Archive for Paula's favourites

Something Borrowed

(Image: Warner Bros)

DVD (2011)  Written by Jennie Snyder/Directed by Luke Greenfield    STARRING: Kate Hudson, Ginnifer Goodwin, Colin Egglesfield, John Krasinski

Beautiful, self-absorbed Darcy and meek and mild Rachel have been BFFs since childhood. Despite Darcy’s relentless attention-seeking dramatics (often at Rachel’s expense), there is a strong bond between the two women, sealed by the fact that they can break it down 80’s style to Salt-n-Pepa’s Push It. But everything’s called into question when Darcy announces she is engaged to Dex — a man Rachel has been secretly in love with since her college days. When Rachel discovers that the handsome and good-hearted Dex (Tom Cruise-esque Colin Egglesfield) has always had feelings for her too, she and Dex start down a path that can only lead to someone getting hurt. The question is: who will that someone be?

It’s a 7.5  Something Borrowed fulfills most of my rom-com needs: twists and turns, a rich cast of characters, and several trips to a beach house in the Hamptons. The lustrous Kate Hudson is always fun, and only she could make you care about a heinous little minx like Darcy. If you like romantic comedies, you will have a good time with this one. Though I felt unsatisfied with the ending, it was realistic and I can appreciate that.

Sweet extras  The supporting cast is pretty fab: John Krasinski plays Ethan, Rachel’s long-time pal and a reluctant member of the group of friends. Ashley Williams (known to me as the lovely “Cupcake” from How I Met Your Mother) is hilarious as a straight-up crazy girl.  We also have the funny Steve Howie within the circle of friends, though I thought the actor was Brian Austin Green until just five minutes ago.

Good for who?  This is a great movie for a GNO (perhaps followed by a little badminton?). This will make a super rental one day — great for having the girls over on a summer evening for supper and a movie.  Something Borrowed is rated PG for sexual references and a bit of language. Too much dirty talk for the Baptist minister’s wife, I’m afraid.

Something Borrowed is based on the 2005 best-seller of the same name, written by Emily Giffin.

Loved this movie? Live this movie! badfriend-minton: let’s make it a thing!

Wanting to out the secrets being kept by members of the group, the ever-bitter Ethan turns a friendly game of beach badminton into a vendetta. When a team scores a point, he says, someone on that team is permitted to tell a secret about someone else. This is a great game for angry and self-destructive sorts. If badminton is not available to you, try ping pong or shooting baskets from the free-throw line. It doesn’t matter which game you play, as long as you’re hurting someone!

“But Paula,” you say, “I have a badminton set and I like games but I’m not 100% sold on the idea of destroying any of my current friendships. What do I do?” Try a friendlier version of the game: turn it into a game of Truth or Dare, with the point scorers asking their opponents to either accept a dare or reveal a harmless truth about themselves.  Badminton doesn’t have to hurt, people, but the great news is that it can if you want it to!

Paula Jane

(image of Kate Hudson: celebsinstyle.com)
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The Philadelphia Story

DVD (1940) Written by Donald Ogden Stewart/Directed by George Cukor           STARRING: Katharine Hepburn, Cary Grant, James Stewart

(image: MGM Studios)

The story  A writer and photographer for a tabloid magazine concoct a plot to sneak into the fabulous and private wedding of Tracy Lord, a member of one of Philadelphia’s oldest families. The young and beautiful Tracy is a cool, self-righteous socialite who is determined not to marry another husband with as many flaws as her first one (she and her first husband C. K. Dexter Haven had “married on impulse and divorced in a rage” two years ago). Refusing to ever let passion control her again,Tracy thinks she is very much in control of her world now. But when the tabloid reporters — along with her ex-husband and her estranged father — show up at the Lord Mansion just 24 hours before the nuptials, the cold and seemingly unfeeling goddess finds her marble exterior is starting to crack.

This is the role that made Katharine Hepburn’s career (prior to this she was referred to as  “box office poison”). Hepburn as Tracy Lord is the master of aloofness as she floats about the great Lord mansion like a partial deity. Her home is full of classical Greek and Roman statuary and architecture which seem to add to her mythical force. Katharine is brilliant as she slowly softens throughout the film. And if you’ve never had the pleasure of watching Jimmy Stewart or Cary Grant on screen, this is the exact right film in which to do it. Both are super charming as C.K. Dexter Haven (Grant) and tabloid writer Macaulay Connor (Stewart).

