The AFI Silver Theater European Film Showcase, Nov. 3-22

The EU Film Festival at the American Film Institute’s Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Silver Spring begins this Thursday evening with the opening film The Woman in the Fifth, directed by Pawel Pawlikowski.

This post is about an upcoming adventure in the Silver Theater. I’ve been there once: in the summer of 2006 I saw Jaws there (for the first and only time- I was terrified and my friends were unsympathetic, but also- I was disappointed. I hate when people ruin the endings of things for me even when they ARE decades old, so I won’t vent here, but feel free to ask me about it slash convince me why it’s a great film).

So, among the films featured in this year’s showcase are:

The Woman in the Fifth – Pawel Pawlikowski (Poland)
-o- based on the novel by Douglas Kennedy, this film follows a desperate man searching for love and family in Paris. This film is billed on the site as a “moody existential thriller” and is an official selection of the 2011 Toronto Film Festival. It is shown in English and French with English subtitles. The opening night film will be followed by a reception.

Le Havre – Aki Kaurismäki (Finland)
-o- this is the Centerpiece Screening of the showcase. The masterful Finnish director Aki Kaurismäki weaves a tender story of a self-centered man whose perspective changes when his wife gets sick and he comes upon a stowaway in need of help. This 2011 Oscar selection, Finland merits two “primetime” showings at the AFI: Saturday Nov. 5 at 8:15pm and Sunday Nov. 6 at 7:15pm. It will be shown in Finnish and French with English subtitles.

The Deep Blue Sea – Terence Davies (England)
-o- Rachel Weisz plays a women far beyond the brink of desperation and her struggle for passion and companionship postwar Britain. This film is an adaptation of the 1952 Terence Rattigan play and is an official selection of the 2011 Toronto Film Festival.

A Dangerous Method – David Cronenberg (England)
-o-  starring Viggo Mortensen, Kiera Knightley and Michael Fassbender and based on screenwriter Christopher Hampton’s play “The Talking Cure,” delves into the intellectual pursuits, fits of intense passion and daily lives of Carl Jung (Fassbender), Sigmund Freud (Mortensen), and a young woman treated by both doctors (played by Knightley). A Dangerous Method is an official selection of the 2011 Venice, Telluride, Toronto, and New York Film Festivals.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – Thomas Alfredson (England)
-o- this new adaption of John le Carré’s 1974 Cold War spy novel stars Gary Oldman as George Smiley, the steady, brilliant ex-British spy who spearheads the search for a mole within his agency. Also starring Colin Firth and David Dencik, the trail of the mole has run cold until a younger spy, Ricki Tarr, surfaces and puts Smiley back on the track.
Gary Oldman and director Thomas Alfredson are both scheduled to appear at this closing night showing.

Other films this year include: Every Song is About Me (Todas las Canciones Hablan de Mi) directed by Jonás Trueba, Spain; Dreaming the Quiet Man directed by Merry Doyle, Ireland; Outbound directed by Bogdan George Apetri, Romania; and She Monkeys directed by Lisa Aschan, Sweden.

For more info check out the EU Showcase schedule on the Silver Theatre’s website. Here is the full calendar – the EU showcase films are in blue.

Finally, the best reason to go (not counting the cultural enrichment thing): this theatre does happy hour. For serious. You need to be attending the show, but still! From 5:30-7 pm, the theater features drink specials and complimentary finger food from local restaurants. During the EU Film Festival, happy hours will be held on November 4, 10, 11, 17 and 18.

I plan to be there Friday the 4th to see Every Song is About Me and Friday the 18th to see A Dangerous Method, directed by David Cronenberg and starring Viggo Mortensen as Sigmund Freud. I hope to see you there.

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Aleph by Paulo Coehlo

If you’ve never read a book by Paulo Coehlo, I strongly recommend the experience. The Alchemist is my favorite, and it is short and readable in many settings. Coehlo’s most recent book is Aleph. The story takes place amid a spiritual quest on the Trans-Siberian rail. Coehlo reveals parts of his soul in this book, as all skilled authors do in their work. Check out this review by Y.S. Fing on the Washington Independent Review of Books’ website.

My favorite things about Halloween, then and now

This post is a musing on the way Halloween fun transfers from childhood into adulthood. When we were kids Halloween was the best. Candy, staying out late, costumes, fake spiderwebs, candy!!! And now, Halloween is fun all over again. Though, despite the ominous nature of this thought, I’m not sure for how much longer. But now, costume parties are kind of like costume contests with lots of drinking. A theme party loved by even the theme-party hater. I feel as though there was a liminal phase around high school, where we fought being too old but certainly couldn’t party like we would be able to in a few years. Sophomore year of high school was the best of this time for me: my dad turned our garage into a haunted maze for my little brother’s soccer team, and my friends and I, I believe after a completely failed attempt at trick or treating, got to play the scarers.

The Then:
-o- trick or treating – well, of course.

-o- the year ten pieces each got argued up to eleven – when we were kids, we got to pick ten pieces of candy, and the rest went with my dad to his office. Well, maybe. Who knows what my parents really did with it.

