Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Holly Blush and a 'Golden' Rush!

Every year, since 1961, within the decadent chambers of the Beverly Hiton Hotel in California, champagne bring in the effervescence in spirits, fois-gras, caviar and canapés are doled out in epicurean abundance and twinkling stars of the Hollywood constellation descend with a shower of confetti and fairy-dust upon a red carpet that glimmers with style, oomph and pizzazz! And we aren’t even sneaking behind the scenes here! At a wizened age of 68 years, the Golden Globes ceremony happens to be the glitziest party of the season, and this year, things aren’t likely to differ!

Hobnobbing thespians, divas and dandies preening and careening at the same tables and for once, the sight of size-obsessed celebs actually stuffing their mouths… that, messrs and  mademoiselles, is Gold Rush enough! However, once the misty allure celebrity razzmatazz fades, we get to the more serious rewarding bit, too! And this year, particularly, has been an interesting year for cinema, with small indie projects overtaking the ho-hum blockbusters to stand resolute in the winner’s circle. Here is our analytical prediction of the top categories…

The Concerto!

In a year speckled with sheer sparkling show of versatility, less was more as smaller indie favourites trumped over heave-ho-hum blockbusters! Gone are the days when the Titanics and Gladiators, alongside winning over the box-office, also pocketed a free visa to the award frontline! Having said this, one can’t possibly spurn the HFPA for its selection of all contenders for the Comedy or Musical category, which are stinks as egregiously as the Drama noms sparkle! 

Should win: Seriously, Alice in Wonderland? Red? Burlesque? The Tourist? Some of the worst reviewed films of the year, possibly lined up for Razzie glory, make a beeline here! 

The Kids are Alright seems a sureshot victor for the Comedy or Musical category. 

As for Drama, the contention is as heated as can get! Considering the eerie avant garde vanguard that Black Swan is, it deserves to win!

Will Win: While The Kids are Alright will, and should, rightfully win, the two-horse race between The King’s Speech and The Social Network is the mystery of year.

Considering the number of ‘likes’ it has received, The Social Network won’t be breaking its head on its ‘wall’ with a likely victory.

The Auteurs

In the most diverse group of auteurs ever to have been selected in this plush suite, each nominee here has made a cinematic statement, defying norms at their own accord! 

Christopher Nolan
With Nolan’s brain-teasing dreamscape, Russell’s raw livewire intensity, Hooper’s Brit subtlety and nuanced meticulousness, Aronofsky’s frenetic vigour and Fincher’s razor-sharp precision, the choices seem to be deadlocked!

David O Russell

Should win: Aronofsky has waited long enough! He ought to have garnered at least two of these by now! While Requiem For a Dream remains an epochal work, The Wrestler's coup de grace remained unrewarded!

Darren Aronofsky
Will Win: While Fincher’s  ‘network’ seems fairly large now, he may have ‘added’ quite a few ‘friends’ in the marquee! No Fight Clubs or Curious Cases here… just sheer quicksilver wit!

David Fincher

The Primo Uomo!

Some foul and some fair, some regular and some rare, some as human as blood and flesh, some as explosive as a fanatic’s HESH! The men this year are a curious mix of veterans, newbies and promising starlets. However, while we shall love him till death shall do us apart,  the ignominy of watching Depp twice nominated (Alice… and The Tourist! Are we in wonderland?) is gargantuan! However, in the Supporting and Dramatic categories, the talent shines bright!

Johnny Depp in The Tourist
Should win: It is Firth’s year for revenge! After being left a single man by Bridges crazy heart(!), Firth’s kingly speech will surely get all the ears in the Drama category! 

Colin Firth in The King's Speech
And as for his compatriots, the rather young brigade is led by Mr. Chameleon James Franco and indie devotee Jesse Eisenberg  for 127 Hours and The Social Network

James Franco in 127 Hours 
While a critic fave Ryan Gosling has also sneaked in for Blue Valentine, they'll all watch from the wings!

Ryan Gosling in Blue Valentine
For the Comedy of Musical tenors, Paul Giamatti’s genius turn in Barney’s Version deserves the clinch as much as Kevin Spacey's sharp, incisive motormouth in Casino JackBale's heart-wrenching turn in The Fighter is yet another feather in his well-plumed hat.

Paul Giamatti in Barney's Version
Will Win: The Firth-a-thon is on and he shall be the victor! However, considering they loved Depp enough to shower him two noms, he might be a serious (ugh!) contender and score a win for his muchiest Mad Hatter! 

Johnny Depp in Alice in Wonderland
However, Spacey's corrupt politics will give him a tough run. 

Kevin Spacey in Casino Jack
As for the supporting turns, Christian Bale’s troubled Dicky Englund will rise like the dark knight to fight the others to victory!

Christian Blae in The Fighter
The Prima Donna!

After 2002, this has been the strongest and proudest year for women. With a category packed with heart-wrenching, nuanced turns, Drama nominees are a showcase in histrionic genius. In a comeback of sorts, Kidman’s grieving mother won raves as she went down Rabbit Hole

Nicole Kidman in Rabbit Hole

While Portman’s Swan Lake take made no mistake, her aplomb seems destined for an ovation. And Jennifer Lawrence simply broke hearts with her cold, calculated sorcery of a performance in the bleak Winter’s Bone.

Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone
Should win: For the Comedy and Musical category, Bening deserves a trophy for her lesbian matriarch in The Kids are Alright. Her onscreen partner, Julianne Moore also deserves mention. 

Annette Bening and Julianne Moore in The Kids are Alright
However, what in God’s name is Jolie doing here? Sure, her hair and eyelashes careened and twirled in The Tourist, much more than she did (!) but she clearly didn’t ACT! 

Angelina Jolie in The Tourist
In any case, Portman’s performance of a lifetime deserves the best gong... in fact she'd clinch the best performance of the year, too if I were the judge. My heart does go out for Kidman's beautifully underplayed Becca and Lawrence's Ree, but then, another year for them, I guess. 

Natalie Portman in Black Swan
As for the Supporting acts, Melissa Leo roared with her earth-shattering mother, in parts strong and in parts vulnerable, in The Fighter.

Melissa Leo in The Fighter
Will Win: Bening, for sure, will be 'alright', as Portman will prove herself the prima donna here! In the supporting turns, The Fighter’s women, Melissa Leo and Amy Adams, will fight it out, white trash style, with the prim and proper turn by Helena Bonham Carter for The King’s Speech. Leo will, however, roar!

Helena Bonham Carter in The King's Speech
The Libretto and the Aria!

Should win: In a year of sharp and incisive writing, Aaron Sorkin’s Facebook saga sparkled the most. While Nolan’s mindbender, Inception will contend hard, 127 Hours will only wait and The King’s Speech will remain mum on the Best Screenplay front. 

Musically, Hans Zimmer’s brassy, brazen and booming wonder of a score in Inception is a marvel. 

However, Clint Mansell’s mastery over Tchaikovsky's notes in Black Swan, knitting a myriad yarn alternating between grandeur and sinister silence, should get him his due. 

As for the song of the year, Gwyneth Paltrow's 'Coming Home' from Country Strong should score a win.

Will Win: Sorkin for The Social Network will rule this year. And, Zimmer will boil and not just simmer! Though while there are much more deserving candidates, Burlesque's power ballad, 'You Haven't Seen The Last Of Me' will win, though just for the Cher-factor.

Also Adagio!

The French animated film, The Illusionist’s heart-rending soul along with the charm of 2D animation deserves a win for Best Animated Feature

However, considering its past record, Pixar will pocket it comfortably with Toy Story 3’s success (which deserves a Best Comedy or Musical nom AND win much more than the horrendous current nominees!). 

The luscious and indulgent I Am Love’s visual mastery, notwithstanding Tilda Swinton's very presence, should gain acknowledgement, in the Best Foreign Language Film Category.

Alejandro Gonzalez’s Biutiful also seems prepped for victory, riding on Bardem’s Cannes win. 

We wouldn't, however, count out France's The Concert, considering the divisive views on the former two.

So, just two days left! Let's place our bets! Do you agree with my predictions?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Rum Soaked Sweet Nothings!

Well, here’s another of my Christmas fixations...after roasts and toasts...the one only sweet mosts! As Christmas knocks on our doors, as the musty flavours of holly and mistletoe make for a heady infusion with the epicurean tastes and aromas of roasts, wines and most importantly, desserts, one fact is proven for sure…we are NOT afraid of diabetes! With the cake shops standing on the threshold of brisk business, and our appetites growing only bigger, I decided to chalk out a love story between two of Christmas’ most beloved elements…alcohol and confectionery! Be it in form of a overpowering, rum-sozzled traditional Christmas pudding, or as amaretto-sozzled cakes whispering sweet nothings (pun intended!), sweet desires make for a heady Christmas ritual…one that we are not ready to let go.

Cake –Mixing marks the initiation of a two-month gastronomic extravaganza. A number of my Christian friends and their family members get together in November to savour the magic of mixing the ale and the raisins to create the base for the classic Christmas cake. Other than the fact that there is a lot of alcohol, the ritual marks a collation of family time.

The secret to the right rum cake is making the batter in a huge quantity. More the ingredients, the better it turns out. Similarly, Christmas puddings are also the symbol of Christmas appetites. Reeking of rum, not in the least subtle (!), and dotted with enough dry fruits to tease the taste buds, that’s the perfect pudding for you.

Every year Flury’s, the legendary cake shop in mon Kolkata, brings with it a different yield of rum cake. Last year I remember how the aroma has been particularly good. The cardinal rule for a good Christmas plum cake is plenty of raisins with every bite and whiff of rum to warm your throat, too! While adults can have their share of rum cakes and Christmas puddings, children, too regale themselves with chocolate, be it chocolate Dundee cakes or novelty choco-treats, and with the magic of globalisation, even strawberries dipped in chocolate. Sinful? Dark desires? You bet!

