Monday, July 14, 2014

It's Twelve O'Clock Somewhere….Polynesian Mule

One of the things I love most about cocktails is the glassware.  In fact, K has forbidden me from buying any more until we get a china cabinet.  That means every time I go to any store it is a struggle for me to not buy some adorable glasses I just have to have for some drink or another.  I mean, if you are going to make a hurricane I think you should have a hurricane glass!  So when I got into Moscow Mules awhile ago I knew I had to score some glasses.  K was kind enough to buy me the beautiful copper mugs you see in the photos below so that I could properly enjoy this spicy, gingery concoction.

After having some Moscow Mules in a couple different restaurants, I realized I didn't actually like Moscow Mules all that much, I really just liked the cups!  Ginger ale and ginger beer have never been my favorites and adding vodka, a flavorless spirit, to the mix didn't really excite me.  Instead, after I got the cups at home I found myself never using them.  I made K add more and more lime to try and brighten it up but I wanted something more.  One day I suggested adding pineapple juice and the Polynesian Mule was born!

As readers know I love rum and therefore all things Tiki so pineapple juice was a natural addition for me.  Lots of acid from the lime and the sweet yet tart bite of the pineapple perfectly complement the sharp taste of the ginger beer.  Using a smooth vodka is definitely recommended as well, my usual low priced brand is Svedka, but I prefer Absolut (Swedish vodka for life!).

Serving in a copper glass is recommended but not required.  Serving it over crushed ice is.

Polynesian Mule

2 oz vodka
3 oz ginger beer
1 oz pineapple juice
Juice of 1 lime
Garnish with lime and pineapple wedges

Fill glass with crushed ice.  Pour ingredients over ice and mix.  Garnish with lime and pineapple wedges.

Imagine you are on a beach in Tahiti!


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

La Femme Recommends…The Grand Budapest Hotel

La Femme Julie Presents:  The Grand Budapest Hotel, a review in Four Parts.  (Indulge me, this is my homage to Wes Anderson, cute, quirky, twee and hopefully only slightly cloying.)

Part 1: In which the machinations of the plot are discussed.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a Matryoshka doll of a film, a story, within a story, within a story.  The film begins with an aged Author (Tom Wilkinson) introducing the story and his younger self (Jude Law).  The Young Writer (that is the character name, is it too twee or just right? )  is a guest at a formerly renowned hotel, now an ugly communist run palace, in the fictional land of Zubrowka, a tiny, much invaded country.  There the Young Writer meets the mysterious owner of the hotel, Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), who invites him to dinner to tell him the story of how he came to own The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Much of Mr. Moustafa's story focuses on his mentor, the former manager of the hotel, Monsieur Gustave, played with gusto by a lovely Ralph Fiennes.  M. Gustave has the habit of doting on and sleeping with the elderly women who stay at the hotel, he takes this duty as a  very important and sacred part of his job as a concierge.   M. Gustave's most recent conquest, a wonderfully made-up Tilda Swinton, is found dead, and foul play is suspected.  When her will is read and and she leaves her lover a priceless painting, "Boy with Apple, and M. Gustave finds himself accused of murder. Knowing that he will never get the painting, Mr. Moustafa encourages him to steal it and replaces it with a lewd pornographic painting in the estate (one of the best gags of the film is how long it takes the "grieving" family to notice their prized possession is gone).  What happens next include: pastry, ski lifts, a secret society, but also, a dead cat, severed fingers and an the ominous cloud of world war.

 Part 2: In which the cast of characters are lauded.

Fiennes is dignified, deathly serious and terribly funny, he brings an old fashioned feel to the character of M. Gustave.  Gustave is snobbish but also able to fit in to almost any situation, but instead of making him too much of an enigma, Fiennes fills him with a humanism that is sometimes missing from Anderon's characters.  He has the poignancy that this soon to be relic of an earlier time, needs as well as the light handed touch that a character this silly needs.  The enormous cast can't go unmentioned: a cavalcade of actors that are beloved by me, at least.  Jeff Goldblum as the very moral lawyer, Mathieu Almaric (mon boo!) as Serge X, a servant caught in the middle of the investigation, Wilem Defoe at his most menacing as a unrelenting heavy and Sariose Ronan as Mr. Moustafa's love interest, a pastry chef with a birthmark the shape of Mexico. I also loved Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, Adrien Brody, etc. The list could go on.  Newcomer Tony Revolori is delightful as the young Zero Moustafa and while he does have some of the quirks of some of the traditional Anderson characters, particularly the young ones, he is winning and funny as the lobby boy hero.  I did find some of the cameos later in the film to be a little distracting but also a lot of fun. I won't spoil them here.

