This classy Seattle-based cooking show (now in its 5th year) features a slightly batty Every Mom whipping up healthy dinners, desserts and salads for her extended family. Playing to the standard issue kitchen-cam, Cynthia Lair, a veteran actor and assistant culinary professor at Bastyr University, prepares her low-stress meals while dealing with the inevitable interruptions from her husband, father and adult daughter (played by members of The Edge Improv comedy troupe). What makes the idea work so well is that the comedy doesn’t get in the way of the cooking. We aren’t distracted by the usual barrage of attention-deficit editing and skittering on-screen text. A funky Hammond B-3 music score accompanies the simple title sequences, and the viewing screen is cleverly placed within the oven door of a stovetop graphic. These 4-5 minute bite-sized episodes make for tasty online snacking.
A Life Well Lived
This short film by Eric Becker commemorates Northwest icon Jim Whittaker’s feat of becoming the first American to reach the summit of Mt. Everest 50 years ago. At least, I think that’s the point of this rocky collage of old climbing footage, beauty shots, newsreel stock and a talking head interview with the venerable mountaineer. Whittaker’s reflections on living life to the fullest and the necessity of acquiring a few “scars” are inspiring. He comes across as a good-humored proselytizer for getting out in nature, whether we experience it on a weekend hike or a well-organized, three-month sojourn in the Himalayas. But I bet even he’d raise an eyebrow once we start unpacking the messy contents of this film. It includes random ‘60s-era snippets of Whittaker’s friend, Robert Kennedy, shaking hands on the campaign trail (huh?), an unidentified woman walking beside him on a dock (Jim’s wife?) and generic cutaways to bland scenics (b-roll of Seward Park?). Whittaker’s adventures would make for an epic campfire tale. He needs more skillful storyteller to bring it to life.
Die Antwoord/”Cookie Thumper”
Nelson Mandela once referred to The Spice Girls as “my heroes”, and he invited Michael Jackson to perform at two charity concerts for his Children’s Fund Foundation, but it’s hard to say what the music-loving South African hero thinks of the duo known as Die Antwoord. The name means “the answer” in Afrikaans, but the question is too frightening to contemplate. In their latest video, vocalist Yo-landi Visser delivers a provocative invitation to a drug dealer boyfriend to pay a visit to her orphanage, where a bevy of underwear-clad anorexics palpitate to a speed-rap beat, as if electroshock is their drug of choice. Directed by Visser’s mate, Ninja, the video is alarming and alluring, a sexual hothouse damp with the hormones of under-age demons. But “Cookie Thumper” is child’s play compared to last year’s black-and-white I Fink U Freaky, a terrifying descent into an underground warren of dentally challenged goons, wearing soiled loincloths and dancing a series of spastic jigs. To its credit, the band — singing in its native Afrikaans, Xhosa and English — are proponents of “zef” culture, which touts a “you’re poor but you’re fancy, you’re poor but you’re sexy” ethos. The videos are stunningly art directed and the music is infectious, but when Ninja, looking like the Transvaal spawn of a radiation mutant, lip syncs, “I fink u freaky and I like you a lot,” you kinda wish he’d never laid eyes on you.
Dustin Hoffman on “Tootsie”
BBC announcer John Inverdale should talk to Dustin Hoffman. Apparently bothered by what he saw as Wimbledon champ Marion Bartoli’s less than centerfold-ready figure, Inverdale wondered on air: “Do you think Bartoli’s dad told her when she was little, ‘You’re never going to be a looker. You’ll never be a [Maria] Sharapova, so you have to be scrappy and fight?’” Hoffman used to feel the same way, that only the beautiful women were worth his time. But in this revealing clip from the American Film Institute archives, the actor talks about seeing himself for the first time in his make-up as Tootsie protagonist, Dorothy Michaels, and wishing he were prettier. After the make-up artists said that Dorothy would never be beautiful, Hoffman had an epiphany, regretting all the potentially fascinating, intelligent, accomplished women he had ignored at parties for years because their looks didn’t measure up. In a moving and tearful moment of honesty, Hoffman rues his own lifetime of sexist judgments. Inverdale and all the other male Bartoli haters out there should be forced to wear a tennis skirt and play a few sets in front of millions of peering, leering eyes.
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