The Envelope Please: How to Watch All 9 Best Picture Nominees

I challenged myself to watch all the best picture nominees this year – before the actual ceremony. In case you plan to binge watch them, here is a review on each and in the order, I think you should watch them in. (Oh ya, spoilers ahead.)

Get Out. Start here, especially if you’re not into indie, historic, or typical Oscar-nominated films.
What it’s about: The reason you should not date a crazy white girl, who’s family lives in the suburbs. It’s a little bit Hannibal Lecture meets Scream. There are some lobotomies conducted in the basement, and people get invited to bid on physical attributes of people to put their brains into. (Ya, creep factor = 8).
Why you should see it: Jordan Peele better known for comedies, challenges himself with the twisted storyline to this one. It’s a good entry into the next 8 movies you’ll have to complete.

The Shape of Water
What it’s about: A mute cleaning lady, Elisa falls in love with a captured sea creature at high-security government lab in 1963 Baltimore. She frees him in a Beauty & the Beast like plotline and ends up one with him in the sea.
Why you should see it: Octavia Spencer is part of “The Help” at the lab acting as Elisa’s voice, and it’s a Guillermo del Toro – ever weird but with great messaging even if the central character is mute.

Darkest Hour
What it’s about: Winston Churchill and his rise to power during World War II as Prime Minister of Great Britain and how he must try to figure out negotiations with Nazi Germany.
Why you should see it: Gary Oldman does a magnificent job of portraying Churchill both in personal and his work life. Oldman delivers the speeches in stirring oratory just as Churchill was famous for during wartime giving the British lion its roar during the darkest days of World War II.

Phantom Thread
What it’s about: 1950’s post-war London, The House of Woodcock makes dresses for high end society. Reyonlds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis), a bachelor has women coming in and out of his life as his muses and companions, relying on his sister Cyril to let them know when he is done with them. He meets Alma (Vicky Krieps), a waitress while visiting his country home. In a tale of Pretty Woman meets Misery, Alma who is strong-willed does everything in her power to not be another notch on Woodcock’s post, even to the point of poisoning him to sickness, and nursing him back to health – as if he needs her to be there the whole time.
Why you should see it: Don’t. It’s weird AF, but Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps deliver some strong acting. With the exception of a few notes sewn into the dresses produced by The House of Woodcock, the title served no purpose. Also, the poisoning thing – outright strange.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
What it’s about: Justice. A mom whose daughter is raped purchases three billboards outside of a rural town asking why the local law enforcement hasn’t done anything about her daughter’s crime in months. Along the way, the several societal themes come out: police brutality, domestic abuse, racism, cancer/suicide/right to die, and more.
Why you should see it: Because it will likely win Best Picture. Frances McDormand delivers a performance that will captivate every emotion you can possibly feel in 120 minutes – the grieving heart of a mother who lost a child, the independence of someone who was left for a younger woman, and the leader of a community that wants nothing more than peace for herself and others.

Dunkirk
What it’s about: May 1940. Germany advanced into France, trapping allied troops on the beaches of Dunkirk. Under air and ground cover from British and French forces, troops are slowly and methodically evacuated from the beach using every serviceable naval and civilian vessel that could be found. At the end of this heroic mission, 330,000 French, British, Belgian and Dutch soldiers were safely evacuated.
Why you should see it: It’s where Darkest Hour left of, and of course you want to see how it all came to be. Director, Christopher Nolan develops a multitude of characters – including Mr. Dawson and his son Peter who set out on his boat Moonstone rather than let the navy take her. The movie ends with one of the characters reading Churchill’s address to the nation.

The Post
What it’s about: Katharine Graham is the first female publisher of a major American newspaper – The Washington Post. With help from editor Ben Bradlee, Graham races to catch up with The New York Times to expose a massive cover-up of government secrets that spans three decades and four U.S. presidents. Together, they must overcome their differences as they risk their careers and personal lives.
Why you should see it: If you’re like me and love media and news – this is one for you. Also, put Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks together, and it’s a winning combination. Katharine Graham (Streep) gets put in this position and must decide to print the secrets during a time when The Post is about to go public risking it all financially, or doing what the press is about and reporting on the news. What’s also great is the real recorded conversations that Nixon had during his time in the White House were used in the film. #PreWatergate

Call Me By Your Name
What it’s about: Every summer fling you ever had and did not want to end. Summer 1983. 17-year-old Elio Perlman (Timotheé Chalamet) is spending the days with his family at their 17th-century villa in Lombardy in Northern Italy. He soon meets Oliver, a handsome doctoral student who’s working as an intern for his father. They have a summer fling, and the rest is history – until of course Oliver must travel back to the states, breaking Elio’s heart later to reveal he is getting married.
Why you should see it: Because it might also win Best Picture. Also, it’s set in Italy and its gorgeous. It’s a great story about first loves and parent’s acceptance of Elio. It is also one of two films that Chalamet is in, and the two pieces challenge his spectrum of acting.

