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  1. A'ight kids, put yer reading caps on Friday was our 7th wedding anniversary. That means its been 7 years since some generous friends took us to a meal at the Inn at Little Washington as a wedding present. Our gustatory urges had been slowly awakening over the previous year, driven in part by our release from the penury of graduate school into gainful employment, and we had wined and dined ourselves at Obelisk, Cashions and DC Coast to name but a few. Fine restaurants all. But "The Inn" was the big kahuna. Remember that in DC in 1998, there was no Maestro, no Laboratorio, no CityZen, no Eve, a reminder of how spoiled we are for fine dining options now (I think Citronelle was there but for some inexplicable reason we have yet to dine there). The passage of time, the loss of brain cells and a couple of years of sleep deprivation have taken their toll, and memories of the meal are hazy, but we remember literally being *blown away* by the whole experience. The setting, the service, and most importantly the food were all superlative - we had never experienced anything like it - I remember a sublime molten Valrhona chocolate cake before it had become a tired cliche. Two years later we returned, flush with the proceeds of a Harry Potter arbitrage scheme on eBay, and left wondering whether The Inn had changed or had we changed. Were our expectations too high after our first visit? Had we become more discerning as diners? Or was The Inn standing in place, content to serve a menu eerily similar to two years beforehand to those willing (and there were still many of them) to make the two hour trek from metropolitan DC, or even further afield? Some of the dishes were very good, but lacked the wow factor of our previous visit, and the service seemed a little detached and rote. As we left, the prevailing sense was that for $120+ per person BEFORE wine, tax or tip was it just wasn't good enough. Based on the comments on several other food sites it seemed as if we were not alone in this opinion. Time passed and we concentrated our fine dining adventures closer to DC, enjoying spectacular meals at Maestro, Laboratorio, and Eve, or overseas (Arzak, McNean Bistro). Last Christmas, my sister, remembering our raves from our first visit generously gave us a gift certificate for The Inn. While grateful for the gift, we honestly were not that jazzed about going back to The Inn and sat on the gift cert for a while (and in the "We do it because we can" category, shame on The Inn for voiding gift certs after ONE year). We finally decided to go in late-September and turn it into an anniversary celebration both for us, and my parents who would be visiting. My mother has a garlic allergy which can make dining out a difficult process so I mentioned it as I made reservations, and was assured it would not be a problem. Then the day of the meal, our babysitting fell through and I called The Inn to find out if it would be ok to add a 4-year old to our reservation. Again, they said it was not a problem (to be honest I was surprised at this, as an ultra high-end restauranteur, adding a 4 year old into a dining room full of boomers spending $200+ per person seems to have lots of downside). We arrived just in time for our 6.30 reservation and were shown to a circular table overlooking the courtyard (the same table as our first time there, maybe a coincidence, maybe not). Our amuse bouche arrived quickly, with about 8 for the non-garlic allergites (is that a word?) on one place and 3 or 4 on a separate plate for my mother which I thought was a nice touch. The amuse bouche included a mini-BLT (still on the menu after all these years) a red wine risotto filled ball, parmesan crisps, a rabbit turnover, a mini-ham sandwich and one or two others which I have forgotten. In general the amuse were good but not earth shattering. In ordering for the rest of our meal, our waiter took scrupulous care in accommodating the garlic allergy, to the extend of tweaking the making and presentation of dishes to ensure there would be no garlic but that my mother could still order just about whatever she wanted. I was very impressed. After the amuse came a complimentary cup of chilled watermelon soup with a hint of tequila. The soup was excellent - creamy, yet light, tasting of summer, and with the tequila giving its just the slightest kick. They even brought a cup of the soup (minus the tequila!) for our daughter, which she loved. For the first course proper, me and my mother had Prawns and Charred Onions with Mango Mint Salsa, while my wife and dad had Maryland Crabcakes Sandwiched between Fried Green Tomatoes with Silver Queen Corn Salsa. In general both dishes were excellent, but I think the prawns shaded it. Three large, succulent prawns paired nicely with the sweetness of the charred onion and the salsa. In another nice touch, they brought our daughter some macaroni (penne pasta to be precise) and cheese between our first and second courses so we could concentrate on feeding her and still be able to eat ourselves. This was seriously tasty and I'm guessing they used several different cheeses in its preparation. For the second course, I had A Marriage of Hot and Cold Foie Gras with Homemad Quince Preserves, my mom had a Morel Dusted Diver Scallop on a Cauliflower Puree, my wife had A Fricassee of Maine Lobster with Potato Gnocchi and Curried Walnuts, and my dad had A Warm Salad of Stone Church Farms Seared Duck Breast with Baby Arugula, Pine Nuts and Parmesan. In general, I adore foie gras and ordered this dish mainly for the seared foie with aged balsamic and it did not disappoint, but was pleasantly surprised at the "Cold" part of the dish, which was a delicious pate served with a small piece of toasted bread. For our main course, myself and my dad Medallions of Rabbit Loin Wrapped in House Cured Pancetta Surrounding a Lilliputian (!!) Rabbit Rib Roast Resting on a Pillow of Pea Puree, my mom had Prime Angus Tenderloin of Beef on Silver Queen Corn Saute with Wilted Baby Spinach, and my wife had Sesame-Crusted Chilean Sea Bass with Silver Queen Corn Succotash. I don't think I'd really eaten rabbit before and it was excellent. The pancetta added a good deal of flavor and it was surprisingly tender. The sea bass was also good, and the corn