Part 3: In which the mise en scene of the auteur is analyzed.

The sets are gorgeous: whimsical, over the top and amazingly detailed but not to the point of distraction as it can be in some of his other films.  Instead they fit the opulent and bygone world depicted in the film.  Anderson has always had a razor like focus into his own worlds, nothing seems to exist outside of the characters and the same is true here, but the scope is so much bigger that I think it works a bit better.    I loved a lot of the sight gags (the painting above) and the light handed Lubitsch touch that he brought to the film.  So  many times I think Anderson can wear his influences on his sleeve and veer too much into homage but in The Grand Budapest Hotel the movie felt like it could be a Lubitsch comedy, mixing romance and drama and world war all at once. The presence of a dark cloud over this candy covered world made the film seem more mature and overall it had more pathos than any of Anderon's previous films.

Part 4: In which the themes of the film are investigated.

What shocked me most about The Grand Budapest Hotel were the themes that I saw Anderson working with: nostalgia, always, but in this film it was nostalgia for something that wasn't just fading away like the Tannenbaum's home or the summer in Moonrise Kingdom.  Instead it was something, a whole way of life that was about to be wiped out.  This film featured shocking (well for Anderson)  moments of violence, not realistic or over the top, but nevertheless, jarring and fresh. The palpable sense sense of foreboding and dread, throughout all eras of the film worked so well for me.  For example: twice, once at the beginning and once at the end Mr. Moustafa and M. Gustave are stopped at a border crossing and both times there is a palpable sense of fear.  The first time the Lubitsch touch works and M. Gustave's world keeps going.  The second time the outcome is much much different.  War is coming to this tiny country and although we don't see it, we feel it.  The world is changing and it can't go back to the world of M. Gustave.  Along we Anderson we mourn powder pink hotels, lobby boys and dapper mustachioed concierges who know how to make every guest feel like royalty.


Friday, April 25, 2014

Five Things 4.25.14

The library is open, ladies and gentlemen!
1.  Tarte Maracuja Oil: I bought a tiny sample of this product at Sephora for ten dollars last week (damn those tiny and cheap things they put next to the line, something gets me every time) and have been obsessed with it ever since.  I put it on at night after washing my face and have already seen a big difference in my skin.  I have always been lucky to have minimal skin problems but now that I am (eek!) firmly in my thirties I have slowly been trying to up my skincare regime.  I was worried using oil would make my skin oily, but so far it has only made it more silky and supple looking.  I am definitely going to be investing in a big bottle once this sample is done with.  The nighttime eye cream is also pretty awesome!

2. Bianca Del Rio:  Watching RuPaul's Drag Race is probably the most fun I have every week, period.  I have been a fan of the show since the first season and while I think this season got off to a bit of a slow start, it has made up with it in the amazing gift that is Bianca Del Rio.  To me she is everything some of the past "comedy" queens have tried to be: quick witted, excellent at reading the other queens,  and so funny I usually end up doing that thing where you can't stop laughing and think you might die.  But unlike some of the "mean girl" queens of the past, Bianca has a heart of gold.  She helps the other girls and wants to win on her own merits not by making others look bad or sabotaging them.  I will admit that her look is a bit exaggerated and not what I usually go for and she doesn't have great versatility (boat neck!) on the runway but she looks polished and beautiful every week.  If she doesn't win, you are going to hear the scream I let out from around the world, but honestly I can't see it going any other way.  Please, please, please let me become best friends with her a.s.a.p.

Doesn't this face make you want to buy cologne? 