The Philadelphia Story is more than 70 years old, but it feels very fresh. Despite the annoying depiction of two female characters turning a blind eye to their man’s infidelity, it’s a wonderful comedy and a strong female role for 1940s Hollywood. And there’s nothing like 1940’s film dialogue, is there? “Oh, Dext,” despairs Tracy Lord, “I’m such an unholy mess of a girl.” In romantic comedies like The Philadelphia Story, the dialogue clips along at a wonderfully entertaining pace. Some of the greatest dialogue in film history comes from films of this era.

The envelope, please The Philadelphia Story was nominated for six Oscars, and won two: James Stewart for best actor, and Donald Ogden Stewart for best adapted screenplay.

Sweet extras Best opening scene of a rom-com ever. Forty seconds of genius. 

Good for who? Call up the Baptist minister’s wife! The language is clean, and although there are numerous adult themes, this is 1940 filmmaking so sexual innuendos are heavily veiled. Children wandering into the room while you watch won’t be a problem either: they won’t have a clue what’s going on. This is an excellent choice for any adult, as long as he or she likes classic films (be mindful that it’s black and white, which drives some people to drink).

Where can I get it? Netflix doesn’t carry it yet, but you can buy from Amazon or rent the DVD from a place with a good classic film collection. In Halifax or Bedford, Nova Scotia, you’ll find it at Video Difference.


Love this movie? Live this movie! Bathing baldies … I mean, beauties. 

“My, she’s yar!” Tracy Lord says of the model yacht True Love. Well yar swim cap is pretty yar too, we want to say in return! It’s true, ladies — bald can be beautiful. If you too want to be a stone-cold retro goddess,  a bathing cap is where it’s at. Here, Katharine Hepburn as Tracy Lord takes a dip in the large pool on her estate, sporting a plain white cap.  Keira Knightley showed off the same look (with chip strap) in Atonement, a 2007 film set in 1930’s England. Similar caps can be purchased at Amazon.com and Speedo.com.



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So I Married an Axe Murderer

DVD (1993) Written by Robbie Fox/Directed by Thomas Schlamme

(Photo: TriStar Pictures)

Suspecting your loved one of being a serial killer: we’ve all been there. But for San Francisco poet Charlie Mackenzie, this kind of thing is becoming a habit: every girlfriend is mentally ill, or smells like soup, or steals his cats. At least according to him. Charlie has a serious fear of commitment, and as he reads yet one more of his mournful doomed-relationship poems at open-mic night, it doesn’t look as if any woman will ever be good enough for him.

But love and haggis are in the air, and Charlie (played by Mike Myers) soon meets the smart and pretty Harriet Michaels (Nancy Travis) at her butcher shop downtown. Charlie is smitten and things are going well — until he convinces himself that the sweet little Harriet is actually what the Weekly World News calls Mrs. X, the infamous Honeymoon Murderer who marries, kills, then disappears into the night in search of another victim. Will Charlie push through his paranoia and find happiness with Harriet, or will he leave her just like he’s left all the others?

As goofy and as fluffy as this movie is, So I Married an Axe Murderer is impossible to hate. Nancy Travis has never been the most convincing actress, but there is a cute chemistry between her and Myers  and I like her a lot here. As for Myers, he steals the show from himself, playing a second role as Charlie’s perpetually-smashed insult-wielding father. In his thick Scottish brogue, Stuart Mackenzie nags his son Charlie for being a mamma’s boy (“Float away, ya fairy!”) and sloppily sings the wrong lyrics to every song he knows. Axe Murderer, which is unique in the rom-com world because it’s told from the guy’s point of view, is a classic in my books. It’s no Roman Holiday, but it is a lot of fun and it’s a great pick if you’re wary of “chick flicks.”

Sweet extras Watch for the scene where Myers as Stuart Mackenzie rants about his conspiracy theories involving the pope, the queen, and Colonel Sanders. Anthony LaPaglia, who plays Charlie’s friend Tony, can’t keep himself from cracking up, and you can tell he’s laughing for real.

