I made the best hambone-bean soup yesterday. Normally, I follow recipes to the letter, but in this case I took two different recipes and picked and chose from them. I’m also very strict about using the exact quantities specified (I don’t do “dashes” or “pinches”), but I varied some of the quantities, too. I figured it was either going to be a disaster or palatable. Turned out it was really, really good. Probably my best ham soup to date.
It was good soup weather. The long weekend was mostly rainy. The first couple of days were warmer, the last two days less warm. We didn’t venture out very much. We’re not shoppers, we’re hunters, and if it can be purchased online so much the better. But we didn’t even do that. We made meals, did some work and watched movies and TV shows.
Thursday was our big movie day. We started with Man Up, a rom-com starring Simon Pegg and Lake Bell (who I was astonished to learn after the fact is an American). Bell plays a 30-something who’s having a rough go of it with relationships. She’s trying to “put herself out there.” However, she ends up in an awkward situation when she accidentally steals someone else’s blind date (Pegg) and then doesn’t fess up for a while. It’s a cute story with some agonizingly painful moments (mostly due to Rory Kinnear’s character). If we’re keeping score, I’d give it a lowish B. Pegg is very watchable, ever so charming and natural.
Then we went out to see Brooklyn, starring Saoirse Ronan (The Lovely Bones) and based on the novel by Colm Tóibín. Ronan plays a girl who emigrates from Ireland to New York, sponsored by the local priest (Jim Broadbent) because she has no prospects for work back in County Wexford. The story takes her across on a ship and gets her installed in a boarding house for similar young girls (run by the delightful Julie Walters). She grows from a diffident and homesick lass into a self-assured, confident young woman after she falls in love with an Italian boy. But then the pull of Ireland rears its head and she’s forced to make some difficult choices. For a long time it seemed like the story had no antagonist. She has no nemesis to battle, and most of her relationships are thoroughly benign. It’s her against herself for the most part (although there is one evil shrew who pops up from time to time). Ronan is the reason to see this movie. It’s a powerful performance. I found myself fascinated by her eyes, which were conspicuously in different forms of dilation in different contexts. A to A-minus.
Then we watched Ashby, starring Nat Wolff (The Fault in our Stars), Mickey Rourke (!!) and Emma Roberts, who looks totally different every time I see her in something. Sarah Silverman has a supporting role that gives her a couple of good zingers but doesn’t really challenge her much. Wolff is the new kid in town, and when he’s assigned to write a paper by interviewing somebody old, he chooses his next door neighbor, Rourke, who just happens to be a retired CIA hitman. Wolff also tries out for the football team and Roberts’ character is conducting a study on the brains of student players, using the CAT scan machine she has in the basement. It’s all as ludicrous as it sounds, but it has its moments and I’d put it again in the lowish B category. Check your expectations at the door. Rourke is actually pretty hilarious.
On Friday night we watched Unbroken, Angelina Jolie’s movie about the Olympic athlete who is lost at sea for 45 days with two of his fellow soldiers during WWII, only to be “rescued” by the Japanese navy and spend the final two years in a prisoner of war camp. His celebrity and self confidence cause him to be singled out for the worst possible treatment by the particularly nasty leader of the camp. There are no surprises in the movie. It’s just one damned thing after another and he endures them all, but it is a triumph of spirit/feel-good (even while you’re cringing from all the terrible things happening) movie. A couple of my father’s older brothers spent nearly four years in Japanese POW camps, so that part of the movie had particular resonance for me. How much has changed in the world in the past 80 or so years.
On Saturday we watched Doctor Who (we’re caught up, finally) and Les Revenants (The Returned). The episode of Doctor Who was particularly mind blowing. We figure he could have knocked a few hundred million years off if he’d only taken that shovel with him. And we’re still trying to figure out exactly what the heck is going on in The Returned. There are a lot of stories, characters and mysteries to try to keep straight. How much will they wrap up this season?
Last night, we had a blast from the past and watched Flashdance, which I saw in theaters when it first came out and which my wife had never seen. It’s amazing now to think about how popular that movie was in its day. People were talking about it a lot and it did big box office. I think someone would have a hard time getting it green-lit for a Lifetime movie of the week today. It has very little substance, and almost no character development. And where the hell did an 18-year-old get a mentor? And what steel mill would hire a welder that age? It does not stand up to any sort of scrutiny. Fun music, though. Interesting to read that Alex’s audition scene uses three different body-double dancers, one of them a guy!