You'll have to excuse the shakiness of my recording. It's a miracle I was able to keep it straight at all, being that Taper Jean Girl is my fave song!
Friday, July 23, 2010
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
We are immediately assaulted by multiple scenes of cherry blossom-laden trees, their fluffy pink clouds of petals beckoning us all to visit and witness the charms of Washington D.C. ENOUGH with the cherry blossoms! Andrea laments Tracey's departure and the fact that she's always in the middle. Timothy reminds himself that it's not how you start, it's how you finish.
The chefs (and me) are immensely alarmed to walk into the Top Chef kitchen and be confronted by a table covered with baby items. Next to the table stands a warm and glowing Padma,
accompanied by Tom. She announces that this challenge is of a "personal" nature, inspired by the fact that she and Tom both have infants at home. For the high-stakes, no-immunity quickfire, the chefs will be required to create a delicious dish that can be pureed into a "baby version." I'm still cringing at the idea of what kinds of things these particular chefs might puree when I hear Alex declare that he'd use the winnings of the quickfire to obtain "a hooker and an 8-ball." Blech. This season is straight-up sleeze.
Kevin's wife is pregnant, giving him an edge as he thoughtfully begins preparing roasted duck and banana polenta. Tamesha plans on making a vegetable chowder, and while I contemplate on the wisdom of such a dish, Kelly loudly requests veal stock. I cross her off as a possible contender for winning the challenge. We learn that Kenny's wife passed away in a car accident, and that he's been the sole caretaker for their daughter. Stephen, father of infant twins, SHOULD be amazing at this challenge. Angelo has a son (OF COURSE), and prepares a strangely layered "tiramusu."
As Tom and Padma made their way round a carousel of baby food jars crammed to the brim with a paste that was almost universally a sickly shade of tannish-yellow, it becomes rather obvious that babies really don't have it so great. Poor Kelly suffers through Padma's indelicate, overly dramatic spitting out of a stray lemon seed. Angelo's fenugreek-flavored baby food and Tamesha's licorice oil are a big hit. Disappointing dishes included Timothy's lamb and Alex's watery, herbaceous puree. Kelly was dinged as well, though we all know it's because of the lemon seed. Padma loved Angelo's elegant, layered baby food and Kenny's use of bulghur, while Tom appreciated Tamesha's veggie chowder and Lynn's flavorful tropical chicken dish. They decide to award Kenny and Tamesha with $10,000, but no immunity.n
Padma introduces the chefs to Beth Scott, the VP of restaurant concepts at the Hilton, who has somehow magically appeared in the kitchen while Tamesha is picking herself up off the floor after winning all those "smackaroos." For the elimination challenge, the chefs must create a new signature dish for the Hilton menu, an "easily executable, quick dish" that can be served to business travelers. The chefs will compete tournament style to develop breakfast, lunch, and menu dishes. They'll work in pairs of two. All teams will compete in the breakfast round, and two teams will be deemed safe. The remaining chefs will compete in the lunch challenge, and so on, until there only three teams working on the dinner challenge. In the end, two chefs will win, and two will be eliminated. Definitely a high-stakes challenge.
There is quite a bit of freaking out about cooking in a team. Tiffany worries that Timothy has been on the bottom "quite a bit lately." Kenny and Kevin have a good groove. Alex and Ed, arch-enemies, are working together.
After the panicky shopping trip, the chefs arrive back in the Top Chef kitchen to be greeted by the judges. Padma and Tom are joined by my darling Eric Ripert and the rather random Nora Pouillon. Sitting smugly next to Beth Scott are Mike Isabella, Bryan Voltaggio, and Spike Mendelsohn, three former contestants. Seeing those guys, oozing with superiority and general cocky behavior provides quite a large amount of motivation as the breakfast portion of the challenge begins.
During the commercial break, viewers are treated to a borderline creepy analysis of Angelo's calculating admiration of Tamesha. She wins one challenge and he's all in her business. Gross.
Alex and Ed's hollandaise-less, poorly-constructed plate doesn't win anyone over. Tamesha's egg and Angelo's bacon and cheddar broth are pooh-poohed by the two Mikes, thus beginning the tiresome stint of former contestants nit-picking every single aspect of each dish. After breakfast, Amanda and Stephen's hollandaise and Timothy and Tiffany's crab cakes are elected as the best dishes. The remaining chefs must head straight to lunch.