The envelope, please I award Axe Murderer the following prizes:

Best wedding dress in a rom-com: This gothic-looking hooded chiffon and satin wedding death, I mean “‘dress,”  is gorgeous. How I’d love to float down the aisle (or through a cemetery) in that beautiful thing.

Best honeymoon destination in a rom-com: The fictional Poet’s Corner Inn, a neo-classical mansion snuggled in the mountains, is a lovers paradise. Well, it would be if it were real. The mountains you see behind the inn are  fake, and the inn itself is actually the Dunsmuir-Hellman Historic Estate. You can’t stay overnight, but you CAN get married there (and murdered too, perhaps?).

Good for who? An excellent choice for the gal or guy who detests romantic comedies, but feels the pressure to rent/download one for a romantic night in. Guys, if you and your wife/girlfriend/weekend lover don’t LOL at this movie, I will personally send a handwritten letter of apology to you.  Note to the Baptist minister’s wife: Sorry I said “weekend lover” up there, and second, this movie is probably a wee bit too racy for you. Sexual content is no big deal (unless you count Mike Myers bare bottom, but it’s played for laughs — nothing sexy about it), but the language is a little jarring with two F-bombs and a light peppering of other words throughout.

Loved this movie? Live this movie! The Weekly World News is 100% true — that’s a fact.

Charlie’s mother refers to the Weekly World News scandal rag as “the paper” and to her, the content of this paper is irrefutable. Cigarette in hand, she peruses the paper each evening, learning about the world around her. You can too! The infamous Weekly World News — which gave us the truth about Hitler’s gaggle of love children as well as tales of the flesh-starved Bat Boy —  stopped its hard copy version in 2007, but its website is still going. If you care about the facts and nothing but the facts, you’ll get your news here and only here: http://weeklyworldnews.com/

Samples and first lines from today’s WWN headline news, for January 2011:

Kim Kardashian crisis: “Tragedy struck Kim Kardashian last night on a private flight from New Jersey to Las Vegas.  Her left butt cheek exploded.”

Megan Fox marries but she’s still a man: “WWN has confirmed that Megan Fox married Brian Austin Green on June 24th.  WWN also confirmed that she is still a man. … One guest overheard Fox saying she thought she looked like Alan Alda in her wedding gown.”

Mike Tyson has a pigeon fetish: “…Tyson, 44, will exhibit an unfamiliar, and sometimes uncomfortable, tender side as he shows the depth of his love for pigeons.”

Tuna boy of New Jersey: “A rare mutation happened to Fred Allan on the way to his Thanksgiving feast.  His head turned into a Tuna. Last week, Fred Allan, an angler who went missing three miles off the coast of New Jersey, was spotted in Jersey City on his way to a Thanksgiving feast. Fred sat through his Thanksgiving meal with his family without them noticing that his head had turned into a tuna. … It wasn’t until he was walking home when a little boy, Chucky Thompson, saw Fred on the street and screamed, “Your head is a tuna fish!”

Paula Jane

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Housesitter

DVD (1992) Written by Mark Stein / Directed by Frank Oz                               STARRING: Steve Martin, Goldie Hawn

(Image: hookedonhouses.net)

Housesitter is a movie I always recommend to those who want a rom-com that’s heavy on the “com” and not so much the “rom.” This movie is sort of the antithesis of Sleepless in Seattle, which we all know is a masterpiece of ooey-gooey emotional goodness.  That’s not to say that Housesitter is not moving or romantic, because it is. But the development of the relationship between the lead characters sort of sneaks up on you in a conclusion that’s cute and satisfying yet relatively painless for the viewer who gets wigged out by heartfelt monologues or too many girl tears.

