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Lame Adventure 58: Good Film Good Food

This could come across as anti-American, but usually when I see the name “Judd Apatow” on a film’s credits, I stay home, but to prove I still have some patriotism left, when I see the name “Jason Segel” on the credits, even on credits that include “Judd Apatow,” I’m among the first in line at the movie theater box office.  Due to the power of the Apatowian endorsement, Get Him to the Greek probably rated a larger budget, so okay, thanks Judd.

Aldous and Aaron.

Get Him to the Greek is a comedy that hardcore foreign film lovers Milton and I were both on board to see the second we caught sight of the trailer months ago because we both enjoyed Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Greek features FSM scene stealer Russell Brand returning as the character of the rock star, Aldous Snow.  Aldous is a character created by Jason Segel who was also one of Greek’s producers.  Greek was written and directed by Nicholas Stoller, who also directed FSM.  Jonah Hill co-stars as Aaron Green, a recording industry assistant that is a dedicated Aldous Snow fan.

The screen chemistry between Hill and Brand is palpable.  At the film’s start, Aldous is in alcohol soaked free-fall following a critically maligned disastrous record that is also a commercial failure coupled with the implosion of his personal life.  Aaron has 72 hours to get Aldous from London to New York, with a detour in Las Vegas, to the Greek Theater in Los Angeles for a career comeback concert.  In-between the constant idiocy there’s a modicum of depth that makes these two knuckleheads endearing.  Although neither Hill nor Brand would ever be mistaken for the second coming of Marlon Brando and Laurence Olivier, but because they are both so talented, this film works wonderfully well.  These guys may excel at playing goofballs, but in moments of pathos, they deliver just as effectively.

Since this is essentially a male buddy film, the female characters, played by Elisabeth Moss, best known as Don Draper acolyte Peggy Olson on AMC’s Mad Men, and Rose Byrne of the FX series, Damages, are little more than superfluous devices that double as salvation for one guy and a reality check for the other.  One of the reasons I often find these madcap male comedies such a waste of time is that they’re an exclusive boys club, where the guys are having all the fun usually behind the backs of their women that are more often than not humorless whiny castrating bitches.  Do I really believe for a nanosecond that serious, slim and pretty medical resident Daphne (Moss) is happy to be shacking up with the sweet, morbidly obese, dingdong Aaron?  Early on, in what is supposed to be seen as a sign of endearment, she gives him a massive heart attack-inducing fried egg takeout sandwich that was such a blatant violation of the Hippocratic oath, it made me wonder if her character was a closet Kevorkian.

How the female characters are portrayed is a minor quibble.  Based on the trailer, I knew what I was in for, 72 hours of silliness that I am pleased to say was highly entertaining.  Sean Combs plays Sergio, Aaron’s recording industry executive boss, and he’s quite effective as an extreme send-up of himself.  The idiotic lyrics to Aldous’s songs made me think of those in one my favorite mockumentaries, This is Spinal Tap.  Overall, Get Him to the Greek delivers.

Following that satisfying screening, Milton and I visited Magnolia Bakery on Columbus Avenue.  Recently, he was told that his favorite item on their menu, Hummingbird Cake, was too hard to make during summer.  We don’t know why, but I am quite sure that this cake is hummingbird free, so we assume that it might be because it is too labor-intensive an endeavor during the hot weather months.  As for my favorite, the chocolate banana cupcake is seldom ever on the menu.  Before entering the store I said:

Me: Gee, I hope my chocolate banana cupcake is there.

Milton:  Don’t count on it.  I’m resigned to never eating Hummingbird Cake again until fall.

Then, we opened the door and what did we see – both Hummingbird Cake and one chocolate banana cupcake!  We blurted enthusiastically:

Me:  Oh, look; they have my chocolate banana cupcake!

Milton:  I see Hummingbird Cake!