After an intense prep period, the chefs bring out lunch dishes which continue to be ridiculously scrutinized by Spike and the two Mikes. Ed and Alex's gnudi is admired, while Kenny and Kevin's chickpea pasta is too heavy. Kelly and Andrea used canned beans, a BIG no-no, and also earn the disdain of fish expert Eric Ripert. Best lunches go to Angelo and Tamesha and Ed and Alex.
It was physically painful to watch the remaining three teams shoulder their disappointment and head back to the kitchen. I was especially anxious about my two K's, who should certainly have managed to get out of this position by now. Both Kenny/Kevin and Kelly/Andrea decide to make short ribs, adding even more tension to an already stressful final stage of the challenge. Lynn and Arnold fight about the cooking time for fresh pasta.
As the chefs served dinner, it became obvious that Kenny and Kevin's horseradish-infused short ribs fell short on the sauce (the business) side. Kelly and Andrea's short rib had a "real, dark flavor" that the judges appreciated. The weakest link was Lynn and Arnold's squid ink pasta and pineapple red curry.
In the end, Kelly and Andrea won the challenge, for having the "most wonderful flavors." It was a bit disappointing that the chefs who performed successfully in the first and second rounds weren't considered, I think. I panicked a bit as the judges grilled the remaining four, but was relieved to see the Arnold and Lynn team begin to fall apart-it certainly is NOT time for Kenny and Kevin to go home! It seemed fairly clear that the sauce proved to be their main issue, rather than the whole dish.
The mess of squid ink pasta was enough to send Lynn and Arnold home, as Tom emphasized that the judges have to rely on each individual performance, not the contestants' history on the show. Thus, Arnold went from top to absolute bottom. Sad for him, but glad for Kenny and Kev to see another day.
Yes! I am (somewhat) caught up! I must only complete ONE recap in the next few days!
Yes, I'm writing one of TWO recaps that I MUST complete before this evening, so as not to have three waiting in the queue after tonight's episode. All of my gallivanting around California and various wedding travels have really put a damper on my Top Chef recapping-spirit! This is terrible, because it's just around this time in the season that the show gets really good, having shed the weight of the less competent chefs.
The trio of judges loathed Alex's tapioca quiche, Ed's weird celery spuma, and of course, Tracey's hot mess. On the other hand, Kelly's chocolate ganache tart, Stephen's bourbon pie, and Kenny's bananas foster pie were interesting and delicious. Kenny FINALLY won a challenge, to his and my own relief.
In perhaps the most inappropriate cultural reference on culinary television history, Padma informs the chefs that they will be preparing a picnic lunch for capitol hill interns. I'm really thinking that it was possible to have a DC-based, government-themed season WITHOUT a reference to interns. Television has no shame.
While most of the chefs are fine with the idea of bbq, Arnold laments that he's not a grill guy, and worries it will clog his pores. Whilst shopping at Whole Foods, Kevin informs us that he's going to go outside the typical American bbq and Tracey decides to "make her own thing", which equals sausage. Something tells me these are not good signs. I also get worried when, back at the Top Chef kitchen, Arnold says "I know we're going to see a whole lot of bbq, but I'm going to do something different." Um, perhaps you need cluing in on the actual wording of the challenge, Arnold.
Timothy and Amanda are both making ribs. Angelo is doing "Asian-style picnic." So clever, Angelo. Kenny relives his first time grilling, at age 7. His "when I was a chef at such-and-such juvenile age" stories are getting a bit old for me, I have to admit. Tracey's handy Kitchen-Aide shuts down mid-grind and she decides not to case the sausage, despite the productive little tune she concocts to motivate herself. Uh-oh. Tom visits the kitchen, and all I can think of as he strides to each station is what MUST be his theme song.
The next day, the chefs arrive at Mt. Vernon, awaiting the parade of interns. There is some inevitable stereotyping with the women and the grills. Kenny astutely points out that Angelo has thus far been preparing exclusively Asian food. While he's certainly motivated by his competitive nature, Kenny is right-Angelo is going to have to show us what else he can do, at some point.
Padma, Tom, and Gail are joined by Jonathan Waxman. Arnold's lame kofta and barley salad are refreshing. Angelo's food is once again universally adored, declared a "magazine cover" dish by Waxman. Surprisingly, Amanda's plate of ribs, grilled asparagus, and salad with bacon hazelnut vinaigrette snags the judges' heart-strings. I start to worry about Tracey when Tom almost chokes on the plentiful amount of fennel seed. I give Angelo props for honestly admitting that Amanda's ribs are excellent.
