Friday, January 4, 2019

Elaborate Simplicity: Yotam Ottolenghi's Simple

Chef Yotam Ottolenghi is the author of Simple. (Photo: Chris Floyd)

If you're familiar with Yotam Ottolenghi's cookbooks and you make a few of the recipes in Simple, you might find yourself tempted to suggest modifications to his title. Simple for Ottolenghi might be more apt, or perhaps Simpler than NOPI. (Ottolenghi and Ramael Scully's 2015 NOPI: The Cookbook offered such notoriously elaborate recipes that even some admiring reviewers admitted that they would probably only use it for special occasions.) Coming only two years after Diana Henry's collection of the same name, it's particularly difficult to deny that Ottolenghi's notion of simplicity is . . . involved.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

2018 in Games: Detectives, Dads, & Dang Ol' Cowpokes

There’s no way you could contain 2018 in a list, no matter how long. The year was too chaotic, and too much incredible art rose up to counter the encroaching dark. I’m pretty much done with numbered lists in general – so no "Top Ten" this year. Instead, I thought it would be useful to find new angles to help contextualize and categorize the video games that kept me enthralled. Enjoy, and here's to a 2019 filled with even more game-making and game-playing.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Bernardo Bertolucci and The Conformist

Jean-Louis Trintignant and Stefania Sandrelli in Bernardo Bertolucci's The Conformist (1970).

The Italian filmmaker Bernardo Bertolucci, who died last November, had a patchwork career dotted with brilliance. He made only sixteen full-length movies in a career that spanned a full half-century. Three were masterpieces: Before the Revolution (1964), his second film, made when he was only twenty-four (two years younger than Orson Welles had been when he released Citizen Kane); The Conformist (1970), which catapulted him into the realm of the most admired international directors; and Last Tango in Paris (1972), controversial at the time and still controversial. Of the others, only one, the 1998 Besieged, set in Rome, about an English pianist and composer (David Thewlis) who finds radical means to prove his love for his African housekeeper (Thandie Newton), works from start to finish. 1900 (1977), a grandiose five-hour epic that spans the first half of the twentieth century, has magnificent sequences and others that are melodramatic or rendered fatuous by a dogged, simplistic Marxist didacticism. The Last Emperor (1987), has a glorious first hour that Bertolucci spends the next two undercutting because, his schoolboy Marxism rearing its head again, he feels duty bound to promote the rigors of Communist China above the wasteful extravagances of the child emperor Pu-Yi’s insulated life in the Forbidden City. (It’s richly ironic that the film won the Oscar for Best Picture: the Academy embraced it as if it were a lavish historical epic by David Lean, apparently missing the fact that Bertolucci had intended it as an anti-epic.) The Dreamers (2003), filmed against the backdrop of the Paris ’68 student riots, has a romantic sweep but the material is too thin to support it. Even Last Tango is far from perfect: its raw, Strindbergian exploration of an affair between an émigré American tormented by his wife’s suicide (Marlon Brando, in his most tumultuous and unprotected performance) and a bourgeoisie half his age (Maria Schneider), is intercut with scenes where her callow filmmaker boyfriend (Jean-Pierre Léaud) shoots scenes of her playacting for a silly, self-indulgent slice of cinema vérité.