Wednesday, March 26, 2008
As many of you will recall, IN SEARCH OF... was a nationally syndicated television show narrated by Leonard Nimoy. The program was quite successful, running from April 1977 - March 1982. At this point in time the Needtovent empire does not include a broadcast division, although we are very close friends with the top writer of THE LOVE BOAT and once met Aaron Spelling during an ill-fated pitch session with the suits from the William Morris Agency.
But I digress (as Jerry L. Nelson would say)...
Loyal readers of Needtovent know that our very own J. Wellington Wimpy (the aforementioned Mr. Nelson) was recently on a seemingly unrewarding quest for a decent hamburger in the KB Home/D. R. Horton subdivision once known as the Texas Hill Country. Despite one disappointment after another, this intrepid restaurant reviewer and bovine devotee refused to throw in the napkin. His relentless journey was finally rewarded when he discovered a new establishment -- My Place Bar and Grill -- and since then all is well with Jerry's personal universe once again. (For those of you who may have missed it, the review for My Place was posted on March 16)
Thanks to a properly cooked hamburger such simple-minded, unadulterated happiness has not been seen since the Special Olympics in 2007.
Which brings us full circle to IN SEARCH OF...
Needtovent hereby reaches out to its burgeoning readership requesting restaurant suggestions for Comal County and surrounding area. Let's try to limit these to within a fifty mile radius of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks Lodge in New Braunfels, a reportedly hallowed structure that serves as the center of the cosmos for many local residents.
So the question is: Who turns out the best chicken fried steak, the tastiest pizza, the most delicious nachos or the most succulent porterhouse in this geographical area? It is up to you to let us know. And as the suggestions come pouring in we will dispatch Jerry L. Nelson as quickly as possible to provide us his very own unfettered opinion which Needtovent will post for the benefit of all.
It's up to you. Please click on the "Comments" link below and tell us where to go.
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Thanks to my rather ribald fraternity days in college I once had the privilege of seeing an 18-inch-long turd with three evenly spaced rest marks that was lovingly encased in a polished plexiglass display case. That's a mighty big piece of shit -- but it is nothing compared to the crap that comprises the lugubrious re-telling of Cormac McCarthy's novel, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, by none other than the celebrated Cohen Brothers.
Oh Brothers, What Art Thou Thinking?
The same question should be directed to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Four Oscars -- including Best Picture of the Year and Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role? Jeez-oh-flip, BONZO GOES TO COLLEGE was more worthy of an Academy Award and Javier Bardem's cardboard character portrayal is so flimsy, it isn't even corrugated.
Interestingly enough, Mr. Bardem may not have actually appeared in this film. Reliable sources have told Needtovent that the undeserving Oscar-winning actor never showed up on the set and his place was secretly taken by his more-than-capable understudy, Johnny. Yep, Johnny -- there's no last name -- seen here in a rare file photo with his now-deceased mentor, Senor Wences. Well, that does explain things to some degree...
In today's marketplace an increasing number of feature films are shot on High-Definition Video and the common mantra is that the image quality is as good as if it were shot on film. Well, for some reason Cinematographer Roger Deakins, utilizing the excellent 35mm Kodak Vision2 filmstock, has managed to make NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN look like it was shot on a relatively cheap consumer-grade video camera. Talk about role reversal -- or should I say roll reversal?
Three things can be said that are complimentary. One -- Josh Brolin delivers a convincing performance as Llewelyn Moss. Two -- Tommy Lee Jones, as Sheriff Ed Tom Bell, is as solid as ever. Three -- the highly controversial ending works, and it works well. While the vast majority of reviewers simply didn't "get" the final scenes, the Cohens deserve recognition for a poignant and satisfactory denouement.
Having said this, I must add that the denouement concerning these particular old men also brings a much appreciated end to a motion picture that any self-respecting cineaste or AARP member will agree is a bigger flop than Dick Fosbury.
Oscar be damned.