Back at judge's table, Ed, Arnold, Angelo, and Amanda are declared the winners. Though it was obvious that the judge's loved Ed's unique lentil and tuna dish, Arnold's lamb was selected as the best. Predictably, he's beside himself.
Tim, Stephen, Tracey, and Kevin find themselves on rock bottom. Tim's ribs simply couldn't compare to Amanda's, Stephen's bacon-wrapped sea bass was completely unappetizing, Kevin was dinged for "safe", unimaginative Puerto Rican food, and Tracey's too-big, too-spicy, and too-rare sliders were slammed. After Jonathan Waxman declared that his 10-year old son could have made Tracey's patty, it was fairly obvious who would be going home, even though it stung for all four when Tom stated that it was not a good day for American chefs.
I'm going to miss Tracey-her quirky songs, inexplicable admiration for Angelo, and ruddy rotund figure added a layer of warmth to the season.
On to episode 4!
Friday, July 9, 2010
I simply could not contain myself when it came to creating my summer playlist. There was a plethora of great music on the radio (hence the inclusion of two extremely top 40 types on my playlist), Pretty Cheap Dress was on a veritable Shazam-ing tear, tweeting new and irresistible pearls of goodness every five minutes, and on top of it all, the Eclipse soundtrack came out. I have no self-restraint.
Dog Days Are Over-Florence + the Machine. For the record, I have loved and listened to this song LONG before TPTB felt free to feature it in the trailer for Eat, Pray, Love. I cannot tell you how much I adore the whole album. I've always been drawn to songs with subtle, quiet beginnings that build up to something much greater in the chorus. Practically every song on the album is that kind of awesome.
All Yours-Metric. This particular gem, an anthemic, uplifting pop-y love song, was heavily employed throughout my most beloved Twilight Saga: Eclipse. I don't think the actual song was featured even once, but it provided the backbone for the score, and was incorporated in various romantic scenes throughout the film. Yes, I've already seen and scrutinized twice. I fully expect to be judged.
The World is Full of Strangers-Camera Obscura. I like to think of my supersize summer playlist as a bit vintage. The moment you hear Camera Obscura I think you'll know what I mean. There is something delectably old-fashioned about it, like the bewitching voice of lead singer Tracyanne Campbell might have fit in better in the 60's. They're from Scotland, by the way. My Anglophilia continues.
Crimson and Clover-Joan Jett & the Blackhearts. For some inexplicable reason, this song just seems perfect for driving on a hot summer day with the windows open.
Safety Dance-Glee Cast. Unquestionably my favorite Glee number. I find myself dancing in the car whenever it comes on.
Blood-The Middle East. In the midst of her summer musical discoveries, I had to tell Pretty Cheap Dress (otherwise known as my bff Rose, my kindred spirit, my Diana) that I simply could NOT keep downloading all of her recommendations. It would break the bank! After that, we worked out a system in which I knew that songs she tweeted about were the truly special, and Facebook-linked songs might be respectfully and regretfully set aside. I still wish I could just get them all. No one knows music better than my friend. This quiet, unusual song is a perfect example. It took me a while to warm up to it, but even months later, the last few chords often linger in my mind. Bonus: beautiful album cover.
Airplanes (feat. Hayley Williams of Paramore)-B.o.B. Every once in a while, one of "those" songs comes on the radio, that you cannot stop humming and grooving to, that you literally WAIT to hear. Here is mine for the summer. I love Hayley Williams, by the way. And could really use a wish right now :)
Woo Hoo-Kings of Leon. I am literally HOURS away from seeing my Kings live for the first time (I'm sure an entire post will ensue). For now, my summer selection to tide me over until that eagerly anticipated day will be this b-track, which seems especially appropriate for the season.
Excuses-The Morning Benders. Another vintage track, and the second recommendation from Pretty Cheap Dress. I swear, this song belongs in 1955. The lyrics are another story, however.
Floating Vibes-Surfer Blood. I cannot get over the cover art (and title!) for this album. It is the epitome of my greatest fear whilst splashing about in the wild waters of the Pacific. I shall choose to ignore both, however, in my quest for enjoyable tunes. I love Floating Vibes, and it seems apropos for a California summer.
Buttons-The Weeks. This song isn't new (a frequent occurrence on my lists) but I find it highly addictive. I discovered it one afternoon on my Kings of Leon Pandora station whilst attacking the unappealing job of vacuuming the whole house. One might be able to understand why I feel affection for it.