succotash was very flavorful. For dessert I had cheese, my wife had a trio of chocolate desserts (Black Forest Mousee Bombe, Chocolate Creme Brulee, and Bitter Chocolate Souffle), my father had the "Seven Deadly Sins", and my mother had a trio of peach desserts (Peach Melba, Peach-Champagne Sorbet and Peach Cobbler). In general I thought the desserts were good but not outstanding, although I think I was more in the mood for savory than sweet that night. Our daughter had a scoop of mint ice cream (that was as good as 2 Amy's and that's saying something) with chocolate ribbons. At The Inn, the cheese is served from the back of "Faira", a wheeled cow that must be (somewhat arkwardly) manouevered around the dining room - its cute, kind-of, but let me tell you when you're a 4-year old nearing the end of a 3 hour meal and its an hour after your normal bedtime, it's the coolest thing in the world! I had a nice back and forth with the cheese guy (earning a "you know your cheese" by the end of it all), and ended up picking a Montenbro, a crumbly blue from the Asturias region of Spain, a wonderfully ripe Tallegio, an even more wonderfully ripe Epoisses, a pungent cheese from Switzerland whose name escapes me and an award-winning American cheese that, much to my chagrin, I had never heard of. Now we were really starting to wind down, and Reinhardt Lynch came by and asked if we wanted the doors opening out onto the courtyard to be opened. Again, a great idea for a rapidly tiring 4-year old, and while we enjoyed coffee, tea and cookies, we took turns peering into the courtyards coy-filled ponds with her - several other tables were enjoying their desserts outside. After dinner, we had a quick tour of the kitchen and observed those willing to pony up the addition $300 ($450 on weekends) for the chef's table, exchanged pleasantries with Chef O'Connell (always easy when you have a cute kid), and made our way into the night air for the drive back to DC. Total bill for 4 people, a nice but inexpensive bottle Pinot, and a "kids meal" plus tax and tip was $775. The regular menu is $128 per person, our wine was $60, and our daughters meal was $28 (note that the tasting menu is $168 and the tasting menu with wine pairings is $243!!). We tipped 20% on the total bill including tax because the service was exemplary. Neil is a true professional, always there when we needed him, sensitive to the particular demands of our table, friendly, and good with our daughter. So, was it worth it? I would have to say yes. Its not the kind of place where you should go all the time, and it may not even be the place where you go for groundbreaking cuisine, but for a special occasion, the combination of ambience, service and food is hard to beat. I think they deserve credit for regaining their focus and maintaining a general level of excellence as they enter their 28th year in business. A final note on our superstar daughter. Yes, she's used to being taken out to restaurants, but she excelled herself this time around. By the end of the night, complete strangers were coming up to talk to her, clearly awed but her ability not to ruin their evenings! A final, FINAL note on the one teeny-tiny sour note for the evening. A young female member of staff loudly chastised my wife for reading one of Patrick O'Connells cookbooks that had apparently been already purchased by someone else but left on a table in the common area directly outside the kitchen. Honey, she wasn't trying to steal it, she didn't know it belonged to someone else, and your tone was not appreciated.
  2. The Dodgers got Mookie Betts, the best outfielder in baseball not named Trout or Bellinger. They also get David Price for half price. They send a pitcher who is unhappy and won't go to the bullpen and a player with questionable injury history in Verdugo. What a deal.
  3. Sometimes, when I'm watching a basketball game, I get bored, and decide to focus on a single player - not looking at the ball; just that one, single player ... it sounds wacky, but I get quite a bit out of it, and learn a whole lot about how that player operates. In the past few minutes, it has been #5 for the Portland Trail Blazers, Rodney Hood, who has also played for the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Utah Jazz - in college, he played for Duke after transferring from Mississippi State. My initial impression of Hood is that he's very big (he's 6'8"), and also a step too slow for playing so far out of the paint - he has gotten burned a couple of times based on his lack of quickness, and I wonder if he'd have done better in the NBA of 20-years ago. Anyone who thinks this is a crazy way to watch a basketball game should try it, even if only for ten minutes - you can really get a feel for what a player is doing, and how he plays. I "know" Rodney Hood's game a lot better now than I did just 20-minutes ago. With 5:23 left in the 3rd quarter, he's covering Stephen Curry. He just drove strong to the hoop, and missed a dunk, but was fouled hard by Draymond Green - Hood is a lefty, and sank both free throws - he now has 9 points coming off the bench.
  4. "The Man They Love To Hate: Why Is It So Easy To Dislike Bryce Harper?" by Tom Verducci on si.com I have not read this article yet, and I don't consider myself to be a rabid Nats fan, but it's a very good question: Why *is* it so easy to dislike Bryce Harper? From what (little) I've seen, I think he's perfectly likable, or at least likable enough. What's the problem?
  5. "Orlando" is a witty and sumptuous delight. It is a thought-provoking film that is both visually stunning and fun to watch. Tilda Swinton's androgynous beauty and understated charm make her perfect for the role of Orlando, a gender-fluid aristocrat who never grows old. The film is loosely based on Virginia Woolf's 1928 novel, "Orlando, A Biography," a book inspired by her lover and good friend, Vita Sackville-West. "Orlando" honors the author's ideas and style, but is not a direct interpretation of the book. The film, which begins in the Elizabethan era and ends in its present day (1992), feels fresh and relevant, as it takes a look at the role gender plays throughout Orlando's never-ending life. Stylishly shot, with gorgeous costumes and clever dialogue, "Orlando" is a treat for the senses. It is a fun film that I won't forget.