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Review by Jerry L. Nelson
Like the quest for the seven cities of Cibola where, when found, untold riches await the discoverer, I too have been on my personal quest…not tilting at windmills nor do I have a personal Sancho Panza to pick up the pieces when things go asunder…just me and Friend now and then, one whom I can count on to be there through the good meals and the bad meals. It’s been nearly four years of “bad” meals since the child bride of now more than forty years and I returned home to the hill country where I was born, raised and am now getting re-acquainted with. When I left this area in 1968, my hometown boasted a population of slightly under 15,000 residents of various extraction…mostly German and Mexican…the word Hispanic had yet to be invented. It’s now 2008, and that little town’s population has soared to over 50,000…mostly Houstonians. But I digress.
The previously mentioned “bad meals” consisted of not being able to buy a decent hamburger. Living in Dallas for thirty-five years has both advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantage is living in Dallas for thirty-five years, but this is outweighed by the advantage of having access to some of the finest restaurants in Texas, particularly when it comes to being able to order a “proper” hamburger. Now you may not use the words “fine restaurant” and “hamburger” in the same sentence and I will be the first to offer that a five-star French restaurant is probably not the place to order up a greasy, juicy, drippy, hearty hamburger…but then neither are most of the places in this area that try to pass themselves off as burger joints. When I talk hamburger, I mean greasy, juicy, drippy, and hearty…and most importantly, cooked medium rare so it will be greasy, juicy, drippy and hearty. You can’t do this with a paper thin patty and that seems to be the norm in this area of Texas. My search for the quintessential “burger joint” continued most recently in what was formerly a Casey’s Barbeque located on North 281 in Bulverde. Does the newly named ”My Place” serve up a proper hamburger that meets the above criteria?
Friend and I started with appetizers served by Sara (no "H" she proudly told us). The chips and queso were pretty good. Being brave and the fact that our wives were out of town made us add an order of Buffalo wings…ordinary. Friend must have been thinking ahead for somehow he knew there would be some of those left so he could take them home and not have to cook. Had I been in my right mind I would have done something similar. Unfortunately, I was under the influence of aromas wafting out of the kitchen that only hinted of the pleasures to come.
A hamburger is a classic dish just as chicken Kiev and steak au poivre are classics. Don’t add mushrooms, guacamole, sour cream or just about anything else one might think of in an attempt to improve it. Leave it alone. Let it come with only lettuce, onion, pickle and tomato…or any combination of those items...and your choice of mustard or mayo…cheese is optional… (I prefer mayo)…but it has got to be by gawd medium rare. If you’ve never experienced this, please try one sometime. It is one of the true culinary pleasures in life. As Friend and I waited our turn we witnessed several orders being carried out to other tables and marveled at the size of the offerings. How could this be? How could this place have existed for these few months and I have just now discovered it? Would it live up to my hopes…my dreams…my expectations? We would soon know.
Suffice to say, I have recently passed away and gone to burger heaven, that or I am in a drug induced euphoria for what we were served transcended my most ardent hopes. “It” arrived on a buttered, toasted bun, not something just ripped from a plastic bag and slapped together…piled high with lettuce, onion, pickle and tomato and slathered with mayo on one side. The bun was so crisp and, at the same time, moist, I didn’t even mind the one sided slather. It was greasy, juicy, drippy and hearty. I feel like Pavlov’s dogs. I’m starting to drool again. I simply could not finish it all…gallant effort though I made.
I’ve mentioned previously that even though one may be full from the entrée, there is always room for dessert…and when Sara mentioned the only offering of the day was the famous Tootie’s Apple Pie from Boerne, I was powerless. It was acceptable. (Tootie’s must have one fantastic PR firm.)
Unfortunately, the biggest irritant of dining at My Place was the table next to us…seating eight extremely loud and raucous employees of Clear Channel Communications whom, according to Sarah, are regulars. (I guess regulars trump first timers). Friend and I couldn’t even have a decent conversation without raising our voices to be heard by the other. I understand this is not “high-brow” dining and I have already labeled this place a burger joint, but common courtesy would dictate a bit lower volume. Next time I think I’ll call ahead or perhaps come a bit later than their lunch hour.
