This morning on my way to getting coffee, I passed a giant display for Marlboro’s “Dream Big” contest. I immediately thought to myself, “They’ve discovered a way for me to achieve my biggest dreams WHILE nursing an unhealthy addiction? F**K yeah! Where’s the saw for my right arm?”
I would have pursued it further, but the Marlboro website requires you to sign up for entry. And ever since I’ve given up cigarettes, I find I don’t really have the energy to finish things I start. But that didn’t stop me from looking back over my life and recalling the larger-than-life dreams I once held as a young person… back when anything was still possible, we learned all we needed about safety from a police parrot, and AYDS was just a diet candy!
Come on… let’s hold hands and take a walk down Memory Lane. A rich, creamy, juicy peach and basil pizza awaits us, along with all kinds of “Gary Green’s dreams” that evaporated amidst more unpleasantness than NBC’s ill-conceived Emeril Lagasse sitcom.
I’m giving this pizza four stars. One for every slice of it MG polished off last night. And they weren’t small slices, either. They weren’t even reasonable slices. These were some seriously wide and weighted down wedges! You really have to respect MG’s tenacity. He gets the job done!
Underneath that deceptively simple asiago/mozzarella cheese canopy are hiding chunks of shiitake mushroom, aromatic fennel, tangy tomato, onion, and thick cuts of spicy salami. I had complete confidence in all of these ingredients with the exception of the fennel. I’d never used it in a pizza before, and I was worried its flavor might overwhelm. No need to fear. This pizza was all sorts of savory, rich, and meaty, with just pings here and there of fennel sweetness.
The 1942 live-action adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book offers up an entire menagerie of real-life jungle animals in its opening minutes. Before we meet any of the film’s main characters, we are treated to footage of predatory wolves, mischievous monkeys, lumbering elephants, leopards, bears, hyenas, jackals and a man-eating tiger. It reminded me of the terrific Disney True Life Adventure documentary series I watched when I was a kid.
The footage is a masterful way to open the story. Unfortunately, real-life bears, leopards and gazelle are notoriously temperamental when it comes to performing traditional movie duties like, say… delivering lines, hitting their marks and recounting their cocaine addictions to Mary Hart. So, after these few fun first minutes, the live animals all but disappear, and we spend the next ninety minutes with stuffed tigers, rubber snakes on strings, and an alligator who’s head completely separates from the rest of his body whenever his jaw opens for the camera. I choose to believe this particular alligator merely suffers from a herniated disc in its neck and just needs some good acupuncture. I’m still working on an excuse for the fact that I could hear its motor.
Still, considering it’s nearly seventy years old, The Jungle Book is a pretty ambitious film. The human actors, once they arrive, do a fairly good job at moving the story along. And even though most of the animals may be constructed from fiberglass and paint, they still demonstrate more charisma than my actual living cat does any day of the week.
Oh Z, what would become of you in the wild?
The 1967 film Berserk! stars Joan Crawford in her penultimate film appearance as the iron-fisted ringmaster of a circus plagued by a series of increasingly bizarre murders.
If you enjoy your pizza with movies that include garroted high-wire performers, dancing elephants, nails through the forehead, performing poodles, women accidentally sawed in two, underwhelming freaks, and an ending that feels it was decided upon when the producers ran out of money, Berserk! is the movie for you!
The Black Scorpion centers on a misunderstood prehistoric creature who is accidentally freed from his underground cave by a volcanic eruption and proceeds to roam all of Mexico in search of friendship and understanding.
Unfortunately, he is unable to find it, so instead he decides to slash his way through thousands of locals, demolish infrastructure, and create economic chaos in an attempt to weaken the peso.
It was 1979 when my parents first got cable television for the family… or what passed for cable television at the time. The nation had yet to be introduced to even the seedlings of the multi-channel services movie fans have piped into their living rooms today. Before everyone knew HBO, Z Channel, Showtime, Encore or Cinemax, they all knew ON-TV.
ON-TV was what was known as a “scrambled UHF” service, the height of broadcast sophistication at the time. During the day, the UHF station (channel 52 where I grew up) aired its regular programming grid of Hercules cartoons and William Bendix in Life of Riley reruns. But at 7 in the evening, ON-TV would begin transmitting recent motion pictures over the air to the station, and the image would immediately scramble on home televisions, the sound cutting out entirely. In order to watch the movies, a converter box with a single “on-off” knob had to be rented for a whopping nineteen dollars a month.
Nineteen dollars a month. I was ushered into puberty for the price of nineteen dollars a month.
ON-TV gave me the first opportunity to see movies which my yet-to-hit-double-digit age would have prevented me from seeing in an actual theatre. And unlike the networks, ON-TV played the films totally uncut and unedited, finally allowing me to obtain a meager grasp of understanding on the subject of sex. Smokey and the Bandit, Silver Streak, Animal House, The Deep… to this day I can’t watch any of them without still experiencing a faint twitch of pre-adolescent Catholic guilt.
It was one regular school night at home when my parents and sister came together in the living room to watch a movie called The Spy Who Loved Me, and my mother allowed me to watch with them. No one in my family was particularly fond of James Bond, so I had no idea what to expect. But this was the only movie playing on the only movie channel the family had, so it was automatically an event.