End Love-Ok Go. I was sucked in by another viral video from these guys.
What Part of Forever-Cee Lo Green. I'm going to confess right now that there are 4, that's right, FOUR songs from the Eclipse soundtrack on my summer list. And it was difficult to narrow it down to those four, if you want to know the truth. All of the soundtracks to the accompanying movies have been strong, and this is no exception. It's excellent, a great, diverse mix of alternative and independent artists. Cee Lo is half of Gnarls Barkley, incidentally. Love it.
Love the Way You Lie (feat. Rihanna)-Eminem. I'm inexplicably drawn to the violent and undeniably screwed-up rapper, especially when he joins forces with artists like Dido or Rihanna. There is something very appealing about the way his voice sounds when blended with something so delicate and feminine. I'm perfectly aware that this song is currently at #3 on the Itunes Top 100 list. I give in to the masses occasionally!
Hurricane Drunk-Florence + the Machine. Eventually, the whole album will feature on one playlist or another. I'm just going song by song.
The Ghost Inside-Broken Bells. Right now, Broken Bells are an indie darling, beloved by alternative types everywhere. They're so popular that the voluptuous Christina Hendricks, of Mad Men fame, has decided to star in this very video. All I can say is that there is a reason for the hype.
Let's Get Lost-Beck & Bat for Lashes. The third of my 4 Eclipse finds, I might love this one the most. Never mind that I was disappointed that it didn't feature in some grand love scene in the movie. Beck makes up for it.
Kandi-One eskimO. Is it possible for me to keep from downloading the song that played whilst my beloved Seely Booth bid goodbye to Temperance Brennan on the season six finale of Bones? Clearly, I have no willpower.
Careless Love-Camera Obscura. The lilting, dreamy chords of this song have lingered with me on many a warm June evening.
She's Got You High-Mumm-Ra. This song hearkens back to last summer, when I played the 500 Days of Summer soundtrack relentlessly. It's a pearl among many (on that album), and it makes me feel both nostalgic and excited when I play it now.
In My Veins-Andrew Belle. I get choked up when I hear this beautiful and heartbreaking song, though I fully admit it's a bit Matt Kearny-reminiscent, and Andrew Belle might not have the most glittering career ahead of him beyond a prominent spot in the Grey's Anatomy finale.
Heaven (feat. Natalie Merchant)-Brett Dennen. If you must know, I found this one on Grey's Anatomy as well, and it belongs to Owen and Teddy. I'm ashamed to even be typing those characters' names. But not ashamed to admit I love the song.
Streets of Gold-Needtobreathe. I'm definitely very, very LATE to the Needtobreathe party. My sister has been admonishing me, for months, to give them a good listen. I am so very glad that I did. The three songs I've chosen for my summer list are among the most popular, which is fitting for a new fan, I think. This song is far and above my favorite, filling me with exuberant hopefulness.
Missed the Boat-Modest Mouse. One of my Pandora discoveries, on yet another cleaning day, which I find to be intolerable without a good soundtrack.
The Chain-Ingrid Michaelson. A gift from my sister, and probably not unlike what you might come to expect from Ingrid Michaelson.
Ours-The Bravery. The last of my Eclipse songs. I'm always one for listening closely to lyrics, and I feel that these are perfectly suited for the Eclipse storyline. It's possibly that I have just revealed myself to be the lamest, most ridiculously sappy and sentimental person on earth. Please don't judge "Ours" because of me. It's a great song.
Something Beautiful-Needtobreathe. This song is something beautiful. No really, we used it as the soundtrack for our recent home movie detailing my sister's visit, attaching it to a clip of the stunning backdrop of the rugged Northern California coast. It fit perfectly.
Shape Shifter-Local Natives. A relaxing tune, perfect for a nap at the beach. Courtesy of PCD.
The Devil's Tears-Angus & Julia Stone. This song is so sweet my heart could break. It's as though the protagonist has already lost his beloved, but still would die to keep her. Agh! It's too much!
Washed by the Water-Needtobreathe. A great, GREAT song, and profoundly comforting. I'm pretty sure this album, their second, is my favorite. So far, anyway.
Seen Enough-Dryer. Yet another song stolen from television, in this case, Bones. I loved it so much that I had to search relentlessly to find it. As my search was fruitless, I have to content myself with listening to it on YouTube.