  6. Similar to how I was inspired by John McGiver, I was watching an episode of "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" (S03 E34 - "The Crocodile Case") which featured Denholm Elliott in a rather fiendish role, and realized that, like McGiver, Elliott is often considered a "character actor" whose face you recognize like an old friend, but whose name you just don't know. Although most of us will recognize Elliott as Dr. Marcus Brody in "Raiders of the Lost Ark," his career is long and storied, having become interested in drama in the thick of World War II. His film career began in the late 1940's, and he received an Academy Award Nomination for Best Supporting Actor for the 1985 Merchant and Ivory period film, "A Room With A View." I hope people will feel free to post their memories of Elliott here, preferably with a picture of him in the role. Here's one of him with Harrison Ford, in the role of Dr. Camby in "Raiders":
  7. The UEFA Champions League was organized in 1955 as the European Champion Clubs' Cup, and reorganized in 1992 as the UEFA Champions League. --- UEFA Champions League, 2015-2016 Season (Ericandblueboy) UEFA Champions League, 2016-2017 Season (Ericandblueboy) UEFA Champions League, 2017-2018 Season (Ericandblueboy) UEFA Champions League, 2018-2019 Season (Ericandblueboy)
  8. A friend has been urging me to watch "The Crying Game" recently, and unfortunately, I kind-of, sort-of found out why before deciding to watch it, but not quite - anyway, I think that a great film should be able to still be a great film even though its Big Reveal is lost. There are advantages to knowing it in advance, because you can take note of the director's brilliance in trying to gently hint at it throughout. Forest Whitaker has always seemed the unlikeliest of stars to me - a dark-skinned, overweight Texan with a physical quirk - but I've always loved him in his roles, for example, "the guy who hustled 'The Hustler.'" Here, he plays Jody, a British soldier in Northern Ireland; his nemesis, a Provisional IRA volunteer named Fergus, played by Stephen Rea (Academy Award Nominee for Best Actor). Both actors are introduced to the viewer virtually immediately. *** SPOILERS FOLLOW *** DO NOT READ PAST THIS POINT UNTIL YOU "KNOW" Alright, there are two ways to watch "The Crying Game" - knowing in advance about Dil (Jaye Davidson, Academy Award Nominee for Best Supporting Actor), and not knowing in advance about Dil. I'd just found out about her a couple of weeks ago, but decided to watch the film anyway - great works of art do not depend on a single reveal. In many ways, I'm glad I knew in advance, because I could see just how much went into concealing things, but also because I got to enjoy the film as an art film, without having to look back and wonder if I would have "really" liked it had I known. This is an excellent movie, and I think in many ways I like it more having "known" about Dil in advance. PS - As much as I love "Unforgiven," Jaye Davidson deserved the award for Best Supporting Actor over Gene Hackman.
  9. A little piece of trivia from the gold-medal game: the second-leading scorer was Dino Radja with 23 points, and the leading scorer was none other than Drazen Petrovic with 24 - obviously, this was due to a balanced attack by the United States. The only USA player held scoreless was an ailing Larry Bird who was visibly in a great deal of pain.
  10. It's amazing how little I know about Malcolm X, considering how concerned I am about civil rights, and how ticked off I am at my forefathers for the crimes against humanity they committed. I've never read "The Autobiography of Malcolm X," and don't have time to do it right now, so I figured this was a good, next-best thing, although being filtered through the lens of Spike Lee - who, as much as I like him, clearly has an agenda - you really don't know if you're getting the genuine product. It is with that large grain of salt in mind that I begin Lee's 1992 film, "Malcolm X." "Conk" is a word that was entirely unfamiliar to me, but is apparently going to play a substantial role in this movie (a "conk" is the straightening of a black man's hair using a lye-based product - think of James Brown as an example). Our first scene with Malcolm Little (the given name of Malcolm X) features Denzel Washington getting conked in a barber shop in WWII-era Boston. Oh my goodness, I just now noticed this movie is 3:15 long! *** WARNING: SPOILERS FOLLOW *** This is going to be a controversial statement, but it's something that has weighed on me for a long time - and when I say "a long time," I mean for years and years. When Malcolm (still Malcolm Little at this point) gets out of solitary confinement, he's conking in the shower (get your minds out of the gutter, and see above for the definition of "conk"), and Baines (Albert Hall) berates Little - as well as every other black man "on the outside" - for conking, because, he said, it meant they were trying to not be black, i.e., they were ashamed of what they really were. I absolutely believe conking was an attempt to be "as white as possible," but that's not the controversial statement. Okay, here goes, and I'm taking a big risk in saying this ... It's time for Jewish actors and actresses to *stop using non-Jewish-sounding names*. I understand that they needed to do this, fifty, seventy-five years ago, and perhaps they still do, but it saddens my heart that Jon Liebowitz and Winona Horowitz had to change their last names to Stewart and Ryder, just because they didn't want to be perceived as being Jewish. That Joan Perske needed to be Lauren Bacall. and that Larry Leach needed to be Cary Grant. Bernie Schwartz needed to be Tony Curtis. Frances Gumm needed to be Judy Garland. Walter Matuschanskayasky needed to be Walter Matthau. (Okay, I'll let that one slide.) Charles Buchinsky needed to be Charles Bronson. Joan Molinsky needed to be Joan Rivers. Jerome Silberman needed to be Gene Wilder. David Kominsky needed to be Danny Kaye. Emanuel Goldenberg needed to be Edward G. Robinson. Ethel Zimmerman needed to be Ethel Merman. Chaim Liebovitz needed to be Lorne Greene. Esther Friedman needed to be Ann Landers. Irwin Kniberg needed to be Alan King. Joseph Levitch needed to be Jerry Lewis. Isadore Demsky needed to be Kirk Douglas. Melvin Kaminsky needed to be Mel Brooks. This list goes on, and on, and on, and on - I could spend hours writing a list of hundreds of names with whom you'd all be familiar, but you can research this yourselves on the internet. You know who has balls? This guy. Someone once asked him, "Is Goldberg your real name?" He said, "No, my real name is Killer, but I wanted a much more menacing name, so I picked Goldberg." I get it - it's not Jewish people's problem; it's *non*-Jewish people's problem - and instead of minimizing their chances of being lynched, they're maximizing their chances of being famous - but it all still boils down to the same fetid pot of shit that's more commonly known as prejudice. Back to the feature. I always said that, were I black and alive during the 50s and 60s, I would make Malcolm X look like Santa Claus; now