3.  Valentino L'Umomo: Well, more specifically the ad campaign starring my favorite dirty hot frenchman Louis Garrel. I may or may not have jumped up and down in Nordstrom and asked K to take a picture of me next to the ad for Valentino featuring Monsieur Garrel (he walked away and pretended he didn't know me).  I have had a slight obsession with him since The Dreamers and was happy to see his unconventional but smoldering looks peering out at me in the U.S. (and Louis I love you but your project choices are questionable at best, so I was happy to see you and not have to slog through at least two hours of existential dialogue and sighing And I like existential dialogue!).  K is definitely getting a bottle of this cologne, and soon.  (Basically this item was an excuse for me to post this pic of him, no shame, also I have watched the commercial at least 20 times).

This definitely made me happy on Day 23.
A gorgeous rum
cocktail at Aragona.
4.  100 Happy Days: Instagram is definitely my preferred social media outlet and I recently started seeing the 100 Happy Days hashtag pop up, and decided to investigate.  100 Happy Days is a project where for 100 days you post something each day that makes you happy on whatever social media you like.  I looked at it as a way to appreciate the little things that make me happy in life and as a way to renew my love for Instagram.  I started on April 1 and am happy to report I have posted something everyday since.  So many times I worry that I won't get any likes or that my pictures aren't good enough or that people will unfollow me, but this project has made me focus more on taking pictures of stuff that I genuinely love regardless of their perfection or how others perceive it.  Instagram is supposed to be a fun way to record your life, not a competition and this little project has helped me get back to why I loved Instagram to begin with.  That doesn't mean I don't want you to follow me at unefemmejulie though!

5. Cafe Presse: And finally, I have the pleasure of writing this post while waiting for my dear husband K to present an assignment in his legal writing class, and lucky for me, one of my favorite places in the city is just a few short blocks from his school.  Cafe Presse is open from early morning to late night and they serve the same casual french cafe menu all day.  I love that depending on the time  of day, the restaurant is everything from a coffee shop, to a cheap dinner spot to a bar late at night.  The food is consistent and tasty (I love the Croque Madame and the Steak Frites) and you can get a Royale (sparkling wine with your choice of liquor in it, I like Ste. Germain, for under six bucks!


Thursday, April 24, 2014

La Femme's Movie Marathon….Hong Kong Part 2

Johnny Hallyday.

Election (Johnny To, 2005):  Every marathon inevitably has a clunker and Election was ours.  Election is a fairly typical and rote crime film chronicling the election (!) of a new triad president in Hong Kong.  The election is between professional, cool headed Lok, and the more thuggish, angry Big D. When Lok is fairly elected, Big D tries to stop him from obtaining the "dragon baton" which symbolizes his power.  Various acts of violence ensue:  bludgeoning, shootings, stabbings, and, most disturbingly, rolling people in cardboard boxes down huge hills.  Both actors Simon Yam and Tony Leung Ka-fai (sadly a different Tony Leung than the much admired star of the first half of our marathon) are fairly charismatic, and the supporting cast is fairly colorful, but none of the characters leave much of an impression.  Election isn't exciting enough to be an action film and not intriguing enough to be a crime film.  The ending is a shocker though! If only more of the movie had been like that unforgettable and frankly stomach turning scene.

Vengeance (Johnny To, 2009):  Unlike Johnny To's earlier film, Vengeance was one of the highlights of the marathon for me.  Again, the story starts out fairly typically: a family is brutally murdered in their home, including two young children.  The wife and mother, a French citizen, survives and is visited by her father, a chef, in the hospital.  She asks him to get revenge for her, and we get the feeling that Francis Costello (a nod to Alain Delon's character in Le Samourai, as is the trench coat they both sport) is more than just a chef.  Johnny Hallyady (an aging and terrifying looking French pop icon) is spectacular as Costello; angry, yet completely in control, he methodically hires a trio of hit men to help him track down the killers. The revelation that Costello has had a bullet in his brain for the last twenty years that affect his memory is a little clunky.  He goes from being a little forgetful to essentially a child in a matter of minutes. This may be To's only misstep in the film.  The cinematography by Cheng Siu-Keung is crispy and beautiful, and the set pieces including a crazy fight in a garbage dump are nail biters.  Whereas in Election, the henchman were indistinguishable, in Vengeance the three hitmen who become Costello's partner each give nuanced, individual performances.  We grow to love each of them and their ultimate fates mean something; in so many violent films, people die in terrible ways but it means nothing.  In this film every taking of a life is meaningful, as To shows us that all of these hitmen have people waiting at home for them, even the ones that killed Costello's family.   The message of most revenge thrillers is that revenge is ultimately pointless and doesn't change anything, but it is elegantly expressed (if a bit heavy handed; if you can't remember you got revenge, does it even matter?) with a deft hand by To.  I expected a silly action movie and found something much deeper.  The surprise of the marathon for me.