The High Road-Broken Bells. I wasn't sold on this song, or the Broken Bells for that matter, until a good two and a half minutes in. At that point, the quirky song shifts into a sweet, piano-highlighted refrain, totally different from the rest of the tune. I was sold.
I'm thinking an "Indian Summer" playlist is in my future...
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
The chefs head to the kitchen, where they are greeted by Padma and the assistant White House chef, Sam Cass. I will note from the very beginning that throughout the episode I found Sam Cass to be alternately attractive and slightly creepy. Seems a nice enough guy though.
Somehow Padma manages to sheepishly spit out the goal of the quickfire challenge: create a bipartisan-dwich. Because the chefs in Top Chef: Hail to the Chef/Season 7/DC are required to be political about their cooking, and I am glimpsing an alarming trend in which each and every challenge must tie into governing somehow. An elimination challenge in which the chefs are required to create elephant- and donkey-themed dishes. A quickfire in which the chefs must create an amuse-bouche in the shape of a pentagon. A restaurant wars challenge in which each restaurant is meant to cater to either Republicans or Democrats. PLEASE TELL ME THIS WILL NOT COME TO PASS!
As the chefs all wonder about the inevitable twist, Padma informs them that they'll be working in pairs, as determined by a knife pull. The "one more thing" ends up being a monstrosity of an apron that the chefs have to wear with their partner, thus requiring them to work with one hand. I'm pretty sure Sam Cass hated himself a little as he gamely shrugged that thing on with Padma.
As Angelo proclaims that a loaf of bread is "sexy", his partner Tracey confesses that she has a big crush on him. She's thrilled that she gets to have an arm around him for 30 minutes. I have lost respect for Tracey's judgment.
During the frantic preparation period, Amanda can barely function using her left hand. Alex has major knife anxiety. Kelly and Arnold are the only pair that seem to work seemlessly. Angelo describes his food as sexy at least three times, and then crushes Tracey's heart by referring to her as his "twin sister."
Kenny and Ed's korean chili-rubbed ahi tuna open-faced bipartisan-dwich on whole-grain bread with a cucumber mango slaw looked AMAZING, but yet again, Angelo pulled off another victory. I am getting tired of this business.
Thankfully, I was brought out of my funk by the announcement of the elimination challenge. The chefs are divided into four teams, and will be given $130 to prepare a school lunch for fifty students (a budget of $2.60 per child). Each chef will be responsible for one dish that's part of a four-course meal. Now, I know that this challenge was undoubtedly inspired or at the least influenced by Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution, but that's a good thing! As winners of the quickfire, Tracey and Angelo are allowed to select the remaining two chefs on their team. With barely a thought, they choose Ed and Kenny. The naive, innocent side of me immediately applauded the choice. It makes sense to pick the strongest competition (Kenny) to be on your team, right? It couldn't be that Angelo snatched an opportunity to sabotage Kenny, full well-knowing that he was safe from elimination no matter what he makes. Right?
All the teams begin to furiously plan. Chefs with children (Timothy and Kevin) have a clear advantage. Amanda reveals a bit of her crazy (which has thus far been dormant) by ruthlessly cutting Tanesha's gnocchi idea down (to be fair, she was probably right), and using wild hand gestures to demonstrate how she'll braise chicken thighs in sherry, and the kids will LOVE it. Stephen and Jacqueline stare at her dubiously, but don't put up too much of a fight. Kelly takes charge of her group, to the chagrin of Tiffany and Arnold. Though she's right on target about fat and calories, her domineering attitude quite justifiably rubs her teammates the wrong way.
Not surprisingly, the shopping experience is difficult for the chefs. They're taking off every little item they can in an effort to meet the budget. It's nice to see a few of the chefs acknowledge what public schools and parents have to go through every day.
Prep time basically consists of Kelly announcing shrilly that the pork carnitas tacos are HER IDEA. Kevin's team gets the prize for working together the best. Kenny expresses concern about all of the dishes working well together. Though he's my favorite, if there is anything to be learned over the seasons, it's that you should speak up when you're genuinely worried about your team's dishes. Be assertive without being Kelly, in other words.
At the school, the chefs panic about kitchen space, and Angelo's special air gun (required to produce peanut butter mousse) falters. Kelly continues to broadcast her ownership of the carnitas dish. Tom actually prefers for the chefs to realize that they're responsible for one dish each, but I think even he would've been irritated with Kelly's shenanigans.