that I've seen this portrayal of him (and I'm assuming it's reasonably accurate, if perhaps a bit whitewashed), I don't think that's true because X's message was plenty powerful - X was the bad cop to King's good cop, and when confronted with a bad and a good cop, someone being interrogated is *always* going to gravitate towards the good cop, and that's why King is so universally revered: He was less of a threat to us, so we accepted him as the lesser of two evils, and made him a national hero, while X is relegated to mere footnotes in history books relative to King. Think otherwise? Do we celebrate Malcolm X's birthday? Do you even know what year X was assassinated in? (Think about that one for a minute.) We should, because we needed X for King to succeed. This is something I've always thought, and this biography has done nothing to convince me otherwise. X is right: The white man *was* the devil. They enslaved an *entire race* of people for 400 years - how can they *not* be construed as pure evil by the black man? How can you blame the black man for coming up with *their own* religions and thought processes? The white ones weren't working for them in the least, and I think X is every bit the national hero that King is. That might piss some people off, but it's what I think and I don't care. I don't agree with everything X said or preached - not by a long shot - but I agree that he was necessary, and he was one hell of a catalyst for the civil rights movement in this country because he *scared the shit out of the white man* - and I think that's just awesome. Think we have equality now? I didn't even know Angela Bassett was portraying X's wife (what was her name again?) - I recognized Bassett's name, but I didn't even know what she looked like. I guarantee I would have recognized Meryl Streep or Glenn Close, but not Angela Bassett? Why not? I'll let you decide for yourselves why not. You know, the fact that I haven't said a single thing about the movie, says quite a bit about the movie. I'm now 2:15 into a 3:15 movie - with just an hour left, I feel like I'm watching an honest-to-goodness story of this man's life (which, I suppose, it's supposed to be). I feel like I "know" Malcolm X (which also probably means it's a well-done piece of movie-making - in reality, I know virtually (get it? @reallyvirtual?) nothing about Malcolm X). But two+ hours in, I don't feel like this film is dragging at all, or boring in any way - I've watched it over a couple of days, just because I have the attention span of a gnat, but while not exactly "action-packed," it's quite an enlightening piece of entertainment, and it makes me *think* that I'm learning something about the man. Again, I have to tell myself that this is all being filtered through the lens of Spike Lee, he of The Spike Lee Store - capitalizing off the white devil. You can't have it both ways, Mr. Lee, although you come about as close as possible. The scene with the eager white girl - the college student - approaching X and asking him what she can do to help his cause, before he casually replies, "Nothing," and walks away, is a personality trait that I would find repulsive, although it was probably a necessary character flaw - he either believed in his methodology all-the-way, or he wouldn't have believed in it at all - this scene makes that painfully clear. I'm not sure how I would have reacted to that at the time, but looking back, seeing the big picture, I understand. This was something that black people had to do for themselves, without any help from anybody else. Again, this made MLK one heck of a lot easier to swallow for a lot of white people - he was the lesser of two "evils." It's true. It wasn't *actually* true, but in the white man's mind, it was true. The one-on-one scene with X and Baines - the one about wealth - was riveting dialog. The foibles of greed and lust are human foibles; not black foibles or white foibles - I hold absolutely no disregard for anyone wishing to advance their position in life, or for having a sex drive; it's the hypocrisy that grates me. Don't preach abstinence if you're going to be a philanderer; don't preach honesty if you're going to be a thief. Here, I'm talking about the avarice of Baines; not anything in particular about X. In general (and this is purely personal philosophy; not some sort of universal truth), I have problems with greed more than I do lust, as lust is a basic human drive that cannot be contained; greed requires time to calculate and think, and is therefore the greater of the two sins. And there's nothing wrong with the desire for wealth, but everything must be done in moderation, and those who would purposefully trample on the backs of the needy to acquire wealth are some of the greatest sinners of all. I really thought - up until this moment - that Elijah Muhammad (born Elijah Poole in Sandersville, GA, and played by Al Freeman, Jr.) was part Indian, but apparently not. As little as I knew (or know) about X, I know even less about Muhammad. He certainly comes across as a Gandhi-type figure in this film, but I've heard (and I don't know from where) that he had something of "a past," just as X did. Of course, who doesn't? Wow, the "Chickens coming home to roost" comment was a bit much, even for me. I understand it's merely an extension of what he said to that white college girl, but this really strikes close to the bone. I did not know X said this, and if this transpired in the way the movie portrayed, I condemn it in the strongest possible terms. However, like the rest of us, X merely needed to travel in order to grow up - as soon as he went abroad, he realized that the white man was *not* the devil; when a red-headed person spends their entire life trapped in a cell, and all they see is another red-headed person who brings them their food and water, every day, for their entire life, they will naturally think that all people have red hair. Travel forces you to expand your horizons, both literally and figuratively - my first trip to Europe in 1989 changed my life; I'm waiting for it to change more with trips to other continents - I have only visited two, so how could I possibly say that I have wisdom? Intelligence, yes. Education, yes. Wisdom? Many would say yes because of all the suffering I've been forced to endure; I say no, for I have not seen the world. This has nothing to do with the movie, other than the fact that it was in it - it's such a beautiful, important picture: It's interesting that in his letter to his wife from Egypt, X (or Denzel Washington), says, aloud, "I am not a racist, and I do not subscribe to the tenets of racism," and pronounced "tenets" as "tenants." Was this scripted? Or is this how Washington speaks, and it slipped past the editors? I *love* the subtle smile X shows his assassin, the moment the trigger is about to be pulled - he knew it was when and not if: And how do you not love this picture? Without spoiling the ending of the movie with a photo, let me just say that it was awesome, as was the film as a whole - I always thought "Do The Right Thing" was Spike Lee's best picture, but this is at another level.