While desserts call for indulgent treats, the alcohol bit isn’t far behind! A very dear family friend has been ritually making mulled wine for as long as I can remember. Sweet yet piquant and spicy enough to add a kick, without the traditional sipping of mulled wine, every Christmas of mine is simply incomplete without  those long evenings darkening into black nights, amidst gracious sips of that heavenly nectar and long, winding conversations that, in their philosophical elevation, would do Kerouac proud! While wines and liqueurs feature high on the wanted list, eggnog happens to be a classic Christmas drink that has been morphed into various forms to suit children’s as well as adults’ palettes.

In my sweet city of Kolkata, that prides itself on its nostalgic treasures, is there something that has really TRULY changed? Well, as far as I see it, Nothing has changed…the demands remain the same, the people remain the same and Christmas is still about cheer and familial bonds. And truly, as an ode to that fact, let’s raise a cheery toast to the good life and another rum-soaked year ahead. Till then, let’s pray for a speedy advent of winter…and safe drinking!

Host with the Most, Toast to the Roast!

Every festivity brings with it an additional baggage…be it the socio-cultural brouhaha, or the adage of elite or ‘junta’(!) or in the case of the year’s final adieu, HOLIDAY WEIGHT! I know, I know... Christmas is far, far away, but isn’t it time we start planning already?! After all, isn’t the faint nip in the air exhilarating? However, it would truly be an insult to our sensual and sensuous pleasures (we equate food with sex…remember!), if we were to forgo the sumptuous delicacies that are laid out on the jolly holly-laden platters! And frankly no one was born with THAT much resistance to temptation (we’d be called Christ the Redeemer if we ACTUALLY did)! In a season seasoned by the garnishing of sprigs of thyme, rosemary and mouth-watering aromas of the stuffing mixed with the crusty, sharp garlicky infusion of the crisp roasted skin… we experience what Buddha would call Nirvana! So, let me take you on a trip to foodie-land to experience the magic of roasts and meats…to mark the festive cheer of Christmas Cometh. Treadmill companies… are you listening?!

Getting Piggy with It!

Despite the smattering of roast dishes that feature chicken, pork remains an epicurean’s desired ambrosia! And the sales during this time at New Market (that’s my beloved Kolkata for you, sweeties!), pork shops would vouch for that! A traditional spit roasted suckling pig is a little difficult to make, however, is a favourite at big gatherings. Other than tan a pork casserole with a classic white wine sauce symbolises the hearty yuletide cheer! In many a gathering, the suckling pig is a cynosure! Leave aside the taste, which is undoubtedly scrumptious, especially with the apple sauce, the very sight of a spit-roasted suckling pig is a hark back to traditional Christmas!

Chicken seems to be a favourite all over, but personally, I don’t consider having tasted meat unless I taste the robust goodness of beef and pork! With red wine as a perfect accompaniment, I can knock myself out on well-done roasts and steaks! And if you REALLY aren’t a fan, then why don’t you tuck in neatly into a lip-smacking, surefire success of a weight gain recipe for Chicken a La Kiev. Hmmmm... the only time I have experienced a visual bliss greater than the globs of molten butter oozing out of the crisp crumb-fried flesh, soft and warm on the inside, charred and crunchy on the outside, was during an incident I REALLY don’t wish to mention over here!

Bye Bye Birdie!

Duck, Chicken and Turkey…these are three winged delights we cannot do without during Christmas! However, there are power blocs of favouritism that would remind one of erstwhile USSR! While I have a prominent sweet tooth, cheering the Bong bandwagon all the way, I always end up stacking up on chicken hams, turkey loaves and of course, my absolute favourite, duck roast!

The mildly charred aroma of an infusion of herbs that tickles the strength of the buttery magic of a crisp roasted poultry skin is a delight more heavenly than the hallowed visage of the Pearly Gates! Done right, a roast is the best thing about Christmas…done wrong, you’ll forever be tainted as Judas’ Kiss! Crisp on the outside, melt-in-your-mouth on the inside, a subdued taste of the herb and onion infusion throughout and a stronger flavour to foil all of it…that makes the perfect roast! While most people use butter as a baste for the roasts, I also use dollops of mayonnaise! The yolky aftertaste that remains after the roasting, goes extremely well with the skin, very often the best part about the dish! Also, citrus infusions add freshness and zing to the stuffing. I stuff the turkey with an orange or a couple of lemons. The citrus flavour always offsets the heavy aroma of thyme, rosemary and garlic (Juju, all thanks to you!).

Vegan and Lay!

As for the vegetarians, while we know you cannot afford to have that little luxury called ...err...CHOICE, you can knock yourself out on lovely vegan delights! And remember…vegetarian is so passé! Vegan is the ‘in’ word! While it pinches me that I don’t enjoy the bliss of sharing a roast turkey with a few vegan friends, it being one of the heartiest traditions, I make sure they get their share of culinary delight in form of Nut Roast. Made with a variety of nuts bound with starch and baked and roasted to nutty crispiness, my mother’s Nut Roast is an annual ritual that can convert carnivores!

So as a toast to all the meaty, robust delights, and a few vegan delicacies, we raise a toast to one sense Christmas always relishes…that of tastes! So get your knives and forks ready…and your gym memberships after! To a Ho-ho-holly Jolly Xmas!