Tom, Padma, Gail, and Sam Cass enter the cafeteria with a horde of middle schoolers. They admire the "picnic" lunch provided by Alex, Andrea, Kevin, and Tim, particularly Kevin's "whipped cream" yogurt. Angelo's team is missing a critical component, vegetables. Kelly, Arnold, Lynne, and Tiffany are wildly popular, due to Kelly's "solid" taco and Arnold's colorful salad. Amanda's chicken thigh in sherry jus looks hideous. Just hideous. Jacqueline's strawberry banana pudding is overwhelmingly sweet.
At judges' table, Angelo and Amanda's teams are deemed the worst. Angelo was clearly unfazed, staring at the ceiling while the other chefs offered their excuses and feigning ignorance when Tom asked about sabotage. Sam chastised Amanda for thinking the budget was large enough to include the sherry purchase. Kenny was called out for incorrectly identifying a tomato as a vegetable and then for not being assertive about the menu. Amanda found herself in a shouting match with Ed and Kenny about serving sherry to the underaged.
After Tom confessed his suspicion that some "gamesmanship" was involved in Angelo's paltry effort, the judges set about choosing a winner. There was a clear favorite in Kelly's carnitas. Apparently tooting your own horn incessantly occasionally pays off. When it came time to eliminate a contestant, the judges couldn't get past the fact that even though the disgusting yellow blob of sherry-soaked chicken thigh was avoided by the preteens like the plague, Jacqueline used TWO POUNDS of sugar in her pudding. An unforgivable sin, as it turns out. It's just as well-I hate to sound prejudiced, but as I've mentioned before, home cooks and caterers really do not have the best track record on Top Chef. They just can't hang with the restaurant chefs, who are more accustomed to the quick pace and are more likely to be spontaneous.
I am migrating to Team Kevin. He's the chef in a restaurant right down the road from my beloved SIL in New Jersey!
Perhaps I'll have episodes 3 and 4 done by the end of the week. You probably shouldn't hold your breath :)
Friday, July 2, 2010
In a move which I'm sure will surprise no one, I have somehow let half the year go by before sharing my movie recommendations of the year. In my defense, I don't really consider it a "new" movie year until AFTER the Oscars. Try to forget that those took place back in March.
Inception. A mere fourteen days remain before the much-anticipated release of Leo's latest film. The plot was initially shrouded in secrecy, and while one can muster up a general idea of what's going to take place in the later trailers, it is sure to be riveting, twisty-turned hours of pure entertainment. Like Leo, director Christopher Nolan makes precious little mistakes in his work-he's has directed exactly 10 films, and those include Insomnia, Memento, The Prestige, and The Dark Knight.
Never Let Me Go. The adaption of Kazuo Ishiguro's novel stars newbie darling Carey Mulligan, fresh off an Academy Award nomination for her first starring role. I am not entirely enamored of Keira Knightley, but I think the movie looks like it could be excellent. I plan on reading the book over the summer.
Dinner for Schmucks. How in the world can I not see a movie that stars Paul Rudd AND Zach Galifianakis? I'm practically guaranteed gut-busting belly laughter for 2 hours.
The Adjustment Bureau. Let the record show that I have never quite managed to warm to Matt Damon. He is not my fave. Emily Blunt, however, I absolutely adore. It's a bit alarming that the film was pushed forward two months from its original July release date, but it's hard to believe these two would have made a terrible choice when they signed on.
Updated: Welcome to the Rileys. This movie boasts a most impressive pedigree. James Gandolfini's movie roles are rare and most certainly carefully selected. Melissa Leo is an Oscar nominee. And of course, there's my Kristen Stewart, most promising young actress of her generation and a continually refreshing face amongst the riffraff of young Hollywood. Keep in mind that she could be traipsing about in tiny dresses and taking on roles in fluffy teenage romances. Instead, she goes for gritty, challenging films that she full well knows may never even reach the big screen. A prescription for those who doubt her ability: The Cake Eaters. It's one of the best things I've seen her do. Updated with first trailer, released 7/8/10. I can tell it's going to be really, really good.
Blue Valentine. I saved the Sundance/Cannes/Toronto darling for last. Reviews for the heartbreaking, painfully realistic portrayal of a young marriage have been nothing short of stellar. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams reportedly turn in some of the best work of their already extremely respectable careers. Oscar buzz hovers over the movie like a cloud. I've heard that watching it is no picnic-the subject matter is not light and far from uplifting. It is, however, reputed to be one of the best films of the year. Even without all the hype, I'd see it.