Saturday, January 2, 2016

Cave 1912--and Greg Cox--miss the mark

I can never quite decide what to think about the Raleigh News & Observer's restaurant critic, Greg Cox.  Sometimes, I find him sensible and applaud him trying to hold local restaurants to the high standards I believe they are capable of achieving.  Then he'll do something that is clearly wrong--ref. his pick of the very good but not great Oakleaf as restaurant of the year a while back--and leave me shaking my head in disbelief.  (I do like Oakleaf, but in an area with [ONE] and Panciuto, to name but two stars, it is not even close to being the best.)  On balance, though, I've decided that if Cox loves a place, I'll give it a try.

His glowing review of Cave 1912 was thus enough to lead me to the relatively new Raleigh restaurant last week.  (I must admit that the fact that its chef, Michael Pryor, had worked for Grant Achatz would have drawn me there eventually.)

A hundred minutes after sitting down in Cave 1912, I concluded that either I had caught the place on an off night, or Cox and I differ far more in our tastes than I would ever have expected.

The service during our small group's visit was atrocious.  The server took five tries to get the order right.  She had no clue what non-alcoholic options the restaurant offered, nor did she seem even to know the dishes, mixing them up during her multiple questions to us.  Three of the four of us ordered a small plate and a large one, but she served only two of our small plates as a first course; she brought me both my dishes at the same time.  That first course arrived ten minutes after we sat.  The second followed almost an hour later.  I watched as dishes sat in the pass getting cold.  I can hope only that Cave 1912 is still training its servers, or that this was her first night, or something similar.

Though the restaurant was less than half full, the kitchen spent most of our visit in the weeds.  More than once, our server remarked, "There's some kind of traffic jam in the kitchen."

None of that would have earned the place this review, however, if the food had been good.  Unfortunately, of the three dishes I sampled, far and away the best was the freshly baked plate of sourdough rolls, which were good but not great.  My housemade fettucine with pork ragu was intriguing but ultimately overwrought, with just too many textures and flavors going on.  I love complexity in dishes, but this one jumped the shark from complex to simply too much two or three ingredients before the chefs stopped adding to it.  My seared Virginia scallops fell prey to a similar amount of over-working; the scallops themselves were quite good, but the rest of the ingredients neither blended nor complemented each other well.  Both dishes were decent, but neither was any better than that.

Having said all that, I must praise Cave 1912 for ambition.  Chef Pryor is clearly going places most area chefs are afraid to tread, and I am happy to see him doing so.  Consequently, I'm going to try the place again sometime in the next few months and hope that both the food and the service will have improved by then.

Friday, January 1, 2016


That I would go to see this film was never in question.  I've liked to varying degrees all of Director/Writer David O. Russell's previous movies.  I'd watch Jennifer Lawrence read a phone book.  I was certain I would hit the theater for this one, and I did.

What I didn't know was how mixed my feelings about the movie would be.

On the one hand, it's a pretty good story in which Lawrence delivers a very strong performance.  Her character grows and changes during the movie's two hours, and we definitely root for her the whole time.  The other actors also turn in strong efforts, with everyone always in character and convincing.

On the other hand, Russell created here the most appalling family in any of his movies--and that's saying something.  With the exception of Joy's ex-husband, played beautifully by Edgar Ramirez, every other adult in Joy's family is in different ways a basically awful person.  While speaking nicely and acting supportive, DeNiro's Rudy, her father, is one of the more abusive parents to hit the big screen in quite some time.  I deeply disliked spending time with these people.

The way everyone did business in this movie also troubled me; the business logic was as realistic as the science in the first Star Trek reboot.

On balance, I'm glad I went to see Joy, and I recommend it--but know going in that you will be uncomfortable for much of the film.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Happy New Year!

I hope 2016 brings you joy, wonder, love, serenity, health, and happiness.

Though I don't indulge in resolutions, I do hope to hit some goals next year, goals that should lead to a better me.

Time, of course, will tell.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

When you have five dog beds scattered around the den,

how do you choose among them?

If you're Holden, the world's greatest dog, the answer is simple:

You eschew them all for the sleek and cool wood floor.

Click an image to see a larger version.

He is just as cute from above, by the way, poised as he is, ready to leap into action at a moment's notice.

Or not.

It was that kind of night for Holden.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Super 70 film vs. digital video

In yesterday's post, I discussed the film, The Hateful Eight, which a group of us had gone to see.  Director Quentin Tarantino shot that movie on Super 70 film, and by going to the "roadshow" of the movie, we got to see it via projectors running Super 70 prints of that film.  The movie was beautiful, wide and bright and colorful and everything I remembered 70mm film to be.  As had happened at an earlier showing, though, the last reel of the film had problems, so the projectionist had to switch to a digital copy for that reel.  We thus had the opportunity to see some scenes in both 70mm film and digital video versions.  (I have to admit that at first this change was annoying, but afterward we all agreed that it was neat that we got to see the movie both ways.)

The difference amazed and surprised me.

I am a huge fan of digital films, which are usually brighter and clearer than their 35mm film predecessors.  The first 4K digital movie I saw blew me away with how much better it was than the 35mm version.

In this case, though, the digital version was a sad counterpart to its 70mm sibling.  The Super 70 version was brighter, more saturated with color, and simply better in every way than the digital version.  Perhaps this is something Tarantino arranged by doing a less than optimum digital rendering, but that seems unlikely.  Regardless of the reason, though, in at least this case, film won hands-down.  The difference made me wish I could see every movie in Super 70.

As odd as it sounds, if you make it to the roadshow of The Hateful Eight, hope for the last reel to fail again so you can see this difference.  It really was amazing.

Monday, December 28, 2015

The Hateful Eight

A group of us today went to see the special "roadshow" version of this film, Quentin Tarantino's eighth.  The roadshow release runs three hours, includes an overture and an intermission, and is on Super 70mm film; the participating theaters temporarily install the necessary projectors.

The movie is classic Tarantino:  sharp-edged, funny, with dialog that's both cutting and full of foul language, and laden with moments of outrageous violence and gore.  It is definitely not for the weak of heart.

If our group is any indication, and I suspect it is, how much you will enjoy the movie is something you already know:  if you like Tarantino's other films, you're going to like this one, and if you don't like his other work, this one isn't going to suit you, either.  If you've never seen a Tarantino movie, then the degree to which you like violent action flicks is probably the best--though not a perfect--predictor of how you'll feel about The Hateful Eight.

I'm not going to say anything about the storyline, because the fewer preconceptions you bring into the theater, the better.  Just go and let it unroll in front of you.

As you might expect, I very much enjoyed this movie.  I'm hard-pressed to rank Tarantino's films, but this one was definitely a fine addition to his oeuvre.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Health update

Enough folks have emailed me about my health that I thought I'd post an update.

Basically, I'm getting better, but not as quickly as I'd like.  I'm sleeping about 14 hours a day and accomplishing almost nothing with the 10 or so hours I'm awake.  I take it easy, read, shower, watch movies and TV shows, and fall behind on my goals, but I heal.  Every day I feel a little bit better, cough a little less, and so on.  I'm still on antibiotics and a cough suppressant for sleeping, but I am definitely making progress.

The most remarkable aspect of all of this is that after all these days of so much sleep, I go to bed exhausted and have to make myself get out of bed after all those hours in it.  I'm not depressed; I'm just exhausted.

So, getting better, but not well yet.  I trust I will be well before the New Year kicks off in grand work style.


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