Lady Bird
What it’s about: Sacramento 2002. Catholic school. Senior year. A coming of age saga. Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson is an outspoken teen who lives with her parents, with whom she has a strained relationship [mostly her mother, who has to work a double shift at the mental hospital because her dad is recently out of work], her older brother, who is adopted, and his girlfriend. She’s BFF with Julianne “Julie” Steffans, and together they decide to join their school’s theatre program, where Lady Bird meets Danny O’Neill. They develop a romantic relationship, leading to Lady Bird joining Danny’s family for Thanksgiving. Danny is found making out with a boy, thus ending things. In comes Kyle Scheible, a sort of emo-musician who she meets working at a coffee shop. He and Lady Bird begin a romantic relationship, and she begins to drift away from Julie in favor of a friendship with a popular girl named Jenna Walton. [Oh ya, Lady Bird is trying to leave all this and has secretly applied to schools in New York, under her mother’s radar.]
Why you should see it (last): Probably the most comic of the nine – and a great way to end your binge watching. Lady Bird is just trying to make ends with what she has – and live her best life. While she’s trying to get out of Sacramento, you discover she really loves her life there and the people, especially her mother. She has her Mean Girls moment when she opts to hang with Jenna instead of Julie, but then has a Romy & Michelle moment when she ends up going to prom with Juile, after that lying SOB Kyle takes her virginity. The film ends as Lady Bird moves to New York, and her mother cannot come to terms with it. Her father sneaks in the rough draft letters her mother has written for her into her suitcase. The themes of mental health, adoption, age-ism, and coming out [best scene: when Danny weeps with her behind the coffee shop] are part of this film. And the best supporting actor goes to a star, Danny and Lady Bird named, Bruce.

If you decide to watch the films, some theaters are offering a movie pass for all of them in the last two weeks of February. Check your local listings. As for me my vote is for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

 

 

Weenier, weenier… Costco deenier.

Hot dogs. Probably not the healthiest thing to eat. But if you’re feeling poor and want a quick fix, you’re likely heading to your local Costco, am I right?

I was recently having a hot dog with my mom at the local Costco. And not only is it one of my favorite memories of doing groceries as a kid at Costco (Price Club, back in the day), but knowing it’s been a fixture there for the last 27 years helps jog other fond memories – like in high school when we’d grab some before a bonfire and re-roast them or when we’d go for work lunches and order a hot dog and the entire Costco food court menu spending upwards of $10 total.

At a quarter-pound dog served inside a slightly sweet yet simple bun, it doesn’t come with controversy. In 2009, Costco switched from Hebrew National to Kirkland Signature hot dogs causing an uproar including letters to corporate, despite the newer dog being slightly bigger than the old, kosher one.

But, why a $1.50, though? It’s so cheap. And, its been that price forever.

There is a thought that the hot dog acts as a carrot – lead magnet of some sorts. Most people (me, included 99% of the time), don’t just go to Costco, walk around, and don’t buy a bunch of over-bulked items and come out $400 later. The hot dog acts as a “reward sticker”… something for a low price finally at the end of your trip. It creates a habit in essence, which we as humans find utterly satisfying – like Costco didn’t win all my wallet – but they really did.

P.S.  You can also say something about that $4.99 rotisserie chicken in the back of the warehouse. A whole chicken that could feed your family for dinner, or feed you for a week if you’re single. Did Costco just double-bait you?

Freedom

Church. Yesterday.

No matter your preference in religion, even if you are atheist – this post is going to be relevant to you.

You see the thing with church for me is a mixed bag. I enjoy the traditional thousand-year-old practices cause it’s “classic” but I also enjoy the modern rock out sing-a-long.

What both practice is community and messaging. The message doesn’t always pertain to God, but all the time it does pertain to you.

Yesterday’s message was about freedom. Appropriate to it being Martin Luther King, Jr. day, today.

It always starts with celebrating your own personal freedom – that of which you control. There may be variables that hold you back from this feeling and breaking those chains may not always be easy. Once you set yourself free, you can help others attain their freedom.

You may want freedom from a bad living situation, freedom from addiction to something, freedom to be more an awesome you. And, yes it may not sound as easy as I make it sound. Freedom is certainly not always overnight.

What matters is that you should always know your self worth. I don’t practice this enough myself in my life, as I feel that I have many freedoms that so many already have. And, this feeling IMO is something I’d rather share than take advantage of.

To be honest, to be perfectly honest (and not to take any credit), I didn’t make a monetary offering yesterday. I knew I saw a many who was asking for coffee on the way into church, so I gave him a $1 on the way out, told him “God bless.” Some people think what if he was a beggar using the money to just buy drugs or alcohol. It’s the age old question isn’t it? But who am I to judge? Do I know what freedoms this gentlemen does not have? Do you?

I leave you with this one thought: freedom is a combination of two syllables: ‘free’ and ‘dom.’ The word, free as an adverb means “without cost or payment.” Dom used as a suffix means “denoting a state or condition.” It does not cost you a thing to lift the top two corners of your mouth up – and that is the simpliest form of freedom anyone can share.