Steve Martin plays architect Newton Davis, a man who has been in love with the same woman since the 9th grade. Now he is  finally popping the question — not with a diamond ring but with a beautiful house he designed and built himself, wrapped in a huge red bow. “You are so nuts!” Becky exclaims upon seeing the house, to which he replies “And you are so sane! It’s perfect!”  But will she marry him?  “No!” she retorts, and three months later, Newton is still broken-hearted and the engagement house sits in the country, unlived in and empty.  But after a one-night stand with a fakey Hungarian waitress named Gwen (Goldie Hawn), Newton decides it’s time to move on and he heads to his hometown to put the house up for sale. Much to his surprise, the house is now being  inhabited by the one-night stand, and she’s been presenting herself around town as Newton’s wife. She is cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, Newton is certain, but he allows Gwen to stay when he realizes he can use her to win Becky’s love once and for all.

Goldie Hawn is  funny and beautiful, and quite a different physical specimen from the rom-com leads of the past decade or so. Housesitter was made in 1992, back in the days when it was okay to have some junk in the trunk, and Goldie strikes me as a cross between Jenn Aniston, Madonna, and perhaps a half-baked aunt we like to visit every summer. Gwen seems to be a con-artist at first glance, but when we  realize that all she wants is a place to belong,  it puts a soft edge on an otherwise manipulative character.

As for Steve Martin, I could sing his praises all day (brilliant comedic banjo-plucking art-collecting writer/actor/Renaissance man) but for now I will stick to the subject at hand and say that no one but Steve Martin can slide back and forth between gentleman and supreme nitwit with such ease. If you like Transition Steve (post-Jerk but still maintaining a healthy dose of goofball), you’ll like Housesitter.

Sweet extras Steve singing “Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral.” You can’t live without it.

Good for who? This is a funny one for both guys and girls, and will make a great rental for a date night at home. For the content conscious among you (you know who you are), there’s a bit of mild language and a few sexual references but nothing graphic.

Loved this movie? Live this movie! Wrapping it up with a big red bow

The big red bow is great for unwrappable gifts like a car or a piano or Newton’s engagement house to Becky. But many of us can’t afford to give the gift of shelter or transport, so does that mean we’re doomed to never partake in the gentle beauty that is the big red bow?  Nonsense! I recall the last time I bought a shower gift: the gift was $20, and the wrapping paper, tape, and ribbon came to $15. Obscene, but what are my choices? Re-using old paper or giftbags is a great idea, but sometimes they can look too worn. I like the idea of presenting a small gift with all of the splendor of a huge one — tied up with nothing but a red bow.  It’s cheap and stylish and it looks so cool that others will assume they should be doing it too. Yes, it can be said that giving an “unwrapped” gift is ruining the surprise, but chances are the person has demanded the gift through their registry or Christmas list and already knows what’s coming. Not only does a red bow scream class, but it also says “I know you already knew what this gift was going to be so let’s just cut the crap. Happy wedding shower, your majesty!”

Below I demonstrate with household items just how great a red bow can look on a little gift.

Books are perfect for this simple yet classic treatment.  Adorned with this fine red bow, painter John Singer Sargent’s Madame X looks even more stuck up than she apparently already was.

No, that’s not a gemstone from King Tut’s burial collar. That’s a yard-sale rooster.

You ask: “What on earth IS this?” I say: Who cares! It’s wrapped in a big red bow so it MUST be valueable!

Even a week-old container of red onions looks like a gift from the Queen when presented with a velvet red bow.  If you hand over this gift and the receiver says “Snooty much?” before sauntering away, you’ll know you’re working it.

Try the red bow idea at the next birthday or shower you’ve been invited to. If you are a clutz and absolutely cannot tie a decent bow, check out this great little quickie tutorial.

Paula Jane

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17 Again

DVD (2009)  Written by Jason Filardi / Directed by Burr Steers

Mann and Efron in “17 Again”   (image: New Line Cinema) 

A 37-year-old is thrust into the body of a 17-year-old. No, no, that’s not a description of the photo above — it’s the plot of 17 Again, one of my favourite movies from last year.  Many of you probably haven’t seen the movie because you think it’s for kids, but it’s not.  Nor is it a tale of cougar angst, or a lame vehicle for Disney-grown prettyboy Zac Efron.  17 Again is very much a story for adults (and older teens), and it’s so much fun from start to finish. If you can accept that Zac Efron is going to look like Chandler Bing in 20 years, then you’ve got nothing to worry about.

