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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Tortilla Soup with Chicken and Corn

We love all of the ingredients in this soup, and we love soup, but for some reason we rarely make tortilla soup.  For a recent family dinner at our house, we made this version, which has some shredded chicken in it, but that could be eliminated for a vegetarian version of this soup without it suffering at all.

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 medium jalapeno pepper, chopped
  • 12 medium red or green pepper, whichever
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 cups frozen corn
  • 12 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon  chili powder
  • 14 teaspoon cayenne
  • 6 c. broth
  • 2 (14 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 cups tomato juice
  • Top with fried tortilla strips, fresh onion, sliced avocado, fresh cilantro


  1. Sauté onion, garlic, jalapeño and green pepper with olive oil in a large pot until soft.
  2. Add all the rest of the ingredients to the large pot and bring to a boil.
  3. After about 15 minutes, remove the chicken breasts and shred.
  4. (Two forks work well to pull the chicken apart!).
  5. Return shredded chicken to the pot and simmer an additional 45 minutes.
  6. Serve, topped with various toppings as desired.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Marshall (2018)

This movie is nominated in the category of Best Song this year, and like another nominee in the category, Mudbound, the song does not appear until the credits start to roll.  Interesting, but ultimately a trivial point.  Chadwick Boseman does a very respectable job portraying Thurgood Marshall and Josh Gad is his able assistant.  Gad was also in Beauty and the Beast, also in the role of side kick.  There is an interesting connection this year with several actors and actresses being in two Oscar nominated movies, but not as nominated actors themselves.  Again, I digress.
The case is one that occurred early in Marshall's career.  He is a young attorney being deployed around the nation by the NAACP to defend black people who are being wrongly accused and because of their race, being considered guilty before they even go to trial.  This case was in Connecticut and it was significant not because their were segregation or civil rights issues at stake.  It was a case of a black man left with little choices when a white woman seduced him then proceeded to lie about it and accuse him of rape.  She was a victim of domestic violence and while doing a despicable thing, she too was trapped.  It wasn't until Marshall saw that aspect of the case that he uncovered what in fact had actually happened.  It is a great story, and I would love to see this as a mini series, with more of Marshall's cases brought to life.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout

This is a linked novel with the author's previous novel "My Name is Lucy Barton".  The story focuses on the town that Lucy grew up in and the people in her childhood life, only now largely from their point of view.  It is somewhere between a novel and linked short stories.
Though some characters, including Lucy herself,  have moved away, most of the characters still hail from Amgash, Illinois, a town of corn, soybean, and dairy farms, where everyone knows everyone else’s business.
The damage that parents do to their children weaves through the stories. Two female characters form a friendship by bonding over the shared trauma of mothers who left their families. The sister of one of them is so haunted by “the terrifying and abiding image of her mother alone and ostracized” that she tolerates and even abets her husband’s deviancy. The Barton children reminisce over the awful things their mother did to them and while Lucy got away, her siblings did not.  Nor did many of those who were more fortunate than she, which is the cautionary tale part of the story.  Like a number of the movies that I watched over the run-up to the Oscar's this year, the thought "Get Out" ran through my head throughout the story.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Disaster Artist (2017)

This is about a movie called "The Room", which is vying for the title "Worst Movie Ever Made".  I believe there is a lot of competition at the bottom of that pile, but that particular movie certainly is in the running, and this movie basically chronicles the making of a bad movie.  There is almost nowhere to go but up from there.
One review I read stated that just like Meryl Streep in Florence Foster Jenkins, James Franco hits all the wrong notes right.  The end of the movie shows clips from the movie they are chronicling and it is uncanny how pitch perfect the Franco brothers manage to get it.  That, however, is just not enough for me.  Not nearly enough.  The movie was nominated only in the category of Best Adapted Screenplay, and it did not win.  If there is one movie that I would recommend skipping in this Oscar year, it might be this one--the one hesitation that I have is that "The Room" gathers crowds to this day, and watching this movie would be a less painful way to access that cultural phenomenon than watching the original.  That would be my guess, at least.

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Greatest Showman (2017)

This was nominated for Best Song, which might seem like a less important nomination, but much like Beauty and the Beast and it's nomination in Costume and Make Up, a nomination in any category does reflect a certain quality to the film.  And this film is a musical, after all, and so having good music is important.
The story is a telling of the Barnum story, the beginning of one of the most successful entertainment enterprises of its time and the man behind the big ideas.  I am always surprised and impressed when I see Hugh Jackman sing and dance.  The other movie that I saw him in this past year, Logan, exploited, shall we say, other aspects of his acting talents. 
There is a lot of walking a thin line between the historical context of the 1920's and the sensibilities of the 21st century.  There are those who will see this as a rose-colored-glasses view of what was a pretty exploitive situation. But in a 19th and early 20th century context, the circus and then vaudeville were welcoming places where those who had skills or who were rejected by society could find a home. Barnum put "misfit toys" onstage, saying, in essence, "Aren't they amazing?”  rather that "Let's point and stare."  The tone is set by Jackman's inclusive delight at the parade of humanity before him. It's a moment when ignored people are for the first time really seen.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Star Wars: The Last jedi (2017)