  11. John Dehner is someone whose face you recognize, but you don't know his name (how many dozens, if not hundreds, of actors and actresses fit this mold?) I don't want to simply parrot Wikipedia, but he was an animator, professional pianist (making him near-and-dear to my heart), and an actor in radio, films, and television, having nearly a fifty-year career. He was in three "Twilight Zone" episodes (all quoted above), among countless other things - I hope these little blurbs will stimulate memories of actors like Dehner (né John Forkum in the former name for Staten Island: Richmond (believe it or not, it was officially called the "Borough of Richmond" until 1975!). Unfortunately, among these episodes is perhaps my least favorite (or, more accurately, "most hated" in the entire series: "The Jungle" - my comments about it are above, and they stand as written. I cannot believe Rod Serling had the final say in this, as he was *in no way* the type of man who would foster these stereotypes about people of color - if he was alive today, I bet he'd jump at the chance to get his side of the story in). Incidentally, the other two episodes were very good to excellent.
  12. I've seen "Unforgiven" only once, perhaps when it was released in 1992 (when, to my surprise, it won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director (Clint Eastwood), Best Supporting Actor (Gene Hackman), and Best Film Editing (Joel Cox). At the time, I liked, but did not love, the film, and was surprised when it won the Best Picture Award. Nevertheless, Terry Theise, a devout lover of film, raved about Unforgiven as much as he did "The Natural" (Terry is also a hardcore baseball fan), and I've done very well over the years following his recommendations in both film and literature Also, I remember David Foster Wallace (during a Charlie Rose interview, I believe) mentioning that he loved this movie also - It was time for me to give Unforgiven a second viewing. I am stunned at just how little of the movie I remembered. *** SPOILERS FOLLOW *** I'll be writing these notes, observations, and trivia as I watch the movie, so if you follow along, in sequence, there won't be any spoilers; just don't go beyond what I've written until you've seen that part of the film: * Scrolling, opening notes reveal that the wife of William Munny (Eastwood) - a known thief and murderer - died of smallpox in 1878; her parents assumed he would be the one to kill her, but they were wrong. Although it's impossible to tell at the time, the opening notes take place against a background of a man in the far distance, not far from a crooked shack in the middle of nowhere, doing some type of digging during a lovely sunset - this is Munny working on his wife's grave, and it's really a beautiful shot. * The film is set in the fictional town of Big Whiskey, Montana in 1880, although it was filmed in Alberta, Canada. * The very first scene is a violent, misogynistic knife attack in a brothel (in the upstairs of Greely's Beer Garden and Billiard Parlor (Don't go West, young woman) - okay, okay, the name's missing an "e" for it to have been Horace Greeley). There's still time for you to back out - this movie is not for the faint of heart, and does not lack for cringe-inducing violence. * "Little" Bill Dagget (Hackman), the sheriff, is called in during a downpour. The prostitute will live, but with disfiguring slash marks across her face. He asks for a bullwhip to be brought, despite the protestations of the madame ("Strawberry" Alice, played by Frances Fisher), who's more in favor of a hanging for such a severe crime against one of her own. * (In case you can't already tell, I'm going to be writing an extremely thorough synopsis and commentary of Unforgiven. There's still time for you to back out - this synopsis and commentary is not for the faint of heart, and will not lack for cringe-inducing OCD. Just whatever you do, please make sure not to read ahead, or you'll spoil the movie for yourself.) * "Skinny" Dubois (played by Anthony James), owner of the saloon (and hence the brothel), produces a "lawful contract' between him and Delilah Fitzgerald, the cut whore (played by Anna Levine), clearly showing he cares more about her as property than a human being (but I suppose that goes without saying). When Sheriff Dagget finds this out (knowing that the assilants are from the Bar-T Ranch), he fines one john ("Quick" Mike (played by David Mucci), the one who did the cutting) five ponies as retribution to Dubois; the other, "Davey-Boy" Bunting (played by Rob Campbell) two ponies, and spares them the whipping much to the frustration and anger of Alice. Ain't nobody gonna want a cut-up whore, but Dagget ordered this to be a simple matter of compensation for damaged property. * The next morning, the six prostitutes, led by Alice, figure out how much money they all have - several hundred dollars between the lot of them. Something is up, but we don't know what - for all we know at this point, they're trying to pitch in for a decent plastic surgeon (if there was such a thing back then). The scene then cuts to a hog farm in Kansas [the opening credits, with Munny in the background, seemed a bit too hilly for the Great Plains, so this must have been further east]. * The hog farm is Munny's, and he's tending in the slop to his sick swine (who have contracted a disease) in front of his children, when a young hotshot killer - "The Schofield Kid" (played by James Woolvett) rides up and introduces himself, taunting Munny, hoping to enlist him as a partner in a paid killing. What The Kid didn't realize is that Munny has reformed, and is living the life that he feels his late wife (who has now been gone three years) would want him to live - he hasn't taken a drink, or killed anyone in over ten years. The Kid then reveals that the prostitutes have pooled together a $1,000 reward for anyone who kills the two johns. Munny declines, and The Kid respectfully rides away, letting Munny know how to find him in case he changes his mind - as Munny watches The Kid ride into the distance, he ponders his poverty and his two children. * Cut to the prostitutes' shack in Big