As if under a spell, Milton marched straight to the cake line.  That announcement of mine caused all six people ahead of me in the cupcake line to focus on “my” one cupcake.  I thought, “Oh no!”  Now I was suffering an intense anxiety attack.  Just as I was about to call Milton on his cell phone to bark an order, he looked back at me.  I mouthed frantically, “Get that chocolate banana cupcake!”  He did.  Phew!

The king of Magnolia cupcakes, Chocolate Banana.

The queen of Magnolia cakes, Hummingbird Cake.

Magnolia Bakery royalty.

Lame Adventure 43: The Annual Annoyance

On Tuesday I had my birthday.  Since it was not one ending in the three dreaded digits — five, nine, or zero, I suffered little and enjoyed myself somewhat.  Actually, much more than somewhat, since I was showered with a tremendous amount of attention from my friends, family and colleagues. My boss, Elsbeth, treated me to an excellent dark chocolate gourmet cake that my buddy, Ling, researched since she knows my dietary issues only too well.  Therefore, I was able to eat the entire cake by myself at my desk chanting gluttonously, “Mine, all mine!”  Take two; I shared the cake with my colleagues.  It was so decadent we ate it over the course of two days.

That evening, Milton and I saw a play on Broadway, Enron, chronicling the rise and fall of those titans of corporate greed.  We were looking forward to this staging since Lucy Prebble, the show’s creator, has had such great buzz.  It’s mind blowing that a woman born in 1981 already has a show on Broadway.

My colleague, Elaine, had seen Enron a week earlier and she thought it was terrific.  Her assessment has clout with us, so it was a surprise that we did not share her enthusiasm.  In fact, it was a bit shocking.  I agree with Milton’s one word assessment, “Dull.”  He said he found it as dreadful as anything we have seen through the years written by Caryl Churchill.  The 2008 staging of Top Girls was possibly our most negative theatergoing experience ever because we found the narrative baffling and I was coming down with a monumental cold.

Following Enron was not a struggle.  Even though it was packed with glitz, dancing, singing, light sabers, actors in mouse and alligator heads, I found myself nodding out during the second act.  At the play’s conclusion, a pudgy balding middle age guy that looked like a Statistical Thermodynamics professor in khakis and a short sleeve plaid shirt sprang to his feet, applauding and screaming in ecstasy.  For an instant I wondered if he and I saw the same show.  Afterward, Milton and I headed uptown to the Magnolia Bakery on Columbus Avenue where we stuffed ourselves with chocolate banana cupcakes.  It is a bit amazing that I did not suffer sugar shock since I so indulged in dessert that day.

Good things come inside this box.

Out of focus good things.

Even though the play was disappointing, the only downside to this year’s birthday was minimal; waking that morning with pillow creases dented into my head.

Happy happy joy joy. Older and forehead creased.

Fortunately, they faded by the time I arrived at work.  On the train ride in, I did not notice anyone zeroing in on my forehead, unlike in 2004 during a blizzard when I smacked my head hard on a low hanging air conditioner and was sporting the General Electric logo for almost the entire workday.  This was when I was working in broadcast news as a digital feed ingester, a position almost as appealing as death row inmate, but less spiritually fulfilling.

Banging my head into that block of frozen metal in white out conditions hurt tremendously.  I had to fight to maintain consciousness.  I arrived at work five minutes late still feeling disoriented.  Due to the fierce weather, many members of the staff were no shows, so the network was operating with a skeletal crew.  When I arrived at 8:05 instead of 8:00, the stressed producer screamed his lungs out at me.  Spit was flying out of his face into mine.  I stood uncharacteristically passive because a gong continued to ring non-stop inside my throbbing head.  I only remember what he said when he concluded his tirade, “Is that the GE logo on your head?”  Too bad I wasn’t employed by NBC.  Maybe they would have awarded me a bonus.

Although I am not a fan of the aging process, it’s going okay thus far.

Me in days of yore; forehead creaseless.

At least I’m not going in the direction of a John Chamberlain sculpture … yet.

Hopefully not me ever.