This is the face he makes the whole movie.
Ip Man (Wilson Yip, 2008):  Ip Man is a gear shift movie, one that starts out a certain way that makes the viewer think they know exactly where it is going and ends up in a completely different place.  A biopic of kung fu master, Ip Man (Donnie Yen, very zen and completely serviceable, if not a bit boring and one note throughout), this film starts out positively silly.  The island of Foshan is an idealized place where everyone seems wealthy, the sun is always shining, and all they have to do is practice kung fu and challenge each other to good natured sparring.  The biggest conflict (if that is really the word) is when a group of rogue kung fu mercenaries come and try to beat up all the masters of Fosham's numerous schools.  The conflict is resolved when Ip beats the head mercenary in a fight in Ip's elaborate mansion wherein Ip's wife scolds him not to fight at home and his adorable son rides around on a tricycle telling him that "Mommy is going to be mad!".  If it sounds silly, it is, supremely.  I was laughing hysterically and my marathon mates were looking at me like I was crazy. The dialogue was clunky and silly and the characters were one dimensional at best.  The movie takes a quick turn about halfway in when the island becomes occupied by the invading Japanese army and Ip loses everything.  The film becomes a fight for survival as Ip almost inadvertently and then deliberately  joins a fighting ring organized by the Japanese General (although life and death is now at stake the second half does seem intent on proving all the ways kung fu is better than karate).  The film still has clunky dialogue and adds a sniveling, evil henchmen, but the actors are sincere and director Wilson Yip handles the change fairly well.  The story ends exactly as you think it will with Ip the hero, but it was also a lot more nuanced than I expected from the first half hour. Gordon Lam, who was also in Vengeance, is solid as a former Foshan police man, Lee Chiu, who becomes a translator for the Japanese.  Perhaps the only fleshed out character, Lam portrays Lee Chiu as an unpopular stick in the mud who transforms from collaborator to patriot seamlessly.  Unlike many of the films we watched, this was clearly a big budget crowd pleaser and, like so many Hollywood films, used the clichés and tropes we come to expect from them in an ultimately affective way. 


Saturday, April 5, 2014

It's Twelve O'Clock Somewhere…Blood Orange Margarita

Every year right about April, I start to long for the weather to turn around.  In Seattle, winter isn't oppressive and snowy like so many parts of the country, instead it is endlessly grey and dreary.  I want the sky to be bright and the days to be long, so I always find myself shifting from winter and fall foods into spring and summer ones even before the weather has changed.  It is no different with my cocktails.  Winter and even early spring yield amazing citrus and Blood Orange Margaritas are the perfect drink for the transitional season.  They are a gorgeous deep red color, not too sweet with the acidic oranges and have a great kick.

I use fresh squeezed blood orange juice, but if you can't find blood oranges, you could use blood orange soda instead.  If you use the soda, I would omit the simple syrup though.  And don't forget to salt the rim; I never understand why restaurants offer sugar on the rims of margaritas instead of salt!  The contrast is important, that bite of salt pushes through the sweetness of a margarita and brings out the tartness of the citrus and pairs wonderfully with the bite of the tequila.

Blood Orange Margarita:

2 oz Tequila
1 oz Triple Sec
1 oz lime juice
2 oz Blood Orange Juice
1 oz simple syrup

Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake with ice.  Serve in a salt rimmed glass and garnish with a blood orange slice.



Five Things 3.28.14

1. Staycation! Because K is in law school, the last two years we have enjoyed spring break.  Last year we went to New Orleans but this year we decided to do a staycation instead.  We spent a couple lazy days on Lopez Island day drinking and playing games (and watching Pitch Perfect, obvs).  The rest of the week, we hung out at home, cooking and relaxing.  Vacation is definitely better than staycation, but any extended time I get to spend with K is still pretty great.  Next year will be the last spring break of law school, and let me tell you, I think it should be mandated for all adults, not just students!

2. My Tiny Backyard: Speaking of staycation, K and I headed to Flower World, an absolutely huge and overwhelming nursery in Maltby, WA.  In our townhouse, we have what is really a glorified patio but in our last apartment we had no outdoor space at all.  That means this year, we are working hard on making it our perfect outdoor oasis.  K, my dad and my uncle already ripped out the grass and paved it, we have some adorable cafe lights and now are slowly starting to add some greenery to the planter boxes.  It is definitely a work in progress, but I can't wait for the weather to warm up so we can sit outside!

3. Vanilla Apple Cosmo:  This is a cocktail I have featured on the blog before and it is one of my absolute favorites.  It has been my cocktail of choice for the past few weeks and I don't see myself getting sick of it anytime soon.
4. Conscious Uncoupling: Gwyneth Paltrow has always been a controversial picture, you either love her or hate her.  I have been squarely in the love camp since I saw Emma way back in 1996.  So, I was shocked, saddened and frankly heartbroken to learn that she was getting a divore from her husband, Chris Martin.  I wouldn't have picked Mr. Martin for my dear Gwynnie in my game of celebrity matchmaking; I always saw her with more  a Jude Law type, and I never did like that he seemed so shy to express their relationship in public.  But, still, I always thought they would be a couple to last!  And I was dismayed by the media assault on my  Gwyneth in her moment of heartbreak; in fact, I love Gwyneth so much that I even considered (no I didn't) becoming a Chris Crocker for her!.  Where so many see her as pretentious and spoiled, I think she is trying to express her emotional trauma in the most elegant way possible.  I for one am forever and always Team Gwyneth! LEAVE GWYNETH ALONE!

I nearly died from laughing during this.  Then I cried.
Girls in a nutshell!
5. Girls Season 3:  I freaking love Lena Dunham.  For all her faults, I think she is intelligent, witty and incredibly brave and Girls has become essential viewing for me.  Season Three of Girls was perhaps the strongest yet;  I loved where she took Hannah and there were some standout episodes for me; the beach house, Hannah's grandma and oh god, the role playing, oh the role playing!  I think the last episode was also really strong and I can't wait to see where it is going to go next season.   I am squarely Adam and Hannah forever and that last scene with them kind of broke my heart into a million pieces.  Adam Driver and Dunham have such palpable, strange but alluring chemistry and I want them to be on t.v. together forever.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

La Femme's Top Five...of 2013

This is a belated list, but much like my favorite podcast, Battleship Pretension, I save my list of best films of the year until The Oscars (yes, I realize they were a few weeks ago… you can't rush genius!).  It gives me time to catch up and watch everything most some of the stuff I missed from last year.  There are still a bunch of movies I want to see from 2013, but based upon what I've seen so far, this is my top 5. So here is the belated, but surely much anticipated La Femme's Top Five Films of 2013!

1. Frances Ha  (Noah Baumbach): Frances (a luminous and charming Greta Gerwig) is abruptly left without a roommate and therefore a place to live when her best friend Sophie moves out to be with her new boyfriend.  Frances, who is training as a dancer but doesn't have much talent, finds herself untethered and quasi-homeless, and we watch her float from one place to another.  She lives with two guys and has an awkward, almost romance with her roommate, visits her parents at home, has the saddest trip to Paris ever, and eventually, in a small way, learns how to be a grown up and accept and even embrace responsibilities.  Writer-Director Noah Baumbach nods to the French New Wave, from the camera work to the musical cues, and Gerwig is so winning as Frances that she reminded me of a modern day Anna Karina, only a lot more awkward.  Baumbach combines the very cinematic elements of the New Wave with an extreme naturalness and awkwardness that reminded me of early Woody Allen.  Gerwig meets the challenge of making Frances, who could be an extremely annoying hipster character, all whiney and self righteous and privileged, and instead infuses her with intelligence, kindness, and naiveté.  By the time the nature of the title is revealed in the last shot of the movie, we are not only completely on Frances's side, but even a little bit proud of her. 