Matthew Perry plays 37-year-old Mike O’Donnell. He works at a dead-end job, he’s just weeks away from finalizing his divorce, and his teenaged kids want nothing to do with him. Life is terrible, but with a little help from a mystical high-school janitor, Mike is given the chance to re-do the last 20 years of his life.  He arrives back in 1989 — not to the year, but to the body he inhabited during his senior year in high school. The grumpy and tired Matt Perry turns into the delish and energetic Zac Efron, and once again Mike O’Donnell has life by the tail. Within a day, he’s back as the star of the basketball team and just a scout visit away from a full college scholarship. Plus he can Hammer Dance like there’s no tomorrow. Mike soon realizes, however, that he’s been sent back to high school not to salvage a lost basketball career, but for a greater purpose, and he sets out to save his kids and his marriage to his high school sweetheart Scarlett (Leslie Mann).

This movie contains shades of everything from Big, Freaky Friday, Peggy Sue Got Married, and even  Back to the Future. It’s not really a new idea, but what sets this one apart is Efron’s performance. He channels a 37-year-old man with such authenticity and a lot of the film’s humour is built on this. Efron is a true multi-talent, and in 17 Again he proves he can act, do comedy, and probably also steal away some of our moms if he tried. There is a courtroom scene where he reads a letter to Scarlett, and it’s so well done and so sweet that we suspend all disbelief and feel for this lonely body-transformed man-child who wants so desperately to have a second chance with his wife.

Lovely moments like that aside, 17 Again is a great date movie and it’s both male and female friendly. I imagine there are a lot of you out there who would rather have Jack Bauer cut a cellphone memory card from your stomach than watch a movie starring one of the High School Musical cast members. I urge you not to dismiss this movie because you think you’re too good for Zac Efron (you’re not). If for no other reason, watch this movie for  Thomas Lennon, who plays Mike O’Donnell’s best friend and faux-father. He’s hilarious plus his house of sci-fi memorabilia will keep you drooling for the duration.

Sweet extras   A bit of trivia: at one point in the film, Thomas Lennon claims to be speaking “Elf”, implying it is Elvish, the language created by J.R.R. Tolkien. What Lennon is actually speaking is a form of Gaelic — Elvish is a registered trademark of the Tolkien family and you aren’t allowed to use it without special permission.

Good for who?  I recommend this for 14+ teens and adults. This is definitely not appropriate for little kids (and would probably make the baptist minister’s wife a little uncomfortable). You can find a detailed content description of 17 Again at Screenit.com, a site I highly recommend for parents with movie-loving kids.  I let my 12-year-old daughter watch 17 Again because I liked the movie’s message and because I knew she could handle the content — it was nothing I hadn’t already discussed with her for the most part.  

 

Loved this movie? Live this movie! Hammertime

Did MC Hammer ever stop to think that maybe we don’t WANT to touch this?  In case, however, you’ve got the godforsaken urge to bust a move after watching 17 Again, you can review the dance steps in the basketball court cheerleading scene near the beginning of the movie. In a special feature outtake included on the DVD, you can watch Zac Efron learn to Hammer Dance as well as do The Running Man, The Prep, and The Roger Rabbit (“What IS that?” he asks, after watching the choreographer demonstrate).

If you just can’t wait to rent your DVD before having your own ’80s-dance refresher, watch my favourite description of the Hammer Dance from Howcast.com and get started right now!  The video says Hammer pants are optional, but I think we both know they’re a necessity!

 

 

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Something’s Gotta Give

DVD (2003)  Written by Nancy Meyers / Directed by Nancy Meyers     STARRING: Diane Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Frances McDormand, Keanu Reeves, Amanda Peet

(McDormand, Keaton, and Peet in “Something’s Gotta Give.”   Image: Columbia)

We first see the house of our dreams as the male lead and a female secondary character pull into the driveway. “The perfect beachhouse,” he says, in awe of the expansive cedar-shingled oceanfront home. We too are in awe, and giddily await the architectural delights beyond the front doors. The characters say a few more things — things that are probably pertinent to the plot — and then enter the “fabulous two-storey livingroom” which oozes both comfort and New York chic. We ooo, we ahhh, we don’t notice that the female character is removing her pants. 