Oh my goodness, this is really not a very good movie.  I watched it now because of the Oscars, and it was nominated in four categories, but I certainly would have gotten around to it in any case, but while it brings back some classic characters (with not much time to spare in one case), it highlights that perhaps this was never that strong on plot, writing, or character development.
Adam Driver is Han Solo's legacy and while I like him in a number of roles I have seen him in, he does not bring a lot of nuance to the bad guy role.  To be fair, Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker leaves something to be desired in that category as well.  The high drama is wearing a bit thin, here in the umpteenth permutation of good versus evil, and all the nuances that come in between,  but then again, in the arena of special effects and such, it is a contender.  As one of my kids correctly pointed out, it was better than the most recent Transformers movie.  When put in that context, it was more or less fine.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Roman J. Israel, Esq. (2017)

It is odd to see an actor of Denzel Washington's statue act a little on the bumbling side.  He plays an age congruent role as a lawyer who has been in practice for decades solely as someone who prepared the legal case for court cases that his partner litigates.  He has absolutely no court room experience, he is literally dwelling in the Black Panther 1960's mentality, and functioning at a very basic level professionally, and subsisting on a salary that is surely lower than what they paid their secretary.  Then comes the death of his partner and he is cast out and unwanted.  It is painful to watch from start to finish, which includes a middle and end where a shark like lawyer, played to a tee by Colin Farrell, plays him long and hard.  This is yet another Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, and so remarkably different from the role his was nominated for last year in Fences that you might miss that it was the very same actor if you did not know it to be so.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Winter by Ali Smith

No, I have not reached the end of my Oscar watching extravaganza reviews.  There are more movies than days it turns out, but it is time to take a very short break from movies in order to say something about a book.  This is the second of Ali Smith's seasonal series, and while there are lots of similarities with Autumn in terms of fragments of the story told finally coming together into a coherent end, there is also an underlying bitter narrative of the current state of the Western world, it having taken a giant step backwards in the past couple of years.  Having a successful and popular black president apparently upsets the apple cart.
It’s Sophia Cleves, a very successful retired businesswoman in her sixties, who owns the sixteen bedroom baronial mansion, Chei Bre (Cornish for “house of the mind”). It’s the “dead of winter,” the season characterized as “an exercise in remembering how to still yourself then how to come pliantly back to life again.” Sophia invites her twentyish-year-old son, Arthur, and his girlfriend, Charlotte, for dinner and an overnight stay to celebrate the holiday. The only problem is that, unbeknownst to Sophia, Arthur and Charlotte are estranged and he has hired a 21-year-old Croatian, Lux, to pose as his girlfriend for $1000.  Lux is a stroke of genius for Art.
Sophia is also dealing with a long estrangement from her older sister, Iris, a radical activist. When Arthur and Lux conspire to invite Iris to the family gathering, the “doors of reminiscence” creak, squeak, open and shut in a series of calamitous clashes of class, culture, and recriminations which culminate in a series of bombshell revelations of family secrets.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Kong: Skull Island (2017)

This was definitely a movie that I would not have seen if it hadn't been nominated for an Academy Award, but in the end, it was very engrossing.  And the CGI technology, which is the category that it was nominated in, was spectacular.  Again, as I have said about other nominees this year, while this movie was not my pick in this category, I really enjoyed it, much to my surprise.
The story line for monster movies is not really the point of course, but in this it is acceptable.  The movie introduces Kong after less than half an hour, then keeps him (and lots of other big, scary creatures) front and center throughout the film’s  running time. There’s even a moment where another character tells a story about Kong battling creatures and the movie cuts to images of Kong battling the creatures, in case you weren’t getting your fill of monster-on-monster action.  This is not subtle in its rendering of the problems on Skull Island, and does have the subtext of a bunch of guys come in and screw things up unknowingly because they have zero understanding of the terrain, and wow, when have we ever done that?  Pretty much consistently.  The revealing of Kong as hero is well done, and it is well worth seeing.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The Eleven O'Clock (2017)

This short live action movie is a bit of fun.  It is nominated in the category of Live Action Shorts, which is a great category to watch--if you haven't gone to see them before, do so next year.  Or better yet, get the package on Amazon and watch it. 
There is always one in the bunch (sometimes two), and this one is this year's pick.  It is a cute play on a one act farce.  There is a psychiatrist and a patient who believes that he is a psychiatrist.  Which is which.  The secretary is a temporary one, which adds to the believability of the possible mix up, and the tone is just perfect.  It is bright and quick paced and funny, laugh out loud funny, and ever so short.  It is probably my last choice in this category, but it is well worth the short time that it takes to watch it.  And if it won, I wouldn't be at all disappointed.