Monday, November 07, 2011

My Halloween: The Trouble With Harry

Thanks to a healthy dose of professional-grade guilt trip served up by mom, I spent Halloween night at my parents' house helping my dad hand out candy. My mom couldn't be there because she was at the rehabilitation facility with my grandmother because my grandmother had guilt-tripped my mom into staying until she (my grandmother, not my mom) went to bed for the night.  It's true what they say--guilt rolls down hill.
But the night before Halloween, RR and I celebrated by watching The Trouble With Harry, our favorite Hitchcock film.  
It's not a Halloween movie, but it is a fall movie, and it seemed appropriate.  I haven't met many people outside of my family who like this movie, and I think it has something to do with expectations.  This movie isn't like any other Hitchcock movie other than the fact that the sense of humor that runs through it.  It's not a suspense movie like Rear Window or a scary movie like Psycho.  It's a comedy, the only one Hitchcock ever made to my knowledge.  But TTWH is a black comedy, and that may be another reason some people don't like it.  

Not a lot happens in the movie (one more reason some people may not like it); the whole point of the movie seems to be to showcase the quirky inhabitants of a picturesque New England town.  The trouble with Harry is that he's dead, and nobody is quite sure what to do about it, and the question of how he died and, more importantly, what to do with his body are basically the entire plot of the movie.  I can't explain why we like the movie so much, but it might be because we love dark comedies, and we love the dialogue. And the skeptical and deadpan reactions of Mildred Dunnock, the actress playing Mrs. Wiggs.

I want to be this woman.

And everything about John Forsythe's character. And Shirley Maclaine, charming the socks off of everyone. And the adorable Edmund Gween and Mildred Natwick. 

And of course, Jerry Mathers in his pre-"Leave It To Beaver" days.  Here he is trying to explain to Sam Marlowe (Forsythe's character) about days of the week (see about a minute in).

And last but not least, the score by Bernard Herrmann is absulutely perfect for the movie. I defy anyone to listen to it and not feel the urge to get into mild mischief.  (You can listen to it online if you have Spotify.)
All in all, I'd say it was a perfect way to celebrate Halloween.
Speaking of black comedies, if you're a fan of the genre, you should consider watching Kiss Me, Kill Me (킬미).
It's a Korean movie from 2009. The movie is about a suicidal woman who hires a hit man to do the job for her, his reluctance to carry it out, his evolving feelings about his chosen career, and the connection the two characters come to feel to each other.  I'm not sure if it's available on Netflix, but it is available online at various websites.  It's heavy on the "black" part of "black comedy," but it actually made me laugh out loud in some moments, and that's rare for me when it comes to movies.  It also made me cry, so fair warning.  I would definitely recommend it if you like that genre of movies.  
Any suggestions for good movies along these lines? 

Saturday, November 05, 2011

State Fair 2011

A few weeks ago, Hils, RR, and I made our yearly trek to the state fair. It's a rather mild trek, as far as treks go amongst the three of us.  While we were in college together, we took a number of road trips together, but something always went wrong on those trips.  Our first trip together included such fun activities as having a flat tire, then nearly getting hit by a train at a "look and listen" railroad crossing.  We apparently were not looking in the right place and didn't know there was a train there until we felt the tracks rumbling right as we crossed them and then heard the train behind us right as we got over them.  Actually, one of us suspected that bright light heading toward us was a train, but the other two shot down the suggestion because the light was "coming right at us" and therefore had to be oncoming traffic. 

Ahem. Anyway.

After two subsequent trips, one that involved getting stuck on a roundabout and the other that involved two separate (minor) car accidents within a 3 hour period, we realized that the incident rate was escalating to the point that the only thing left was something involving death by fire for one if not all of us.  Now we stick to local outings. 

And for years now, one of those local outings has been the fair. We love the fair.  If you have never been to a state fair, and in particular a large state fair like the one here in Texas, you are missing an excellent people watching opportunity.  You see the most interesting mix of people there. And by "interesting," I mean "I did not know those people actually existed" kind of interesting.  It is America at its best and at its worst.

If you want to know why Americans are so fat, here is a perfect representation: a butter sculpture that was almost as tall as I am. Is it only in this country that every year we build a monument to fat?  It's pretty impressive work, and I am always both charmed and horrified by it. 

Butter sculpture [2] 2011

From the butter sculpture, we proceeded to what we call "The Hall of Crap." That's where they sell a lot of stuff that you see on informercials, like the ShamWow. I seriously love the Hall of Crap. That makes sense, considering how much I also love informercials.  But not everything in the building is garbage or "As Seen On T.V.They also sell some quality craft-type goods, and I buy a scarf there every year.   

We also stopped by the building in which they sell Texas-made products. They were selling these pecans there.  

Pecans at the State Fair 2011
This packaging really bothered me.  First of all, "Sinamen"? No. Just no. Please stop changing the spelling of words so that you can have to words that start with the same letter. And cinnamon is not "sinful" no matter how good it is. And cinnamon ends in "mon" not "men." And also, it's never, ever "sassy." Second, what is going on with that poor man's arms? One is completely misshapen, and the other is missing!  That does not make the label cute.  It makes it either sad or scary, depending on whether the arm situation resulted from a tragic accident or some kind of science experiment gone wrong that turned him into a mutant who could go "sassy" on you at any minute.

We also saw the world's tallest mattress stack, which actually was not that impressive.

As much as I love the fair, the best part of the weekend was when we made nachos using homemade Rotel dip.  And when I say homemade, I mean we made the American cheese used in the recipe.If you aren't familiar with Rotel dip, then you probably aren't from the American South.  It's just Velveeta "cheese" melted with a can of Rotel (which is just chopped tomatoes and peppers). It's mildly spicy, it's terrible for you, and it's kind of disgusting, seeing as how it's Velveeta. But it's also kind of wonderful and addicting. Whenever you have some, you think "I am never eating that again because I don't want to die this young."  Then you recover, time passes, and you decide once again that fake cheese and chemically preserved vegetables sound like a good idea for dinner. And it was a tradition of our state fair weekend for years, right up until RR and I got diagnosed with our many allergies and had to stop eating both Velveeta and Rotel.

AND THEN RR found a recipe for how to make your own American cheese, a discovery she announced to me via an email with the subject line in all caps and multiple exclamation points (because yea! nachos!). We made it, melted it down and added a jalapeno, a Fresno pepper, some tomatoes (except for RR, who is allergic), and some gochujang.  It was fantastic. In total honesty, though, I have to acknowledge that although homemade American cheese tastes better than Velveeta and is less toxic, eating too much of it will still make you feel nauseated. 

But all in all, it was a good weekend.