In the House, 2012 – ★★★★ (contains spoilers)

This review reportedly contains spoilers.

When I first came out of this film, I really didn’t know what to make of it. And I definitely wasn’t sure whether I liked it. Then I started talking to other people who had seen it and on the whole their responses were pretty negative. When I found myself defending it, I realised that it was a much more complex and engaging film than I had previously thought.

It all hangs on the fantastic performance of Ernst Umhauer as Claude, a teenage boy who befriends a classmate and gradually intrudes on his family life. At first he does this for material for his literature homework and to please his teacher, and then, who knows. It is not knowing Claude’s motivations that is the hook in this film.

After that, it is the layers of voyeurism that engage. It all begins with Claude, who writes for his teacher, Germain. As Germain gets further enthralled by the lives of his pupil’s and the motivations of Claude, his wife begins to read Claude’s voyeuristic writing and becomes involved in the whole dangerous affair. And then there is us, the audience, who are complicit at every level. I wanted to judge Claude for his actions and to an extent Germain too for encouraging him. At the end of it all though, I felt I couldn’t judge them without judging myself as the ultimate voyeur; the film goer.

Vía Letterboxd – ekcragg

Blancanieves, 2012 – ★★★★

There is a lot to like about this film. Cinematography reminiscent of Eisenstein. A standout performance from Maribel Verdú as the evil stepmother. A tempo that allows for both the intimate development of relationships and the high octane action of the bull ring. A score that perfectly matches the drama being played out on screen and adds to the cultural context. 

And it’s the best adaption of Snow White I’ve ever seen.

Vía Letterboxd – ekcragg

Before Midnight, 2013 – ★★★★

I have always struggled with my feelings for this series of films and it is largely because I don’t particularly care for the characters. With this final(?) installment however I found myself able to put aside my feelings for Jesse and Celine to appreciate the art of the filmmaking. The script. The long takes. The actors’ embodiment of their characters.

I also think there is something to be said about timing. I wonder whether the reason that the first two films didn’t resonate with me was because I saw them before I had fallen in love. Whereas now, this third installment comes at a time when I have been in a relationship that has seen the same stages of development (minus the kids) as that of the couple on screen. In that sense, I doubt there is anyone who could walk out of this film and not reflect on the nature of their own relationships.

Vía Letterboxd – ekcragg

Italian filled rolls

My new kitchen is small; I’d guess at around 3m x 3m, with only about 1m of usable work surface. This is a challenge to the domestic baker, but not insurmountable. I’ve been waiting for my first attempt at baking until I had the flat to myself so I could completely take over the kitchen. Today was the day.

I’ve had this Italian recipe for filled rolls on my to do list for months. Looking for inspiration for my packed lunches I decided to give it a go. Now I don’t read Italian so with the help of Google translate I set out to bake. I amended the recipe as I went and this is the result:

Ingredients:
300g strong bread flour
200g plain flour
100g butter at room temperature
250ml milk
1 whole egg + 2 egg yolks
1tsp salt
2tsp fast action yeast

Filling: any combination of cheese, ham, courgette, tomato, chicken, onion (or anything else you can think of)

Method:

  1. Warm the milk and add the yeast. Leave for 5-10 minutes until the yeast begins to activate.
  2. Pour the warm milk mixture into a large bowl with the flour, eggs, salt and softened butter. Combine the mixture. The result should be a smooth, elastic dough.
  3. Knead the dough for 5-10 minutes.
  4. Put the dough in a bowl covered with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and let it rise until increased three times in volume (about 1.5 hours).
  5. Take the dough and divide into balls of around 40g, roll each ball out to form a disk and stuff to taste. Securely close it and place (closure down) on a baking tray covered with greaseproof paper leaving a little space between the balls.
  6. Leave the prepared trays for 30 minutes to 1 hour then brush with milk, sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake at 180 degrees for about 25 minutes.
The result
The result

I have to say, this was probably the best dough experience I’ve ever had. It was light, and elastic. Felt almost like pizza dough rather than bread. And for the first time ever I had a visible, and marked difference in size after leaving it to prove.

I decided on a filling of onion, courgette, emmenthal and chicken. I cut the onion and courgette fairly small and roasted it first to try to get rid of some of the moisture. I used a pack of pre-cooked chicken, the stuff you get for sandwich fillings, and cut the cheese into small chunks.

My dough and filling made 13 rolls. I reckon two would make for a decent sized packed lunch. I’ve experimented with freezing half of the batch. If that works well I could see this becoming a regular thing.

Much Ado About Nothing, 2013 – ★★★★

I’m not a massive Joss Whedon fan and when I first heard he was taking on Shakespeare I had no desperate urge to see the result. Then I saw the trailer and there was something about it, that I can’t put a finger on, that caught my interest. I find it is often the films that you have no expectations of that blow you away, and this might just be one of them. It was a totally awesome cinema experience. Everyone in the audience was up for a good time and there was a great atmosphere in the theatre.

I have seen a lot of Shakespeare adaptations, but not many of the comedies. This was truly delightful. It’s difficult to know how much of that to attribute to the original source material and how much credit to give Whedon. At first I found the language difficult to get to grips with, and I was worried 10 minutes in that I’d made a terrible mistake. Before long though I was captivated and the time passed like a flash. The timing and delivery of the comedy was superb. I rarely laugh out loud at films, but with this I found it to be an almost involuntary response.

Vía Letterboxd – ekcragg