-o- the year I devised a way to smuggle half my candy to my locker in school

-o- running into other neighborhood kids – late in elementary school and in middle school (first crush time), when girls went together and boys went together, half the fun of trick or treating was running into other groups of kids and joining up for awhile.

-o- mischief night – okay, I admit, I never did this. But I know people that year and I think one year someone took our pumpkin. But I sure thought the kids that did this were cool!

-o- my dad’s desire to have the best candy around, and equip his kids with the best costumes – he always gave out king-sized candy bars and more often than not they came with some obscure coin, like a half-dollar. Thanks goodness we live on a cul de sac and didn’t get much traffic.

The Now:
-o- streets that all but close to cars and all residents sit out front with bowls of candy and sometimes costumes, decorations and performances

-o- clever costumes – this was fun when we were young too, but now it’s part of the game.

-o- how friendly everyone is to one another in costumes – one year I was Princess Lollipop from Candyland and I lost many lollipops but gained many friends on the metro that night.

-o- group costumes – Twister board, Fanta girls, the Magnificent Seven…

-o- haunted houses – okay I really don’t like these, but I do like them more now than then.

-o- Mean Girls – the slut rule – whether you take advantage of this rule or not, it’s nice to have a night where nylon and polyester costumes with pretty sparkles and feathers are acceptable around other people.

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Last night I went to a Halloween party in Baltimore. It was wonderful. There were kids there from 7-9 and then 20- and 30-somethings there from 9 until the early hours of the morning. So, the best of the then and the now. The kids were so excited about their costumes; there was a clown, an Anakin Skywalker, a cat, and a scary boy in black with a pump in his hand that made a red globulous attachment on his chest pulse. Then later, there were clever costumes including Hunter S. Thompson and Professor Plum with the candlestick and his lovely lady Miss Scarlett. There were mozzarella and olive eyeballs, roasted pork flesh, live bait worm-shaped jello shots, and white chocolate spiderweb-coated cupcakes. There was punch with orange sherbert and champagne, and bowls of candy everywhere (pleasant for the then and the now).

So, in conclusion, Halloween is a great holiday. What did everyone else do this year? Is anyone planning on buying candy for trick or treaters?

So there are these two muffins, right…

My sister has already demanded public credit for the title of my blog, so I may as well make it official: she is the person to bring this most favoritest of jokes into my life. I’d really like to meet the person who first thought it up.

So these two muffins are sitting in an oven. One muffin turns to the other and says, “whew! It’s really hot in here!”
The other muffin jumps and shrieks, “ah! A talking muffin!”

And now, the follow up:

There are two nicely frosted cupcakes in the refrigerator, just chilling out.
One turns to the the other, who happens to be a bit slow, and says, “brrrr! it’s cold in here!”
The a-few-sprinkles-short-of-a-full-topping cupcakes yelps and sputters, “ah! A TALKING MUFFIN!”

I refrained from including any disclaimers. I’ll note now that some people do not think this joke is at all funny, and some don’t get it. Lots don’t think it’s funny and don’t get it. That’s fine. I think it’s hilarious and laugh every single time I tell it or hear it – which are always happening simultaneously. But that’s not what I named my blog “Two Muffins in an Oven.”  Well, it’s not the only reason. I did want to memorialize my favorite joke somewhere other than my Fruit Ninja game center name, but also, I think this joke is funny (like many others) because of the lack of successful communication between the two participants. (This argument loses all credibility if I say “muffins” so we’re going with “participants.”) They don’t inhabit the same place or “speak” the same language.

Le’t say there are three necessary components in successful communication – the sender, the message, and the receiver – and that all three need to work cohesively to transmit ideas from one person to another. Otherwise, miscommunication results. In this joke, none of the pieces are working together. The sender knows what they are trying to say, but the receiver recognizes neither the sender nor the message.

Anyway, I hope my comments and ideas get across to you, reading what I have to say. But if not, at least I’ll have the comfort of the muffin joke!

Going a little app sh*t: If only my smartphone could do that

I am currently working as a freelance editor for a life sciences media group, and I am in the middle of creating a slideshow of useful biotechnology- and pharmaceutical-related mobile applications. It’s amazing what some of these apps can do, and that got me thinking – if you let go of realistic creative solutions momentarily, what kinds of imaginative apps would I find exciting and enjoy using?

Coincidentally, today when I opened The New Yorker I found one artist’s answer to that question. Check out the original spread by Barry Britt on The New Yorker website.

Two of the applications Britt illustrates are the Security Wand and the iProjectile. The Security Wand works sort of like the Harry Potter wand application in which you use your smartphone as a wand, complete with specific swirls and jabs, except this Wand is for scanning those around you for dangerous objects. You could see how that could come in useful. The iProjectile, by far my favorite, is most beautiful in its simplicity. The application transforms the smartphone into a shot put-like weapon which can be used against enemies when necessary.

With Britt’s series and the pharmaceutical industry as inspirations, I began to muse, and the following is my “I Wish These Apps Existed” list.