By the time the opening sequence – featuring not one, but two love-making scenes and a ski chase down the side of an Austrian mountain – gave way to Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does it Better” and the film’s titles, accompanied by a bevy of naked women, swollen in all the right places, trampolining through the air and doing cartwheels on the tops of semi-automatic pistols, I was pretty sure I was watching the greatest motion picture ever produced.
If you don’t start dramatically prancing around your living room before recklessly tossing your body onto the nearest piece of open furniture while crooning in the lustiest, huskiest voice you can muster after watching Marlene Dietrich perform “The Laziest Gal in Town,” smack dab in the middle of Alfred Hitchcock’s Stage Fright (video below), then switch the movie off immediately.
Stage Fright clearly has nothing to offer you. Stick with Psycho.
For months now, MG and I have regularly observed a Friday night tradition of homemade pizza and movie-watching at Chez Tv Food and Drink. It’s become such a ritual that I generally start mentally nominating film contenders and potential pizza toppings as early as the Wednesday before. All the necessary ingredients are in-house by Thursday night, and if the selected film can’t be found via DVR search or on the living room shelves, an expedition to local DVD retailers is commissioned until the required title is smoked out and bagged.
And all of that happens before I even get to the cleaning of the house. The living room must be in perfect order. Throw pillows appropriately placed. Stray books, sneakers, and electronic gear stowed away. Aquarium cleaned and filled. Glass tabletops free of all smudges and rings. Curtains opened so the lights from the balcony candles are able to reflect their charm into the window panes. Ipod turned on to the “Cocktail Hour” playlist featuring over 500 of my favorite lounge tunes, exotica, and Bond soundtracks.
And my OCD goes double for the kitchen. Countertops must be scrubbed down and free of any unnecessary appliances. Dirty dishes are washed, dried and put away. Cutting boards set out along with all appropriate knives and the rolling pin for the pizza dough. By the time MG arrives from work, I have the entirety of that night’s pizza built and ready to hit the oven. Then together we count three, hoist up the pie via the slice of parchment paper underneath, and transport it onto the pizza stone, which has been heating in the oven at 500°F for no less than thirty minutes. Once the oven door is kicked closed, I make our drinks and we head to the living room to discuss the day for the next 12-18 minutes until it’s time to slice up our dinner, kill the lights, and start our movie.
Pizza and a Movie night – hardly a new concept, though I don’t know if anyone in the history of Pizza and Movie Nights has taken it as seriously as I do.
For the first time in over three years, I’m a non-working television producer. As of today, I have been without a job for eight whole days. Breaking it down, that’s 192 hours, which isn’t so bad. Heck, I’ve slept more than 192 hours straight on several different occasions.
You can also think of it as 11,520 minutes, which starts to sound a little frightening… though not as frightening as 991,200 seconds. Holy smokes! I’ve been a non-working producer for 991,200 seconds? It’s true what they say about life… it really passes you by before you know it.
You may have noticed that I’m using the term “non-working,” which I think is much nicer than “unemployed,” don’t you? In fact, if we put our minds to it, we can put a much nicer spin on any unfortunate situation just by tinkering a bit with word choices. Examples: My show wasn’t “canceled.” It just “concluded its run.” My financial situation hasn’t “stagnated.” It’s merely “awaiting an upcoming monetary installment.” You’re not “old.” You’re simply “well seasoned!”
I’m doing my best to stay in the moment, which is what everyone is telling me I need to do. Actually, before they tell me to stay in the moment, they ask that question all “non-working” producers just love to hear: “So… now what?”
It’s like they think I keep thirty or forty fully developed careers on stand-by for just such an occasion. “Well, let me take a look at my handy list here… oh! Next up is ice cream man. Perfect! Summer is just around the corner. Kids are out of school. All I need is a little paper hat and a van that plays “Do Your Ears Hang Low?” and I’m right back in the game!
People also do their best to get you very excited about having potentially endless free time on your hands. “Think of all the things you can do now!” they encourage brightly, “Re-decorate! Write a novel! Run a marathon!” Why in god’s name would I want to do any of those things? Those sound worse than having to go to work every day. Even if I was independently wealthy, I don’t think any of those things would interest me.
I appreciate all the words of encouragement, instructions on what to do when life gives me lemons, and the reminders that I’m only about thirty work years away from having to scoop up french fries and assemble Happy Meal boxes if I don’t play my cards right.
But for the next 991,200 seconds, I think I will focus on making pizza.
Have you listened to a steaming hot pizza pie just out of the oven recently? The way it sizzles and hisses as the cheese bubbles pop hyperactively from one end of the crust to the other? That aroma of tangy sweet and spicy sauce snaking its way through your kitchen? Even those charred little pockets of mozzarella left behind on the walls of your oven take on a fragrant reminder the next morning… man, I love pizza!
And that’s… what’s now.
So if you’re in the Hollywood area, you should definitely stop by and snag yourself a slice. And don’t worry about gaining weight. At Tv Food and Drink, your butt never looks “fat.” It merely looks “super existent.”
Mozzarella, Gorgonzola and Cheddar cheeses, andouille sausage and spinach with Alfredo sauce.