Tuesday, February 28, 2023

The Format Is the Formula

It took me long enough, but I finally figured out that social media, particularly Twitter, has become what the Krell overlooked in Forbidden Planet (1956): the monsters from the id. Subconscious desires given raging, destructive form, with the occasional Simpsons reference. Arguably, that has always been the case, but as Twitter continues to spiral down the feeling has only intensified.

Given that, I thought a format change might spur me to post here more consistently. Let’s see if it sticks.

What I’m Watching

All My Sons (1948). Noir City Seattle has come and gone. Packed houses throughout the festival—including Valentine’s Day—and I had fun dispatching my hosting duties. It’s always interesting to see which movies really land with audiences. This year’s winner was So Evil My Love (1948), a noir-tinged Gothic with the blackest of hearts. The title I was most eager to see was Sons, the adaptation of Arthur Miller’s play which has inexplicably fallen out of circulation, resulting in what Noir City master of ceremonies Eddie Muller has called “the great lost Edward G. Robinson performance.” Robinson plays a self-made businessman who has rebounded from charges of selling defective airplane parts to the Army during WWII—a scandal resulting in multiple pilot deaths and the incarceration of his former partner—to participate in the nation’s postwar prosperity. Then his son (Burt Lancaster) announces plans to wed the ex-partner’s daughter, and Robinson’s self-deception collapses around him, jeopardizing all he’s created. Sons isn’t a true film noir. It has abundant noirish elements—how could it not, with that plot—which Miller and screenwriter Chester Erskine assembled into a family drama. A few of Miller’s gambits remain resolutely theatrical and I never bought Robinson and Lancaster as father and son, but it’s a compelling film that proved a great way to close out this year’s festival.

What I’m Reading

A Death in Tokyo
, by Keigo Higashino (2022). A Higashino novel was on my best-of-2022 list, and his latest, published in December, may well appear on this year’s roster. Of course, there’s a murder—a businessman dies of a brutal stab wound on a bridge miles from his regular haunts—that serves as a vehicle for Higashino to explore aspects of Japanese culture. Here, it’s the fascinating, time-honored practice of worshipping at various shrines that provides essential clues. As usual, Higashino channels intense emotion with an exquisitely calibrated touch; Newcomer (2018), the previous entry in his Detective Kaga series in which Kaga unravels multiple neighborhood mysteries while investigating a woman’s death, has stayed with me as an example of his command of structure and his masterly control.

What I’m Drinking

Neal Bodenheimer’s Old Hickory. If Rosemarie and I were on a game show and one of us was asked, “What’s something that’s always in your refrigerator?” the other would say, “Vermouth.” I’ve always got a few bottles open, and one that has belatedly joined the ranks is blanc vermouth. This variation, walking the tightrope between its dry and sweet brethren—more floral than the former, robust enough to smooth out edges like the latter—has become my new favorite cocktail ingredient to play with. But it’s no mere featured player, as its star turn in this lower ABV charmer demonstrates. Note the different approach to mixing.

1 ½ oz. blanc vermouth
1 ½ oz. sweet vermouth
2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
1 dash orange bitters

Combine ingredients in a mixing glass without ice. Stir. Pour into a rocks glass over a single large ice cube. Express the oils in a lemon peel, then use it as a garnish if you so choose.