Whiskey, where they all live in a tiny commune. The two attackers ride by with their seven ponies, on their way to give them to Dubois, and the prostitutes silently glare at them - this scene is merely seconds long, but summarizes the state of things quite nicely. * Dubois infers that he's going to be taking a third horse from Davey Boy, and Quick Mike is suddenly pelted with what looks like horse excrement, right outside of Simmons & Borley Meat Market - appropriate, since the prostitutes have gathered en masse, and are pelting the assailants. Other stores nearby are a Blacksmith, Big Whiskey Hotel, and German's General Merchants. Davey Boy offers Delilah a pony in retribution (or, to assuage any residual guilt he has), and Alice scoffs at him while the girls begin pelting them again; yet, there's something about Delilah's tranquil expression for this small act that transcends anger. * Back on the hog farm, Munny pulls out a pistol, and fails spectacularly trying to target shoot; then he pulls out a rifle and nails it on the first shot. "Did pa used to kill folks?" his young daughter asked her brother. Munny ponders things in front of the tombstone of his wife, Claudia Feathers Munny (Mar 1, 1849 - Aug 6, 1878), but you can tell his mind is already made up. This time, it won't be whiskey that drives him to kill; it's poverty: Munny decides to leave his two young children for a couple of weeks, but he can't even mount a horse anymore. * At the brothel, Dubois is unsuccessfully trying to shake down his prostitutes, having heard they have some money. Empty-handed, he then goes out to Sheriff Dagget's property and tells him about the bounty, and Dagget seems determined to stand up for the assailants. * Munny rides up to a property where a very surprised Ned Logan (played by Morgan Freeman) introduces him to his wife, Native American Sally Two-Trees (earlier, Munny told his son to ask Two-Trees for help if he needed any during his absence). Munny tries to recruit Logan as a partner-in-bounty-hunting, and is ultimately successful due to the nature of the crime committed (which has been exaggerated due to multiple re-tellings of the tale, like what happens in the childhood phone game). Munny again has trouble mounting his steed, and hopefully this isn't going to be an ongoing attempt at comic relief because it's just not that funny. * Munny and Logan have dinner around a campfire, catching up on old times, and it's clear that Munny hates his past (and yet, he's going out to kill again - this film may be titled "Unforgiven" for a reason). * Cut to a steam train on the (fictional?) Northwest Railroad, with passengers railing (pun intended) about President Garfield's shooting (Garfield died eleven weeks later). Here, we meet "English Bob" (played by Richard Harris) a British gunfighter also out for the $1,000 bounty. When passengers on the train accuse Garfield's shooter of most likely being a "John Bull," English Bob chimes in and says that no, he was probably French (indeed, the assassin was Charles J. Guiteau, an American with a French name) and then proceeds to put on a remarkable display of pheasant shooting, taking $7 in wager money from another train passenger. * English Bob and his biographer (ironically named W.W. Beauchamp (played by the brilliant Saul Rubinek, whom you *must* see in Star Trek (TNG), Season 3, Episode 22: "The Most Toys") take a stagecoach (which inexplicably has "Expressly Muddy Hauling Chandler" written on the side of it) into Big Whiskey, where they pass a little sign that says, "No Fire Arms in Big Whiskey, Ordnance 14 - Deposit Pistols and Rifles. County Office." They pass the prostitutes' shack, and the prostitutes wave at them. In the next couple of minutes, you get a better view of Big Whiskey's layout: on the left, from near-to-far, is Greely's (the saloon and brothel), a bank, and a restaurant; on the right, from near-to-far, is German's General Merchant, what looks like "Bar" (or, maybe it's Barn - all the signs are in all-capital letters), and, ominously, in the far-right distance, Undertaker. From this perspective, English Bob's stagecoach approaches the camera (which is placed right on the main road). * As English Bob and Beauchamp step from the stagecoach, we see a Deputy, Andy Russell (played by Jeremy Ratchford), glaring at them. The deputy approaches them, sternly reminding them about the ordnance, and English Bob glibly tells him they're carrying no firearms. The scene then cuts to the Sheriff's office, the Deputy cocking a rifle, and saying, "Unarmed, my ass." There are several young, ornery men in the Sheriff's office, and they're not the type of people you'd want to cross. English Bob goes to the barber for a shave, and then asks directions to see Strawberry Alice. The barber told him to go "ask for a game of billiards," even though there are no tables there ("they burned the table in '78 for firewood"). * When English Bob and Beauchamp step out of the barber shop, they are immediately drawn down upon, facing three rifles and a pistol. After some awkward silence, Sheriff Dagget says, "Hello, Bob" - well, it looks like English Bob has something of a reputation, and that Little Bill knows what he's doing. "Boys, this here is English Bob," he says. The two know each other well, from the old days, and when English Bob introduces Beauchamp to Little Bill, he knows he's in trouble. Beauchamp reaches into his bag to pull out a book (to show them he's a writer), and all four weapons are immediately cocked for fear he's reaching for a gun - English Bob quietly says, "Uhh, I wouldn't do that if I were you, Mr. Beauchamp," and Beauchamp procedes to urinate himself. English Bob's "peacemaker" is confiscated, and Beauchamp's book is titled, "The Duke of Death." Little Bill then confiscates a second '32 from English Bob (which English Bob was trying to conceal), and then decks him. Then, when English Bob is down, Little Bill proceeds to (perhaps literally) kick the crap out of him, screaming out warnings to anyone who would come into Big Whiskey for non-existent "Whore's Gold" - he is seriously pissed off, wants no part of any southern bounty hunters