"In cooking, as in all the arts, simplicity is a sign of perfection." - Curnonsky

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Dinner & DVD: For Your Consideration

I found this recipe in a magazine and then made a few changes to it to suit my taste.

Easy Chicken Divan

1 cup cubed cooked chicken*
Salt & Pepper
1 package (10 oz) frozen broccoli florets, thawed
1 can cream of chicken soup
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 to 3 tablespoons milk
1 cup shredded taco or Mexican cheese

* I used the precooked Butterball Chicken Breasts strips - who has time to cook a chicken!

In a greased dish, combine the chicken, salt & pepper. Top with broccoli. In a bowl, combine the soup, mayonnaise, milk and 1/2 of the cheese; pour over broccoli. Sprinkle with remaining cheese. Bake, uncovered, at 375 for 20-25 minutes or until heated through.

Featured Attraction: For Your Consideration

Sooner or later, it was bound to happen. In an impressive string of wonderful mockumentary farces over the past few years, guiding lights Christopher Guest and Eugene Levy, and their brilliant comedic acting ensemble, have joyfully savaged the self-important cultural "worlds" of small town amateur theater ("Waiting for Guffman"), dog shows ("Best in Show") and folk music ("A Mighty Wind").

But a winning formula can't go on forever unchanged, nor should we expect it to. Inevitably, the group have hit a bump in the road with their latest film, "For Your Consideration," a send-up of Hollywood movie making and the assorted vanities of movie makers. Not that it's bad. But compared to those earlier works, it isn't inspired; it doesn't grab you with its efforts to lampoon; and the performances of the actors - always uniformly of a high caliber in most of their movies – is highly variable in this new movie. Perhaps the theme hits too close to home: it's hard to gain the distance necessary to properly ridicule your own cultural world. Or maybe it's just that the recipe Guest and Levy have used to such delightful advantage has just gotten old, for viewers and for Guest's company.

The plot, for what it's worth, concerns a film within a film: the making of a new movie, the ethnically charged "Home for Purim," which is later rewritten and retitled "Home for Thanksgiving" to broaden its commercial box office appeal. All the stereotypes one expects are on hand: the avaricious executive producers; the harried director; the screenwriters, pained by the incremental decimation of their work; the aging stars in decline; the young up and comings; the vain chase after that holiest of grails: an Oscar, the hangers on – the parasitic, disingenuous talent agent, talk show hosts, film critics and entertainment reporters. They're all here.

Parker Posey (young actress possibly on the way up), Catherine O'Hara (veteran actress on the way out), Jennifer Coolidge (ditzy producer), and Eugene Levy (actors' agent) provide decent turns but none of these superb talents gives a truly inspired performance here. Harry Shearer is better as a long-suffering actor who is glad enough just to star in a feature film after years of making commercials, Oscar or no Oscar.

But the comedic scene stealers in this movie are three pairs of actors who play off each other to a wonderful effect: Fred Willard and Jane Lynch as a TV entertainment reporting duo, Bob Balaban and Michael McKean as the beleaguered screenwriters, and Don Lake and Michael Hitchcock as Siskel-Ebert style TV critics.

Overall the film just didn't have the laughs I'm accustomed to in a Guest movie; it didn't quite know what it wanted to be. While most of the acting was good, the never-ending list of cameos got old and confusing.

No comments: