Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Strawberry Rating

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close touches the viewer to the very core. In the way that Titanic and The Sweet Hereafter depicted tragedy by pulling back at the pivotal moment, only increasing the heartache portrayed, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close shows the massive losses experienced in New York on September 11, 2001, through the lens of one young boy. Thomas Horn plays Oskar, a boy devoted to his dad (played by Tom Hanks, in flashbacks), who is lost in the attacks on the World Trade Center. The devastation of that day shudders through Oskar’s family, including his mother, Linda (Sandra Bullock, in a subdued and affecting turn). Young Oskar is lost in the broken new world, but suddenly finds a purpose: a key left by his father. As Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close progresses, Oskar focuses on the key as a way to connect to his lost father–but finds, instead, connections in the unlikeliest of places. Horn is a wonder in his leading role, and commands attention even as his emotions are scattered. Hanks and Bullock are excellent, as always, though they are more incidental to the film than the viewer might have hoped. Standing out in the cast is Max von Sydow, a mysterious mute whom Oskar meets on the New York subway, and who becomes the most unlikely of guardian angels. Based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s best-selling novel, which was able to depict a bit more wry humor to leaven the heartbreak and history lessons, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close nonetheless faces human tragedy straight on, and shows how a broken family can be rebuilt, one small key, one subway ride, one awkward hug at a time. —A.T. Hurley

I have very little to say about Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.

I went to the movie theater with the intention of going to another movie, only to find out that I was a little late for the showing.  Whoops!  I didn’t want to waste my trip to the movies so I chose another Oscar-nominee off the list.

That is how I ended up sitting in this movie without being fully prepared- no tissue box, no candy to distract myself with.

Like most tragedies, one thing that links all of us is that we remember exactly where we were when we heard the news.  I was only in ninth grade when 9/11 happened, but I remember standing in my first period concert choir, numbly watching my conductor try to explain to us what was happening.  After that, I have very little memory of what I actually did for the rest of the day.

I was lucky.  I did not have family members or friends who were in the buildings that day.

Oskar was not so lucky, and he spends the rest of the movie trying to find a way to cope with his father’s death.

Some critics say that this movie uses these terrible events to play on our emotions, and that it crassly uses a tragedy to heighten those emotions.  Perhaps that is true.  I am not sure.  I think that the movie is terribly sad, but it also shows the possibility of hope for the future.  It shows how people can come together to help each other.

That promise of hope and growth was the only thing that saved this movie for me.  The title is quite fitting because, just as it denotes extreme discomfort, I was very distressed and uncomfortable for the entire movie.  I left the theater with red-brimmed, moist eyes, and the desire to go home and huddle in the dark.  And maybe that was the movie’s intention?

The Grade

Visuals: 4.5/5

Plot: 4/5

Acting: 5/5

All right Academy Award nominees, bring it on!  It is my goal to see, review, and invent a treat for every single one of you by Oscar Night.  I’ve already seen Moneyball, Hugo, and The Help.  Now on to the rest!

Oh, and don’t forget to try out this treat.  It will help wash away your tears…

Read on for the recipe!

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Shudder Island (and how it relates to homemade potstickers)

Martin Scorsese and Leonardo DiCaprio team up for a fourth time for this adaptation of Shutter Island, a novel by Dennis Lehane (Mystic River). The film opens in 1954 as World War II veteran and current federal marshal Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his new partner, Chuck (Mark Ruffalo), ferry to Shutter Island, a water-bound mental hospital housing the criminally insane. They have been asked to investigate the disappearance of Rachel Solando (Emily Mortimer), a patient admitted to the asylum after she murdered her three children. As Teddy quizzes Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley), the head of the institution, he begins to suspect that the authorities in charge might not be giving him the whole truth, and that a terrible fate may befall all the patients in the spooky Ward C — a unit devoted to the most heinous of the hospital’s inmates. Complicating matters further, Teddy has a secret of his own — the arsonist who murdered his wife is incarcerated on Shutter Island. Driven to confront his wife’s killer, and stranded on the island because of a hurricane, Teddy must unravel the secrets of the eerie place before succumbing to his own madness.

-MSN Movies

When I was little, I distinctly remember reading the R.L. Stine Goosebumps book Be Careful What You Wish For.  It is this “scary” book meant to show kids that sometimes, you wish for something you don’t really want.  You may wish that your annoying sibling disappear forever, but when you notice his absence, you instantly regret it.

I certainly have moments like this.  “Oh, I wish it were warmer!”

…Months pass…

Whah! Why are all the flowers blooming?  My allergies are going to kill me!”

See, never happy. 

 Shutter Island conveys a similar message.  Curiosity totally kills the cat.  Leonardo Dicaprio is on this island to find the answer to two very important questions and he is not going to enjoy the answers.  In the original movie trailers, I thought that this movie was a horror movie.  It turns out that it is a film full of suspense and moral dilemmas that I thoroughly enjoyed.  Only after watching the entire movie (and perhaps re-watching it) are you able to understand the full implications of the ending.  Don’t worry, I won’t give it away 🙂

Now, you may be wondering, how on earth do potstickers relate to this?

Well, I had an epic fail in my kitchen.  EPIC.  While I could have just sat and cried about it(and I might have, I won’t lie), I decided to turn it into a learning experience and share this lesson with you.  Ahem.  Here it is.

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Swallows and Amazons: Potato Croquettes for the Kid in Us

Rating:  Strawberry

Truth:  I love children’s books.  I  know that their very designation for children means that I shouldn’t be reading them, but you know what, I’m going to color outside the lines on this one. 

Most well-written children’s books deliver for adults as well.  They are entertaining, witty, and help to nurture the kid inside us who really doesn’t want to grow up. 

Swallows and Amazons  by Arthur Ransome is just the type of children’s book that is an entertaining read for children and adults alike.  Some people might argue that it doesn’t have any deep Dickensian meaning or conflict. On the contrary, these books do have great meaning.  They show us that we shouldn’t always take ourselves too seriously.  That we can find joy and adventure in the most mundane of tasks. That the best-laid plans can fall apart and that being brave and trying your best is what matters.

In a world that sometimes feels like it is falling down around us, I think we could use to see a little more magic in our surroundings and adventure in our lives.

What children’s books have you enjoyed?

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Oscar Party Roundup

Okay people, today is the big day.  The Oscars are tonight! 

I have written posts on 9 out of the 10 movies nominated for best picture.  Whew.  If you follow me, your Oscar night party will include foods representing each movie.  You can munch on Meat-and-Potato Balls, chomp on Mr. Potato Head Chips, chew at some trail mix, savor the Orange-Chocolate Shortbread Cookies, nibble at a Croque-Monsieur, dip your Scones into some steaming tea, graze at the Dancer’s Fruit and Vegetable Platter, bite into a Truly Gritty Cornbread (with bullet holes), and sip at an Appletini

What then to do about The Fighter?  I admit it.  I haven’t seen it yet.  I am hoping to see it later this afternoon before the start of the Oscars, but that is currently up in the air.  I never realized how much dedication is took do see 10 movies in one month.  Well, I will be ready for this for next year 🙂

I did a little bit of research (asking around with my friends) and those who have seen it gave me two tidbits of information.

  1. His family is Irish-American.
  2. He is a bit of a wild-card.  He has talent, but does not start out on top.

I’m thinking that an ideal dish for your Irish-wildcard movie would be Cabbage Rolls.  They are nutritious, have an Irish influence, and they are different enough that many people may be a bit perplexed by them.  For helpful recipes, check out:


Have fun watching the Oscars tonight!  I will be watching and updating a blog entry as I watch. Since I do not have Twitter (and do not need to get addicted to yet another social media), I figured that I will post a blog and update it as the Oscars progress. Check in to see my thoughts. 

One final note.  Last week, I posted a poll that asks you for your opinion on best picture.  I am re-posting it here so that if you have not yet had the chance to weigh in, you do now, before the answer is revealed to us later tonight.  Check it out!

What Was So Wrong With The White Swan?

Rating: Strawberry AND Chocolate Cake– On one hand, it was excellent. On another, I did not enjoy this movie. If you appreciate depressing and unsettling material that begs for some psychoanalysis, watch it.

The phrase “Good guys finish last” bothers me. 

We live in a world that does not always seem to reward people for the good that they do.  You turn on the news and what do you see?  You see criminals, politics, and tragic accidents.  Reality TV is no better.  Find the people who have the saddest lives and film them so that we can all watch and take comfort in the fact that we have not hit rock bottom.

Very rarely do you see a sweet gesture or an act of benevolence. 

We “good guys” like to think that the gesture gratifies us on a deeper level.  It does, of course, but that is not to say that a general nod at some point wouldn’t be welcome. 

So often, we focus on everything that is bad in the world and, in doing so, it makes us miserable.

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True Grit: A Thing of the Past?

Rating: Strawberry

I bet you a nickel that if you were to go through your encounters of the last day, you will find at least one instance when you said something that you really REALLY didn’t mean. 

“Oh honey, the steak is done perfectly [as I try to pick around the bits that still seem to have blood pumping through them]!”

“No, I don’t mind muddy shoes in the house.  I was actually [I will now] going to be vacuuming later anyway.”

“Oh, yes, I have tried that [obscure and gross] food that you suggested [keep insisting that I try].  It wasn’t really my thing [I hated it], but I can totally understand the draw.”

Now, one would argue that those small lies are more a gesture of etiquette and manners.  After all, in today’s world, we never want to say something that might actually hurt someone’s feelings.  Gasp! 

So what if we [or our floors] get [muddily] walked on?  At least we haven’t made the other person feel badly!

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Three Reasons Why I Don’t Think Toy Story 3 Should Win Best Picture

Rating: Plum


I first saw the original Toy Story in the movie theatre with my brother when I was 8 years old.  This means that the Toy Story franchise has been around for 2/3 of my life.  That is pretty intense. 

Surprisingly, after I left the movie theatre, I was not as enamored with it as my brother was.  Sure, the technology was awesome and the concept of toys coming to life interested me.  For some reason or other, it just didn’t stick with me.

As the years went on, I watched other Disney-Pixar creations and fell in love with them.  Finding Nemo, Monsters, Inc. , The Incredibles , and Wall-E are among my favorite movies of all time.  I can recite scenes from them by heart and no matter how many times I’ve seen them, if I turn the TV on and one is playing, I will tune in for the rest. 

No Toy Story movie has inspired that degree of loyalty in me.  Yes, they have heartfelt messages.  Yes, when I saw Toy Story 3, I cried at the end.  I am by no means saying that it is a bad movie.  In fact, I think it is fabulous that the Academy included an animated feature.  I just don’t think it deserves to win Best Picture, and here is why:

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