Okay, yes, we do notice she’s removing her pants, but I just wanted to stress how gorgeous this beach house is. Just being able to admire the film’s set and settings for 128 minutes was, for me, worth the theatre ticket price for Something’s Gotta Give.  The script and the cast in this sophisticated romantic comedy by Nancy Meyers are unbeatable to begin with, and the addition of such a glorious set is like warm caramel sauce on an already delicious bowl of Ben & Jerry’s. It’s borderline indulgent, but I love it.

This Hamptons beach house belongs to divorced 50-something playwright Erica Barry (Diane Keaton).  Erica and her sister Zoe (Frances McDormand) had hoped to spend a quiet weekend at the beach, but that plan goes out the window with the unexpected arrival of Erica’s daughter Marin (Amanda Peet) and her 63-year-old boyfriend Harry Sanborn (Jack Nicholson).  Erica is put off by the age difference between her 30-ish daughter and the new boyfriend, and she and Harry clash. Things get weird when Marin and Zoe must return to the city, leaving Erica to spend a few days alone in the house with the cigar-smoking rap-pushing girl-chasing Harry. The situation is so tailor-made for laughs and romantic encounters that only a couple of chumps like  J-Lo and Alex O’Loughlin could screw it up.  The fact that Jack Nicholson’s charm is in the mix makes Something’s Gotta Give my top-of-the-heap romantic comedy favourite.

My friend J. says she doesn’t usually like Keaton because she is just so over the top when she’s acting. Yes, Keaton has really rubbed me the wrong way a few times, like in 2007’s  Because I said So, but in Something’s Gotta Give she seems to be in the zone. Keaton is at her best when she seems to be playing herself, and it’s been said by critics that she’s doing that here. I’m not suggesting Diane Keaton should be a one-trick pony, but if the saddle fits…

Anyway never mind all that. Did you get a load of Erica’s freaking kitchen? And her office. My lord, her office.

Sweet extras  Two words: Keanu Reeves. He appears throughout the movie as Dr. Julian Mercer, and as a love interest for Diane Keaton. Also to note is Frances McDormand: she’s the coolest romantic comedy sidekick, and I wish there had been more of her in the film, but alas, more time given to her would have probably meant less time for Keanu, and that is unthinkable.

If you liked this movie, you’ll probably  like  It’s Complicated, also written and directed by Nancy Meyers.

Good for who?  If you’re any kind of adult and you don’t enjoy Something’s Gotta Give, then you should have your head examined by the handsome Dr. Julian Mercer. I will just note that sexual references and scenes are numerous although not graphic, and the f-bomb drops two or three times. I know these things bother a few women who frequent this blog (no matter how artfully placed the cussin’ is), so I’m just issuing a little warning for you, ladies.

 

Loved this movie? Live this movie! Late night pajama-and-pancake party

(Keaton and Nicholson, sharing a late night snack.  Image: Columbia Pictures)

Erica and Harry are night owls and meet up in the beach house kitchen one evening for pancakes and conversation. It’s here in the smiles and looks they exchange that we realize these two really are attracted to each other. Before it can amount to anything (not even the pancakes come to fruition), Marin returns from New York and her lively presence and attention to Harry has a disappointed Erica saying she’s going back to her bedroom to write.  “You don’t want pancakes anymore?”  Harry asks — perhaps the saddest and most sweetly pathetic question ever uttered in rom-com history.  “No,” replies Erica quietly. “I don’t.”  Ouch. Shot through the heart.

Well, Erica Barry may not want pancakes anymore, but I do!  The movie gave me new appreciation for the idea of pancakes as a late-night snack. They’re delicious, filling and easy — plus the world is quiet after midnight and a little cooking and chatting is a great way for you to get to know or re-connect with your boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, roommate, child, neighbour, or anyone you might find  hanging around your yard at that time of night.  Keep the work to a minimum by using a good pancake mix instead of cooking from scratch. I use Aunt Jemima  buttermilk mix.