Foodie Friday: Frozen Custard v. Frozen Everything Else

Picture it, you’re about 8 or 9 years old, it’s a hot summer day, the ice cream truck comes rolling along, you dig into your allowance and pick out just enough for your favorite cool down treat — a red, white, and blue rocket pop.

As time progressed your taste and refinement for frozen novelties change and now that rocket pop taste may shift more to milk-based treats. And while, everyone knows ice cream as well, ice cream there’s its cousin, frozen custard.

Not as popular where I live (but give the hipsters time), frozen custard differentiates with one key ingredient – egg yolk. All other ingredients are the same as regular ice cream, but the yolk creates a thicker product, which in turn creates the best tasting treat.

So what’s in “regular ice cream?” Ice cream proper itself is usually about 20% cream and 10% milk, and will contain at least 10% fat. In classic form, it will be less dense and is often served very frozen.

Then there is the Italian ice cream stallion, gelato. He always seems try to be the label whore in the family, having fancy and sometimes hard to pronounce flavors — stracciatella for example. During production it’s is churned very slowly, making it much more dense than regular ice cream. However, it contains about 5-7% less fat, due to the higher ratio of milk to cream.

Well there you have it. It may be winter, but I’m thinking about you frozen custard, are you thinking about me?

First Follower: How to Start A Movement

During a meeting today, the term “first follower” was brought up. In context, it was about making sure one of our programs resonated in remote locations, and identifying who those first followers could be, but it was more about finding the lone nut.

This reminded me of a TedTalk back in 2010 by Derek Sivers: How to start a movement. You’re probably one of over 6 million who have seen it.

Sivers makes some key points:

  • Nurture your first followers are your equals, so its about the movement, not you.
  • Leadership is over-glorified. The first guy may get all the credit, but it was really the first follower that transformed the lone nut into a leader.
  • We’re told that we should all be leaders, that would be really ineffective.
  • If you really care about starting a movement, have the courage to follow and show others how to follow.
  • And when you find a lone nut doing something great, have the guts to be the first one to stand up and join in.

Foodie Friday: Ginormus Cinnamon Rolls

Each Friday, Adventures in Ralphieland brings you Foodie Friday – a culinary exploration of something to cook or somewhere to go, but definitely something to eat during the weekend. Today, ginormus cinnamon rolls.

Sometimes when I’m at the local mall, I walk a little slower when I’m passing Cinnabon. I mean, admit it, you do too! That smell, those buns, hon!

Here’s a fancy recipe to get that same smell in your kitchen, and those delicious tasting rolls of heaven in your belly.

What you’ll need:
DOUGH

  • 1 c warm milk
  • 2 ½ teaspoons instant dry yeast
  • 2 large eggs at room temperature
  • 1/3 c melted butter
  • 4 ½ c all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ c granulated sugar

FILLING

  • ½ c butter almost melted
  • 1 c packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Ceylon cinnamon
  • ½ c heavy cream (reserved)

FROSTING

  • 6 oz. cream cheese (softened)
  • 1/3 c butter (softened)
  • 2 c powdered sugar
  • ½ tablespoon of Madagascar vanilla extract

SIDEKICK

  • 1 bottle of wine

How to make these guys:

  1. Pour the warm milk in a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top; give it whirl with a spoon.
  2. Add the eggs, butter, salt and sugar.
  3. Add the flour and mix using a beater blade or by hand until the ingredients are barely combined. Allow the mixture to rest for 5 minutes so the flour has time to soak up the liquids.
  4. Beat the dough on medium speed for 5-7 minutes or by hand until the dough is elastic and smooth – should be tacky/sticky but not too smooth.
  5. Spray a large bowl with cooking spray, and place the dough in it.
  6. Cover the bowl with a towel or wax paper, and let rise for about 30 min. {{drink wine}}
  7. While the dough is rising, make the filling. Combine the soft butter, brown sugar and cinnamon, mixing until well combined. Set aside.
  8. On a dry surface or pastry mat, turn dough. Use flour as needed.
  9. Flour a rolling pin and roll the dough to about a 12×15″ rectangle.
  10. Smooth the cinnamon filling over the whole dough rectangle.
  11. Starting on the long end, roll the dough up tightly jelly roll style.
  12. Cut into 9 slices and place in a greased baking pan.
  13. Cover the pan and allow the rolls to rise for 20 minutes or until nearly double. {{drink wine}}
  14. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  15. Warm the heavy cream but don’t scald it.
  16. Right before you bake the rolls, and after they have risen again, pour the heavy cream over the top of the rolls, allowing it to soak down in the cream.
  17. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, until the rolls are lightly golden brown and the center rolls are cooked through.
  18. While the rolls are cooling, prepare the cream cheese frosting.
  19. In a large bowl, combine the softened cream cheese and butter using a hand mixer. Blend well.
  20. Add in vanilla and the powdered sugar, and beat until combined.
  21. Spread the frosting over the cooled rolls.
  22. EAT THEM. {{with wine}}

If you want smaller rolls, you can cut them smaller… I just wouldn’t call them ginormus at that point.

This is how I (cinnamon) roll.