1) Outfit database/suggestion software
Remember in the beginning of Clueless when Cher opens her computer and shuffles through all the clothes she owns and then attempts to make combinations? And when she chooses a shirt and a skirt that don’t match, the system tells her so and lets her keep choosing. Now, after she finds an outfit, the clothes in her closet also move along their motorized racks and appear in front of her… I do not wish that of my smartphone app. Oh no, I am much more reasonable. I simply want to catalog all my clothing and accessories into an application, and then use a search-and-match device to find outfits. As a bonus, I’d like to be able to take a picture of what I’m currently wearing and have the app tell me whether or not it works. When I stopped living with women I lost that help, and I miss it sorely.

2) The Accio spell
There are some cool spells in the Harry Potter series. But the Summoning Charm is, I think, the most useful on a daily basis. Especially if the time and space problems ignored in the HP series were eliminated; for example, what happens when there are solid objects in the way of what is being summoned? But anyway, this would be most useful in the kitchen when cooking, on the couch when tired, in bed when sleepy, etc.

3) Space heater
Relatively self-explanatory. If only my smartphone could, upon activation of an app, emanate heat in varying degrees and amounts and for various amounts of time. I went to Six Flags America with some awesome people a few weeks ago for Fright Fest, and the only dampener on the experience was the arguably unseasonable chilliness.

4) Time traveler
I wonder what would happen with your smartphone if you traveled with it into the future or the past. As far as I can remember, in time travel movies the actual time machine is transported into existence at another point in time along with the traveler(s) and at least sometimes it is used move through time again. Now, if I brought my smartphone with me into the past before the technology was invented, before satellite networks were in place and touch screens had been thought of, could I still use it? How about just the camera?
Anyway. I wish I could go back in time. Not in my life, that just confuses me (though I think I did finally work out the plot of HP III and found it well-done), but to see centuries past and where we manage to go.

5) Lighter/torch/flashlight
Backlights are cool and all, but what if my smartphone could create fire?!

6) Restroom locator (friendly and understanding staff a must)
Okay, so it’s embarrassing and maybe a little early in my blog’s life to be admitting it, but I’m one of those people who goes to the bathroom before leaving for somewhere and has to go upon arrival. This is usually no problem, but sometimes availability is scarce and it would be awesome if I just knew which places near me would be find with me quickly using their restroom. Or, alternatively, if my smartphone would locate the nearest public bathroom.

7) Quick chocolate truffle maker
Though I do like the attempt to incorporate some sort of structure and rules into the universe, it’s a real shame that conjuring food out of mid air is impossible even in Harry Potter’s world – it’s one of the five exceptions to  Gamp’s Law of Elemental Transfiguration. And if I could conjure only one type of food it would be dark chocolate truffles. Now, my love for truffles is seriously rivaled by my love for cheese and for fresh tomatoes. But the visceral desire I feel for chocolate on occasion makes this the last of my if-only apps.

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I want to say I didn’t mean for Harry Potter to pervade this post, but I do like that its repeated presence shows that what I really want is a WAND!

What’s the coolest thing your smartphone can do? My partner discovered voice control on mine the other day and had lots of fun with it- and Stephen Colbert played with it on his new iPhone 4S in the beginning of his show the other night. We got a glimpse of his if-only desires then too; that or his iPhone responded to his commands with some pretty impressive insight.

7 tomato soups for the upcoming cold

Tomato soup is one of my favorite things. In this food post I highlight seven soups that are easy to make with a girl-on-a-budget equipped kitchen and ingredients that are affordable and easy to find. Oh, and they’re incredibly delicious.
Please pair with grilled cheese, for which I’ll include two tips: shredding cheese beforehand allows for even melting and possible cheese combos AND, broiling a few minutes on each side is I think a bit healthier than frying and just as yummy, especially with high-quality bread.

1) roasted tomato soup with broiled cheddar
Smittenkitchen is my favorite food blog. This soup is delicious, but more so than that, this soup makes the top of the list because it gave me the idea of using mugs instead of little crocks/ovenproof dishes.

2) creamy sun-dried tomato soup

3) cream of fresh tomato soup

4) roasted red pepper and tomato soup
If you don’t have smoked paprika, you can use regular paprika instead.

5) roasted tomato soup with basil oil

6) spicy tomato and blue cheese soup

7) finally, my mom’s recipe:

tomato bisque
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, pressed
2 tbsp vegetable oil
3/4 tsp salt
2 cups cold water
1 tbsp arrowroot or cornstarch (optional, but adds to creamy texture)
28 oz can whole tomatoes (puree and works as well)
1 large ripe fresh tomato, chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped

Saute the thinly sliced onions and pressed garlic in the oil. Add salt. When translucent and beginning to brown, remove from heat.

Dissolve arrowroot or cornstarch in 1 cup of cold water, and then pour into the sauteed onion and garlic mixture. Stir to avoid lumps. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and let simmer for 5 minutes.

Puree the 28 oz can of tomatoes or puree in the blender. While blender is still on, slowly add the onion mixture.
When mixture is very smooth, return to the saucepan, add the fresh tomato and chopped celery. Add remaining cup of water.
Heat gently 5-10 minutes.  Serve immediately.
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I will always measure all other soups against my mom’s, but all the ones I mention here have turned out incredibly well.

And one BONUS! Ginger Sage Butternut Squash Pumpkin Soup