2. Behind the Candelabra (Steven Soderbergh):  I have already written about this riotous, campy, sad, and beautiful film here, so I will keep it short.  Although technically for HBO, Behind the Candelabra was just so damn cinematic that I would be remiss to not include it on my list.  Michael Douglas is revelatory as Liberace, and Matt Damon, as his lover Scott Thorson, meets him at every step.  The costumes and set are the stuff of my dreams.  But what makes the film compelling is the perfect tone Steven Soderbergh sets: a little campy, a little over the top but mostly just an honest look at the tragedy of the closet. No matter the fame, no matter the excess, Scott and Lee are forced to hide their relationship and Soderbergh explores what constantly lying does to a relationship.  Spoiler Alert: it doesn't end well.  But they look great doing it.

3. Before Midnight (Richard Linklater):  I am going to be short and sweet on this one too because I have a big post planned for the entire "Before" series.  This was a movie that made me literally sob when I saw it.  I think I may have said to K, "Are they trying to ruin my life, how can I even believe in love anymore?"  Such is the toll the third installment in the romance of Jesse (Ethan Hawke) and Celine (Julie Deply) had on me.  Some twenty years after they first met, Jesse and Celine are exactly where so many fans of the series imagined them to be: together!  In the first films, we shared some of the best times of their lives, but in Before Midnight we see  one of the worst nights.  A huge fight;  a real, terrible, relatable fight, breaks out between two people that know each other very well and know exactly how to hurt each other in the worst way possible, and we see their personalities, all the beautiful and terrible things about them on full display.  Hawke and Delpy are just so natural and their chemistry is so pronounced that you believe every moment.  During that moment that K had to pause the movie due to my sobbing, I would have said this movie ruined my life.  But by the last, perfect scene, I started to feel the exact opposite (ok, maybe not exact opposite).  Too say to much would be to spoil that ending so you'll just have to take my word for it.   Like the films before them, I was left with a feeling of hope, that maybe I still could believe in love after all. 

4. 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen):  Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave was a film I kept putting off watching, because I assumed it would be too oppressive, too depressing, too difficult to watch.  That was my mistake. 12 Years a Slave portrays terrible human suffering without every wallowing in the misery of it.  I hate the phrase misery porn but this film could easily have devolved into something more lurid, and while McQueen never shies away from the truly disgusting torture of slavery, he manages to affirm life instead of condemning it.  If anything, Solomon Northup (brilliantly and humanely portrayed by the lovely Chewitel Ejiofor) has a deeply felt will to “not just survive, but live,” and McQueen brings that somewhat modern idea to the screen in this period piece of the most shameful period in our country’s history.  Solomon is tricked, disappointed, deceived, tortured, and worked nearly to death, and, while McQueen shows us the frankly horrifying and ugly-beyond-belief moments of slavery, he does it with a deft touch.  We are moved but not oppressed. Lupita N’yongo and Michael Fassbender are equally great as master and slave caught in a terrible web of lust, power, and self-hatred.  An important film, yes, but also a great one.

5. Room 237 (Rodney Ascher):  Rodney Ascher’s exploration of obsession of the Stanley Kubrick-classic The Shining is something every cinephile can appreciate. Ascher uses clips from the film to illustrate the theories of people obsessed with the hidden meaning of Kubrick’s most famous film. Some think it is a metaphor for the genocide of the Native Americans, some  see it as a metaphor the Holocaust, some even think it is Kubrick’s confession of being involved with the government faking the moon landing.  All the theories seem crazy at first, but Ascher’s superb, hypnotic editing begins to creep under your skin, and the film slowly becomes as creepy as the movie that inspired it.  I love the fact that a film can inspire this bizarre loyalty and attention to detail, and, although I don’t think any of the theories hold any weight, Room 237 is still a fascinating exploration of a world of film criticism that I think both enriches and poisons the cineastes plight.