If pancakes seem too cheap and low-brow for your bourgeois tastes, don’t knock it until you try it. Hey,  Erica and Harry shunned leftover coq au vin for pancakes. Plus some toppings can turn pancakes into more of a highfalutin dessert than a breakfast staple.  Here are some quick and easy topping suggestions that require minimal effort (there are lots of fancy homemade syrups and sauces you can make, but the idea is to make it easy — no intensive cooking and boiling and fussing. It’s freaking midnight, afterall). Have the toppings alone, or mix and match with others from the list:

  • Maple syrup, of course
  • Blueberries (that’s what Erica was planning to use)
  • Strawberries
  • Pears
  • Peaches
  • Whip cream
  • Milk chocolate chips (on top or cooked right into the batter)
  • Chocolate or butterscotch syrup
  • Sugar with lemon juice (recommended on several sites online)
  • Applesauce
  • Jam (spread cold with a knife or warm in the microwave)
  • Yogurt
  • Powdered sugar
  • Peanut butter (cold or warmed and melted over the pancakes)
  • Ice cream
  • Cream cheese
  • Caramel
  • Honey
  • Bacon (quickly cook in the microwave and then crumble either on top of the pancake with syrup, or sprinkle the bacon pieces into the uncooked side of your pancakes while they’re in the pan. Top with a little maple syrup afterward.)

Do you have a favourite quick-and-easy pancake topping that I haven’t listed here? Let me know and I’ll include it in the list.

Paula Jane

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Moonstruck

DVD (1987)  Written by John Patrick Shanley / Directed by Norman Jewison

(image: MGM)

You should never love  the man you’re going to marry. “When you love them, they drive you crazy,” says Italian mama Rose Castorini to her Italian daughter Loretta. The 30-something Loretta (Cher) is going to marry mild-mannered Italian Johnny Cammareri — not because she loves him (she doesn’t) but because he’s nice and sweet and why not? She was married once before, to a man she did love, but he died after being hit by a bus (Italian?). Now she just wants practical and easy — and that’s Johnny.  But things get messy for Loretta when Johnny has to fly to Sicily to attend the deathbed of his ranting, Italian mother. He asks Loretta to call his estranged brother Ronny (Nicholas Cage) and invite him to the wedding. Loretta does and, much to her dismay, she and Ronny connect on the deepest of levels.

Cher as Loretta is part girl-next-door, part Roman goddess, part Rocky Balboa. She offers up some deadpan brilliance and I like her character’s practical approach to all aspects of life: “I’m in love with you!” confesses Ronny. “Snap out of it!” Loretta instructs.  One of my favourite scenes has Loretta at the kitchen table with her father (Vincent Gardenia) as she tells him she’s getting married again. I love their timing, animated gestures, and the real sense of relationship.

As for Nicholas Cage, have you ever watched an ultra-weird acting performance and wondered “Wow, was that on purpose?”  A young Cage gives one of those here as Ronny, a tormented soul whose life experiences are the stuff operas are made of.  He works in the ovens at a New York bakery and stokes the fires like he’s fueling his hatred and bitterness. “I have no life! My brother Johnny took my life from me! And now he’s getting married!” he stews.  Moonstruck is my favourite all-time Nicholas Cage performance and he delivers two  priceless monologues, the kind that would seem so old-school and out of place in  21st-century film and television.  Ronny “ain’t no freakin’ monument to justice,” and you gotta love it.

As well as being a story about love and  transformation, Moonstruck  describes the joys and pains of being a part of a close-knit family. You can see the many ways in which My Big Fat Greek Wedding must have been inspired by this earlier film.  Greek Wedding,  however, is a light-weight compared to the more sincere and tension-driven Moonstruck. The film has a beautiful simplicity and if you like romantic comedies but doubt it’s a genre that can produce anything truly worthwhile, you should watch this.  The film won several Oscars: lead actress (Cher), supporting actress (Olympia Dukakis as Rose), and screenplay (John Patrick Shanley). It was also nominated for best picture and best director.

Sweet extras   The opening shot features the New York City skyline, with the twin towers as a prominent feature. It’s cool to see the city that way again, although it’s also a little startling, even nine years after they came down.

Good for who?  Moonstruck is great for couples, a night with girlfriends, or just watching alone. It’s inappropriate for kids (there’s mild sexytime scenes and conversation), and might be a little too daring  for the Baptist minister’s wife.

