I’m leaning heavily into now. If the last week of December, wedged between New Year’s and Christmas, is liminal moment gossamer and bittersweet, the working days preceding Labor Day are marked by the restless desperation, caught between last-chance summer and a wishful thrust into busyness. (How relatable this may all be probably has something to do with how closely you associate with the word “summering.” Me, not at all.)
I’m trying not let my pragmatism impede my desires, which sometimes just means giving into an entire plate of cannoli. Pamela Piggott in Avanti! would be proud. I posted quietly about this Billy Wilder movie and its long Italian lunches a few weeks ago without sending it because sometimes Substack is confusing.
I’m headed to the Toronto Film Festival next week (!)—where I will skip out on the Game Stop movie to see the new Alexander Payne (!!!) even if it’s heavily perfumed with “early 2000s Focus Features coming-of-age.” Let me know if there’s anything you’re dying to know about and I’ll get you the early word.
If today’s cinematic disappointments possessed the same brio as 80s good bad-movie ROAD HOUSE, we’d be having a lot more fun. Intensely tacky, outrageously violent, somehow it works: It’s got good bones, a story that is, and yung Sam Elliott. Why did no one tell me he looked like this?^ Time will only tell what delicious weirdness Jake Gyllenhaal will bring to Patrick Swayze’s roll in the upcoming remake.
2 DAYS IN NEW YORK supplies a low-threshold of entertainment: Julie Delpy plays a version of herself now married to Chris Rock, stepping up from Adam Goldberg, her beau in the prequel. But, more crucially, Vincent Gallo shows up.
Filmed in the earthy chill of Barbour-jacket hues, THE NEST wears class anxieties of fiscally irresponsible 80s on its le-smoking-suit sleeve.
On the subject of summering UNRELATED, is one of those “middle-aged woman vacationing in Italy” movies that categorically defies that subgenre’s usual conventions. Joanna Hogg, ever the connoisseur of enviable interior spaces, abstracts the melodrama to create an unembellished slice-of-la-dolce-vita. It’s one of my favorites and I went into more detail about it here.
Superimposing today’s political figures onto scenes from yesterday’s movies, HELLO DANKNESS is a chaotic collage film, simultaneously a glorious exercise in editing and a gonzo inquiry into the suburbs and the country’s recent slide into MAGA-madness. Set frequently to showtunes, it also finds useful repurpose of American Beauty (namely Annette Bening). In theaters September 8.
Neither chilling nor thought-provoking, BAD THINGS utterly squanders the assembled talent—Gayle Rankin, Hari Nef, Rad Pereira, and Annabel Dexter-Jones, as a messy quartet of hot queers—and fumbles their potential destruction in a haunted hotel. A rudderless “reworking” (to use that word generously) of The Shining.
A portrait of radical queerness with just the right amount of narrative ambiguity is PIAFFE, a veritable ASMR smorgasbord of a film that finds as sensuality as much in a leather wingtip edging against velvet as it does stippled ferns uncoiling under the lens. For Screen Slate, I interviewed the artist/filmmaker Ann Oren about the gorgeous movie—16mm, people!—which gives new meaning to the word “horse girl.” In theaters.
Set in LA’s experimental music scene, TOPOLOGY OF SIRENS is also seemingly a film of aural pleasures with a cast and credits that include Sarah Davachi and Whitney Johnson of Matches. The charmingly cryptic mood piece is a treasure hunt through secret gardens, kitschy diners, and old shops that bestows the calming effect of no more than one Wyld marionberry gummie. Streaming on MUBI.
The young female protagonist of SICK OF MYSELF—a devilish satire of the dangers of main character syndrome—absolutely would outfit herself in Praying, the preferred designer of edgelords and an eclectic array of pop stars. Narcissism manifests appropriately in the form of physical decay, as the character willingly contracts a rare skin disease to extend her 15 minutes of fame. Her crude compulsion and its aftermath seems to be at even further with her friends and countrymen, homogenous healthcare-coddled Norwegians. (I’m catching Borgli’s follow up, which thrusts an unassuming Nic Cage into the spotlight, at the festival next week.)
The namesake burger < collard greens on foccaccia < zingy salads with Campo Rosso greens < any and all desserts at the newly revamped Superiority Burger.
There’s something unexpectedly infantilizing about Double Chicken Please, a cocktail bar that employs a bouncer as early as 5pm. Sitting at a formica counter with some unduly sweetened drinks (naturally, at least: longan, honey, raisin, plums) and a small popcorn bucket of boneless fried chicken (overflowing, $12, a true bargain) I felt like a high school sophomore with a Popeyes and cherry coke, in neither a fun nor nostalgic way.
The hippie sandwich at Quinnie’s upstate presents a multicolor strata of vegetables—an orange block of squash, a green tangle of pea shoots, and ribbons of zucchini and purple carrots—tied together with green goddess dressing and pickled fresno chiles. Charred scallions and white cheddar seal the deal for this carnivore.
A-pou’s Taste is a Taiwanese spot that the grungy East Williamsburg-set rightfully reveres. On a Saturday afternoon, a young bartender or aspirant was trying was divulging the secrets of his General Tso’s cocktail and the kind-hearted proprietor called apou (grandma), whom everyone fiercely fancies as their own, was listening. The generous portions are pre-accommodated by the to-go containers and there’s chile oil on the table to ignite your food to your liking. The fan-favorite potstickers might reach your table after other things like braised pork over rice and beef noodle soup, so save room. They do make a winning main if you get 10 of them.
While I appreciate the existence of Syko in Park slope, the kimbap were so bloated, oily, and structurally compromised, it’s hard to believe the owner’s mother let him sell such a thing.
The made-to-order rolls at Kimbap Nara in East Flushing are worth going o the distance for. I always get burdock, and shiitake are assertive enough to give you shroom breath. But the best of all is the donkatsu: a handful of thin fried cutlet batons are dabbed with the tiniest bit of Bull Dog sauce and nestled beside the usual fillings.
Spoon-tender donkatsu was unanticipated but appropriately cleverly complemented by soft heat of Penang curry at Edmond Hong’spop-up at Hana Makgeolli where the chef scrambled Korean food into other Asian flavors: like Korean jeyuk, gojuchang marinated pork shoulder, and perilla into bun cha. There was also an soondae bokkeum, a stir-fry medley of blood sausage, rice cakes, and napa cabbage. Chef can make dessert, too: the corn butter mochi had both the bounce of injeolmi and the torched-sugar and hard-to-soft quality of crème brûlée and the flavors fell somewhere between an idealized honey butter chip and corn muffin. I am still thinking about it.
Nice if you can get it: The smash burger and five-inch tall breakfast sandwich that pays homage to McDonalds at Oh Boy BK, which is precisely the kind of place where people loiter obliviously beyond any instinctual time limits. These types of people include, I kid you not, one CRM manager with a human-sized retriever serendipitously meeting a carbon copy of himself with the same job and same dog in tow, and a pair of 20-year olds at a four-top extending their cheapo date as long as possible.