2020年1月10日 星期五

You ought to take it all in and check it all out

Find out what it’s all about.
Jeenah Moon/Reuters
Author Headshot

By Jamelle Bouie

Opinion Columnist

Hello there! I’m back and refreshed from the holiday break and I hope you are too. My wife and I used our free time — and the presence of our son’s grandparents — to see as many movies in theaters as we could. We ended up watching four, and here’s what I thought of them.

Uncut Gems

In which Adam Sandler gives a sublime performance as Howard Ratner, a man who indulges every impulse, courting destruction as a result. Kept afloat by boundless optimism, he charges forward into every obstacle, confident that he will eventually win. The classic Sandler “rage” is there, but it isn’t explosive as much as its been sublimated into a single-minded focus on making the big score, even if it ruins Howard’s life.

There is a lot to love about that this movie as a glimpse into a dangerous, high stakes world. But it excels (and justifies its run time) as a character study — a deep dive into the psyche of a man who cannot satisfy his desires without wreaking havoc on everyone around him, a man who thinks he can escape his fate if he wishes hard enough.

Knives Out

The politics of this whodunit are a little on-the-nose but it’s O.K. because the script sparkles and Rian Johnson’s direction shines. Funny and clever, there’s not a wasted line even as the film gives every character a moment to breathe and develop. Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc might be the single greatest cinematic character of 2019.

Little Women

Greta Gerwig’s swing at the story of the March sisters radiates so much warmth and joy and decency that, like all the men who eventually make their way into the family, it is impossible not to be drawn into the world of the film.

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For all of its modern touches — the brisk pacing and fragmented timeline (which I loved) — this is still an old-fashioned melodrama, with tears and laughter for every character on the screen. If anything comes across while watching the film, it’s Gerwig’s obvious love and affection for Alcott’s work. Between the wonderful performances and Greta’s incredible direction, “Little Women” is the closest thing to a perfect theater experience I’ve had in the last year. You have to see it.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

“The Rise of Skywalker” isn’t a movie. It is a product. It is two-and-a-half hours of fan service and Easter eggs connected by a never-ending fetch quest and edited such that nothing ever has a chance to breathe. We move from scene to scene in a constant stream of exposition and no attempt to appreciate the world we’re watching.

Characters die and return mere moments later, the impact of their apparent deaths erased. Emotional scenes that need time to land are immediately undercut with uninspired, quippy dialogue. The logic of the world is inexplicable in ways that stretch the not-terribly-logical-in-the-first-place world of Star Wars. Key character actions are driven by the demands of plot, previous actions and characterization be damned.

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No, this film isn’t on the border of unwatchable like the prequel trilogy. But unlike those movies, which for good or ill bear the unmistakable imprint of George Lucas, “The Rise of Skywalker” is spiritually inert. It has no spark. It is the cinematic equivalent of a fast food hamburger, designed to hit a specific set of pleasure centers in the most inoffensive way possible. It doesn’t satisfy, it satiates.

What I Wrote

Trump is dangerously impulsive and unstable, and this reality is so frightening that some elites have chosen to pretend otherwise.

It feels, at times, that when it comes to Donald Trump, our political class is this Lovecraftian protagonist, struggling to understand an incomprehensibly abnormal president. The reality of Donald Trump — an amoral narcissist with no capacity for reflection or personal growth — is evident from his decades in public life. But rather than face this, too many people have rejected the facts in front of them, choosing an illusion instead of the disturbing truth.

Now Reading

Arundhati Roy on Narendra Modi’s India in The Nation magazine.

Fintan O’Toole on Joe Biden as the “designated mourner” in the New York Review of Books.

Jedediah Britton-Purdy on climate change in The Atlantic.

Mary Sarah Bilder on James Madison’s notes of the Constitutional Convention in The Atlantic.

Joseph Bernstein on the digital revolution in BuzzFeed.

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Feedback

If you’re enjoying what you’re reading, please consider recommending it to friends. They can sign up here. If you want to share your thoughts on an item in this week’s newsletter or on the newsletter in general, please email me at jamelle-newsletter@nytimes.com.

Photo of the Week

The Landmark Hotel in Charlottesville, Va.Jamelle Bouie

In 2008, a developer started construction on a hotel in downtown Charlottesville. Then he abandoned it. It’s still abandoned. The developer insists he will finish the project, but no one believes him. For a variety of reasons, the city hasn’t tried to purchase the land and tear it down. And so the abandoned hotel still stands, the most visible blight in the area. This is a photo of that hotel. I took it with my iPhone on a bright, sunny day, when the shadows were deep and harsh.

Now Eating: Spinach and Cheese Strata

I have been a little obsessed with making strata, both because it’s an easy dish to put together for brunches, and because it’s delicious. I made this strata last week for my son’s lunch, and he has thoroughly enjoyed it. You should think of this recipe as a template for any kind of strata you might enjoy. Swap out the Gruyère for Cheddar; replace the spinach with kale; add sausage or bacon, etc. Serve it to your friends and bask in glory as they’re impressed with your cooking. Recipe comes from Smitten Kitchen.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups finely chopped onion (1 large)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 (10 ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed, squeezed of all excess liquid, and chopped
  • 8 cups cubed French or Italian bread in 1-inch cubes (½ lb)
  • 6 ounces coarsely grated Gruyère (2 cups)
  • 2 ounces finely grated Parmesan (1 cup)
  • 9 large eggs
  • 2 ¾ cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard.

Directions

Sauté onion in butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Add ½ teaspoon salt, ¼ teaspoon pepper and nutmeg and continue cooking for one minute. Stir in spinach, remove from heat and set aside.

Spread one-third of the bread cubes in a well-buttered 3-quart gratin dish or other ceramic baking dish. Top with one-third of spinach mixture and one-third of each cheese. Repeat layering twice with remaining bread, spinach and cheese.

Whisk eggs, milk, mustard and remaining ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper together in a large bowl and pour evenly over strata. Cover with plastic wrap and chill strata for at least 8 hours or up to a day.

The next day, let it stand at room temperature for 30 minutes while preheating the oven to 350 degrees. Bake strata, uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed, golden brown and cooked through, 45 to 55 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

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