riding into town, and is making damned sure that English Bob is going to spread the word when he gets back home. * At this point, the action has been centered around English Bob for so long that you almost forget about Munny and Logan, but the action cuts to them leisurely riding on horseback, approaching Big Whiskey, and after what just happened, you're left fearing for them: Little Bob is not someone you want to cross. Then, out of nowhere, they're being shot at (that's got to be one of the scariest things there is, being shot at, and not knowing from where). Well, it turns out that it's The Schofield Kid, and Munny and Logan yell over at him to stop shooting at them (he didn't know who they were). After some quarreling about how to divvy up the bounty, and a hilarious one-liner by Logan (regarding The Kid's rifle - other than Munny being unable to get on the horse, this is the first thing approaching any type of comic relief, and we're fifty minutes into the movie), the three team up, and keep on riding as a unit. * A relatively extended sequence (almost sixty seconds, complete with acoustic guitar over strings) follows of the three men peacefully riding together through the gentle, autumn landscape, perhaps lulling the viewer into a false sense of serenity. This is very lovely cinematography, but after what just happened to English Bob, I'm certainly not going to be letting my guard down anytime soon. * During the ride, Logan deduced that The Kid was nearsighted, which angered The Kid - who proceeded to rip off Logan's canteen and plug a couple of holes in it. Logan and Munny decided that as long as The Kid could see fifty yards, it was good enough. I'm suspicious of this scene, because it came out of nowhere, and is seemingly unrelated to anything else in the film. * Cut to Little Bill at his desk, perusing "The Duke of Death," holding a sarcastic conversation with English Bob (who's injured so badly he can't even talk) and Beauchamp, both locked away in a cell. Little Bill methodically debunks an entire scene in the book where he was present, and reveals English Bob to have cowardly killed a man who was unarmed (literally, unarmed). * Our three protagonists are trying to sleep by a campfire, on rocky ground, and The Kid is as smug as ever. * Little Bill has let Beauchamp out of the cell, and is spoon-feeding him some wisdom about shooting - the fact that a cool head is even more important than a fast draw. English Bob just has to lie there in the cell, listening to everything because he's so badly injured he can't move or speak. An interesting scene occurs when Little Bill offers a gun to Beauchamp, essentially daring him to shoot. He even allows him to offer the gun to English Bob (who wasn't sure whether or not the gun was loaded). English Bob declines, much to Little Bill's amusement - "You were right not to take it, Bob," Little Bill said. "I would have killed you," he added, emptying the live ammunition onto the ground. "We could use some rain, Mr. Beauchamp," Little Bill says. * Cut to Munny, Logan, and The Kid, riding in a downpour. Logan offers Munny a slug of whiskey, and Munny declines. * Beauchamp, sniveling man that he is, switches loyalty from Engligh Bob to Little Bill, and decides to stay in Big Whiskey as English Bob is ridden out of town (Beauchamp is now writing Little Bill's biography instead of "The Duke of Death"). There's a downpour in Big Whiskey, Little Bill's house is leaking like a sieve (he built it himself), and a messenger comes to inform him that three men have just ridden into town, and are at Greely's Tavern - two of them have guns. Earlier, they had ridden right by the warning sign in the downpour, and didn't even see it. * Munny had gotten terribly sick in the storm, and is sitting in Greely's delirious from fever - Little Bill comes in and thinks he's drunk, demanding his firearms. Logan and The Kid are upstairs at the brothel, leaving Munny all by himself in the saloon, surrounded by cocked guns, and having to face an angry Little Bill. It's raining, all right. Little Bill pummels Munny, and word gets up to the brothel that he's been beaten and kicked. Logan and The Kid rush to put their pants on, with Logan (in a moment of much-needed comic relief) tumbles out the window, and rolls down a slanted roof onto the ground outside. Little Bill goes up and slaps Alice for "letting" the two men out the back window. Ned and The Kid find Munny, who had slithered out of Greely's like a snake, doubled over on his horse, and help him out of town and into a makeshift camp. * The Kid, who worshiped Munny, is disillusioned that he could have suffered a beating the way he did (Munny was in an indefensible situation, and probably had a fever of 103). Fortunately, the next day, the rains have passed, and it's sunny outside. The prostitutes - who know full well the three are in town for the bounty - are secretly helping them with shelter and food. Munny remains both terribly ill, and also badly beaten - he is delirious, and not all that far away from death. * Munny has been in-and-out of a febrile state for three days, and when he wakes up, he thinks Delilah is an angel. She tells him Logan and The Kid went out scouting the Bar-T ranch when they saw his fever had broken. An angel-white snow covers the ground now, and Munny and Delilah begin to form a friendship - Delilah tells Munny that Logan and The Kid "have been taking advances" on the bounty by taking "free ones," and then offers Munny a free one. There's a great scene where Munny tells Alice that if he wanted a "free one," he'd want it with her because he thinks she's beautiful - the camera work here is perfect, and as absurd as the situation sounds, it's a wonderfully touching moment between two very scarred human beings. * Our three heroes ambush one of the assailants - Ned only manages to shoot Davey Boy's horse, who falls sideways, and pins Davey Boy, breaking his leg. When it comes time for the coup de gráce, Ned can't pull the trigger (just like Beauchamp couldn't pull the trigger on Little Bill earlier), and Munny reluctantly takes the gun. It becomes painfully clear that Munny, Logan, and