Loved this movie? Live this movie! Opera and eggs

Ronny Cammareri, the sexy bread-baking drama king, loves to brood and suffer to the sounds of his favourite arias. His apartment is a shrine to opera, with framed posters,  an album collection, and musical scores affixed to the wall.  The opera featured in Moonstruck is Giacomo Puccini’s 1896 work La Bohème — the story of a poet and a seamstress brought together by chance in 1830’s Paris. They fall in love but, in the end, the seamstress falls ill with tuberculosis and dies in the poet’s arms. La Bohème is one of the most frequently performed (and most romantic) operas ever put into production. The poster for La Bohème shown on Ronny’s wall (and seen here) is a vintage Metropolitan opera poster from 1978, created by artist Jamie Wyeth. This poster pops up on various internet auction sites, selling for between $150-$350.

If, after watching Moonstruck, you are craving Puccini,  there are plenty of options to satisfy you. (If, instead, you are just craving “Eggs in a Nest,” see two paragraphs below.) I recommend working yourself into opera gently with a CD for the car or kitchen. Jumping too quickly into a full three or four-hour production on DVD or in person might ruin your opera buzz, or even kill you.  The Moonstruck soundtrack contains a contemporary film score plus two beautiful arias from La Bohème: Che Gelida Manina and O Soave Fanciulla. I suggest you go beyond the soundtrack and buy a CD completely devoted to operatic arias.  One that I enjoy very much as an opera newbie is Puccini Gold, recorded in 2008. It highlights pieces from an assortment of Puccini operas including La Bohème, Turandot, Tosca, and  Madama Butterfly and features opera house superstars such as Luciano Pavarotti, Montserrat Caballé, Placido Domingo, Andrea Bocelli, and Anna Netrebko.

Most classical operas will be in a language you probably don’t understand — like Italian or German. If that bothers you, you can google translations of your favourite vocal pieces. What I prefer to do is not look up a translation of the libretto but rather read an English synopsis of the entire opera (just a quick summary). It makes listening to the aria more like looking at a painting — a bit of background helps me appreciate the movement and emotion of the piece without my imagination being restricted by too much information.

Rose cooks up some special toast and eggs for Loretta one morning while they sit and chat in their big New York kitchen. Eggs made this way are often referred to as “Eggs in a Nest,”  “Italian Eggs,” or, yes, even “Moonstruck Eggs.”  I made them for myself this morning and, wow, they were so good I refused to share them with my dog Chach. (I always share my breakfast with Chach, so he wasn’t happy. I think he wailed out the entire last act of La Bohème while I ate).  I believe this was one of the first times in my life when I didn’t miss bacon with my eggs.  I can imagine that having some bacon with this — like having too much opera too soon — would just knock a person unconscious.

I need to stress that the key to this little breakfast delight is the fresh Italian bread and the olive oil. Using regular sliced bread and butter just won’t cut it. Many of the recipes online varied and so I took the elements I liked most and put together my own recipe. You’ll need: a pan, olive oil, fresh Italian bread, eggs, a green onion, and a red bell pepper.

1. Slice your Italian bread, about  a quarter-inch to one-inch thick. Make a hole in the center of the bread with whatever will work (I used the end of a little cylindrical grater). The hole should go clear through the bread. I made the hole while the bread was untoasted, and that squished the bread a little. It might work best to make the hole after step four.

2. Chop up a green onion, and cut long thin strips of red pepper.

3.  Heat olive oil in a pan and begin to stir fry the red pepper and green onions until the pepper is softening and browning a little around the edges. THEN:

4. Put bread slice(s) into pan and toast side 1, making sure there is enough olive oil still in the pan to absorb a little into the bread.

5. When side 1 is toasted, flip the bread over to toast side 2. Crack an egg and drop it into the hole to cook.

6. Keep stirring the peppers and green onions around the pan so they don’t burn.

7. For eggs over-hard: once side 2 is toasted, flip onto side 1 again for two or three minutes until the egg is cooked, then serve. For eggs sunnyside up with a soft yolk: do not flip onto side 2 again. Instead, cover the pan and the egg will cook to your desired consistency.

8. Remove toast from pan; put onions and peppers on top or on the side.

9. Salt and pepper to taste. Then let me know what you think!

Paula Jane

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