I may never find any one of the seven cities long sought by Cortez, nor have I any windmills to my credit. What I do have is the satisfaction of having found “THEE” burger place in this part of Texas. I use the biblical “THEE” because it was truly a religious experience. Hallelujah.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
The previous accomplishments of the Court 13 coterie are well known to anyone who follows the short film genre. EGG, DEATH TO THE TINMAN, THE ORIGINS OF ELECTRICITY and JETTISON YOUR LOVED ONES are among the best shorts produced over the past few years, and so GLORY AT SEA!, the latest production to come from Benh Zeitlin, Par Parekh, Ray Tintori et al, was highly anticipated. The wait was well worth it.
This cinematic jambalaya which explores post-Katrina New Orleans is so emotionally riveting, so inspirational and so lovingly crafted you will never forget the viewing experience. Never. Like Katrina, GLORY AT SEA! is a Category 5 event by all standards imaginable.
The brilliant screenplay by writer/director Zeitlin is loosely based on the Orpheus myth, although in this case Hades is an underwater hell, not a flaming inferno. The horrific tragedy experienced by the residents of the Crescent City could not be more vividly portrayed than by seeing the condemned souls of those who perished now planted at the bottom of the ocean, much like undersea corn stalks, each alone, lost, without hope. However, one of these Katrina victims doesn't belong here, yet, as he still has the slightest bit of life beating within. He is jettisoned from this watery grave only to find a dystopic landscape of equally lonely and lost, but living, souls. As this lone underwater survivor begins to build a raft he is joined by a cadre of other survivors, each desperately seeking some sense of reunion with their departed loved ones. Eventually the makeshift raft is completed and it sets sail. What happens next is not going to be divulged here; simply put, it is something every reader of this review must personally see and experience for themselves.
Virtually all of the actors were actual survivors of Hurricane Katrina with little or no acting experience. All are absolutely wonderful, and many of the scenes and props and accoutrements found in GLORY AT SEA! were brought to the film as the result of their personal Katrina experiences, lending a realism and a poignancy that is impossible to forget. As for the film itself, Dan Janvey, Josh Penn and "Producer Par Excellence" Parekh have pulled off what appears to be the impossible. This was a tremendously ambitious undertaking and the production values are impeccable. Editing, cinematography, production design, music -- the list goes on and on. Collectively, every facet of the filmmaking process is so well done that GLORY AT SEA! will undoubtedly raise the standard by which all future short films will surely be judged.
This is high praise -- high praise, indeed -- and it is 100% deserved.
Some years ago Francis Ford Coppola was asked who the next notable American filmmaker might be. His response: "Probably some little fat girl from Ohio." We still await the arrival of Coppola's little Buckeye; in the meantime, one can surely look to Zeitlin and Parekh and the rest of the Court 13 International personnel based in New Orleans (and elsewhere) to rightfully take their place among the next great generation of filmmakers on the horizon.
Let the good times roll...
Sunday, March 9, 2008
As most of you know, my motion picture career, such as it is, started at the young age of sixteen when I was a sophomore in high school some forty-plus years ago. I was recently encouraged by a dear friend and colleague (whose name shall be withheld for her own safety) to post my very first cinematic effort on YouTube. I was initially quite reluctant, but I eventually decided to do so. As Kinky Friedman would say, "Why the hell not?"
The link below will take you to the YouTube posting for THE HORROR OF APRIL 27TH which had its World Premiere, appropriately enough, the evening of April 27, 1964. Approximately forty friends and neighbors with nothing better to do came to my backyard where a white sheet hanging from the clothesline served as a motion picture screen. Lawn chairs were provided for one and all -- excluding, of course, our beagle named Rebel. The overall reaction from everyone was favorable, excluding, once again, the usually loyal beagle who proved to be a surprisingly harsh critic.
Many years of neglect have significantly damaged the original 8mm print, thanks mostly to this cinematic gem being stored in a shoe box in one garage after another exposing it to extremes in temperature and humidity. Although the image quality has deteriorated a great degree, I do hope you will find the time to take a look. If you thought ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES! was bad, you ain't seen nothing yet!
Here's the link ----- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9m_ayLiMyw
Never let it be forgotten that film is a collaborative art. Accordingly, I hereby share all of the credit and blame with the following who were instrumental in the production of THE HORROR OF APRIL 27TH ----- Mike Byrne, Jim Brietzke, Jon Meyer and Tim Hufft.
May God have pity on their souls.