The Schofield Kid are about as deadly as The Three Stooges. Munny struggles with shooting the rifle, but manages to connect with his final bullet, but its unclear whether or not its a lethal blow, as Davey Boy crawls behind a rock immediately after being shot. Munny and Logan look at each other - with The Kid yapping non-stop - and realize they don't know what the hell they're doing anymore, and that they shouldn't even be here. As they're riding away, Ned decides he just doesn't have the belly for this any longer, and heads back to Kansas, with Munny promising to drop off his share on the way home. * Word gets around to various people: Little Bill finds out, and sends someone to confine Quick Mike to the Double-T Ranch so he isn't out in the open; a rock comes sailing through the prostitutes' window (only to have Alice scream back, "He had it coming!"). * Ironically, and tragically, they caught Logan riding back to Kansas. Little Bill hauls him into the station, ties him to the jail bars, and whips him like a slave (also ironic, because no reference whatsoever has been made to Morgan Freeman's color during this entire film). Logan doesn't give in despite the tremendous beating, so Little Bill sends someone to fetch the prostitutes in order to compare stories, swearing he'll no longer "be gentle" if the stories don't match up. * At the Double-T, nature finally gets the best of Quick Mike, and he walks to the outhouse. The Kid opens the door, and bushwhacks him while Munny keeps him under cover (What a way to go!) Not unexpectedly, as the two flee, Munny has the same trouble getting on his horse. While Munny and The Kid wait for their payment, one of the prostitutes, Little Sue (played by Tara Frederick) rides up and informs them - to their horror - that Logan has been captured, tortured, killed, and his corpse humiliated. This does not sit well with Munny. As he listens to what happened to Logan, he begins gulping down whiskey - this is the first time during the entire movie that he broke down and drank anything. I would not want to be Little Bill right now. * The Kid swears off killing forever, but Munny is going after Little Bill. He gives The Kid the entire thousand dollars, and tells The Kid to deliver both Munny's and Logan's share to Munny's children, and the rest is for The Kid to keep - to buy a pair of spectacles for his poor vision. If Munny isn't back in a week, then his children are to give half of their share to Logan's widow, Sally Two-Trees. It's pouring down rain, and on the way back into Big Whiskey, the viewer sees, from the point of view of Munny, an empty bottle of whiskey being discarded on the ground. * As Munny enters Big Whiskey, he sees Logan's corpse in a coffin right outside of Greely's, with a sign that says, "This is what happens to assassins around here." As he sneaks into Greely's, Little Bill is buying people drinks, organizing the search party to depart in the morning to chase these "skunks" clear down to Texas. All the viewer sees is the long end of a rifle - the entire bar, full of people, turns around, and there is Munny. * "Who owns this establishment?" Munny asks, pointing his rifle at one of the citizens. At that point, Dubois speaks up, and Munny blows a hole in him. Little Bill looks him in the eye, and says, "Well, sir, you are a cowardly son of a bitch!" (Really? Didn't you just torture someone to death earlier today?) "You just shot an unarmed man!" Munny's - no, *Clint Eastwood's* reply: "Well, he should have armed himself, if he's going to decorate his saloon with my friend." * "All right, gentlemen," Little Bill says, walking towards Munny, "he's got one barrel left. When he fires it, take out your pistols, and shoot him down like the mangy scoundrel he is." * Munny pulls the trigger... * Click. * Little Bill, in his moment of triumph, says, "Misfire. Kill that son of a bitch!" Munny tosses his rifle at Little Bill, giving him just enough time to pull out his pistol. Little Bill gets off a shot, but misses, and Munny nails him. In a superhuman moment that only Clint Eastwood could pull off, he pretty much takes out the entire bar when they start firing at him. Impossible? Of course it's impossible, but it's Clint Eastwood. (Thought of the moment: For a town with such a strict anti-gun ordnance, there sure are a lot of guns.) * "Any man that don't want to get killed, better clear out the back." He lets them go, then slowly walks up to the bar, pours himself a shot of whiskey, and drinks it. He hears a man moaning - it's Beauchamp. "I've been shot!" he said, but he was merely covered with someone else's blood. A complete coward, he starts asking Munny questions about the five men he just killed so he can write about it. * Little Bill's eyes open - he isn't quite dead. Munny shoots some more whiskey, hears Little Bill cocking his pistol, then wheels around and shoots him again. "I don't deserve this," Little Bill says. "To die like this. I was building a house." Munny, looking down at him, replies, "Deserve's got nothing to do with it." Little Bill's last words: "I'll see you in Hell, William Munny." Munny, slowly cocking his rifle, says, "Yeah," then points it right at him, looking straight down the barrel into his eyes, fires one last shot right into Little Bill's face, and slowly walks out of the bar, mercifully killing one more person who wasn't quite dead yet. * He walks out, threatening anyone who would dare shoot him, and comes upon Logan's corpse. Exiting the town on his horse, he shouts out orders to give Logan a proper burial, and not to cut any more whores - "or I'll come back and kill every one of you sons of bitches." The prostitutes all come out into the pouring rain, silently watching Munny ride out of town. The camera pans back away in the dead of night, leaving only the torches burning by Logan's body visible in the distance. * "Unforgiven" ends just where it began: with the long shot of Munny walking out to his wife's grave in the sunset. He stands in the distance, as the closing narrative slowly rolls up the screen. In the distance, Munny turns, and disappears.
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