Wednesday, November 07, 2007

top chef

1. S.A.D.

Fall makes me sad. Well, I think not-writing also makes me sad, but I’d prefer to blame the weather, because that can be addressed via such things as:

  • coats (I love coats)
  • baking (I love carbs)
  • those light bulb hats that they give people with Seasonal Affective Disorder (I’ve never worn one, but I bet I’d love it if I could find the right coat to go with it).

Last night AK and I baked a frozen pizza (that counts as baking, right?) and watched Ratatouille, which very much lived up to the hype. Whereas lots of talking animals in movies are really just people with fur, Remy and friends maintain many rat-like qualities which create much of the plot and humor of the film: A rat wants to be a chef, but the problem is, he’s a rat.

Brad Bird chooses just the right moments to ask us to suspend our disbelief (of course a rat can cook, and with a little help from his human friends, he can open a restaurant) and to keep it intact (of course the health inspector isn’t going to stand for such a thing). It’s a testament to his filmmaking that the movie’s precise (il)logic always feels seamless and organic.

2. buy me a drink and ask me about pokemon-as-vietnam-war sometime

I like to read cartoons as political allegory whenever possible, so watching Remy constantly debate whether to emerge from under his human beard’s chef hat and come out as the real star chef, I couldn’t help but get all Queer Studies 101.

In the end (spoiler alert!) Remy opens a bistro that is staffed behind the scenes by rats, a fact that only an enlightened few know. The health inspectors of the world have not yet come around. The message seems to be: We’re on our way, but the DL is alive and well. Kind of bittersweet for a Disney ending.

3. i got up at 6:15 and went to my day job

I also loved food critic Anton Ego’s speech about the critic’s most useful role being the discovery of the new, not the bashing of the bad.

And I usually don’t get excited about DVD extras—I figure deleted scenes were deleted for a reason—but I highly recommend the bonus features “Your Friend the Rat” and “Fine Food and Film.” The latter juxtaposes Brad Bird and chef Thomas Keller talking about the ways they work and get inspired, underscoring the universalities of the creative process. One similarity: Both those dudes work long hours and are clearly perfectionists.

Just like when I see movies about professional athletes, I was hit with an overwhelming desire to be really hardcore. To get up at 5 a.m. to do something—write, run five miles, whatever. To tear my hair out over something that appears, to mere mortals, to be complete. To be a mad genius whom other people feel they can never really know.

Of course there are a million reasons why I don’t really want to be that person, and at least a few reasons why I have come to believe that many good artists live well-rounded lives. Even Remy managed to merge his chef life and his family life. I just hope that part wasn’t fantasy.


Ms. Q said...

Wow, that's really interesting that you see an artist at work and get a burning desire to get up early and be a perfectionist.
I have a mirror image of that experience where I stay up till 2am watching TV and then oversleep, throw on whatever clothes I put my hands on first, dash off to work without a shower and then tell myself that's because I have an artistic personality. I'm not an ARTIST, I just suck at everyday life like one.
How interesting to observe that real-life artists are more work-aholic perfectionists than lazy slobs.
From now on I think I'll have to use my back-up explanation for my lazy slob behavior: I'm a drug addict who has done a great job of avoiding actually being addicted to drugs.

Jamie Asaye FitzGerald said...

Oh, to be hardcore. I fantasize about having the genetic predisposition for that:)

Cheryl said...

Ms. Q: I like the way you think! But keep in mind that the key word is "desire." I didn't get up early and do anything but get on the Metro, although I did read a little bit on the train. Does that count? Keep up the good creative-adjacent work!

J: The genetic predisposition, or the speed.

Don Cummings said...

It's a ferocious world out there...And day jobs jobs. Keep up the good work, the ratty comments--and I agree, critics are there to find the new, otherwise, they're just gossip hounds. Boo.
Thanks for coming to the bookstore last night and your comment. You wanna link blogs?

Cheryl said...

"Linking blogs" sounds so scandalous! So of course I'm in. I already put a link to Open Trench on mine. (Note to other comments section readers: Check out Don's blog, Open Trench; see my blog roll for the link. He's a funny man. You won't regret it.)

Marsh said...

Law Students 1 and 2 on observing "Ratatouille" billboard last year:

LS1: Great, another animated movie about an anthropomorphic rodent pursuing a career totally unsuitable to its species.

LS2: Can you relate?

Cheryl said...

Those law students are funny. They should write a book or something. :-)