Meet Me in St. Louis

If you’re looking for a nice weekend getaway from Nashville, St. Louis is a great place to go!  If you’re looking for more mainstream touristy options, the Arch, any sporting event, the Budweiser factory, or one of the countless (free!) museums are great options– even the zoo is free!  But, if you’re looking to get more of a glimpse into local life, you’ve got some great options as well.

Eat.

          St. Louis has some fabulous culinary offerings, both vegan and traditional.  Here’s a few options, nearby other exciting things to do.

Fuzzy’s

          Fuzzy’s is a fast-casual Tex-Mex restaurant, in between Chipotle style food and typical Mexican restaurant food.  They’ve got burrito bowls, tacos, burritos, and more.  Their guacamole is great, and they’ve got a special seasoning on their tortilla chips. All this food leaves you with lots of options; you’ve also got at least three dozen delicious drink options to choose from, too.  You can add any beer or even a test tube serving of hard liquor to any frozen drink, for around $10.

Seedz Café

          This café is a vegan paradise!  They’ve got a delicious vegan brunch, including “eggs” benedict, breakfast sandwiches, and French toast. Rather than any French fries as sides, they serve spring mix salad with one of the best dressings I’ve ever had.  They even have a small bakery case, with some pretty phenomenal donuts, as you can see. They change their menu for dinner and offer even more amazing dishes.  They’re also great in regards to sustainability—all glass cups, compostable to go boxes, and more.  If you’re interested in sampling some vegan fare, grab a sprinkle donut and see how amazing it can be!

Clementine’s

          This is one of my favorite places in STL!  I go at least once every time I’m in town, sometimes more than once.  Clementine’s is known for “Naughty and Nice” ice cream, and has close to 40 flavors at any given time.  The “Naughty” flavors are alcoholic, and you’ve got to be 21+ to order them.  Flavors include Chocolate Cabernet, Pink Champagne Sorbet, and at least three other alcoholic ones.  Nice flavors are all ages, and can include flavors like S’mores, Cereal Milk, and Poppyseed.  They’ve even got vegan flavors made out of coconut milk!

Drink.

Westport Social

          Super cool bar with all kinds of entertainment!  Show up early and catch a meal, or play basketball, foosball, shuffleboard, ping pong, and more!  Similar to Clyde’s in Nashville in regards to the set up, it’s definitely a happening place on a Saturday night.  If you wanna save a little money, go get a giant frozen margarita next door at Fuzzy’s before you head to the bar.

Bailey’s Chocolate Bar

          A bar entirely dedicated to chocolate!  This is a drink and dessert bar where everything includes chocolate.  Beautiful décor with a simple menu, great for a date night or a girls’ night out.

Play.

Union Station

          A newly-renovated structure downtown, Union Station is home to many different activities to keep you busy for hours.  And it’s so new, many locals are still checking it out!  There’s a giant Ferris wheel that gives a great view of the city; it even has a drink stand outside with Budweiser and hot chocolate (boozy or not!). At $15 a ticket, it is definitely worth the price if you go at night to see all the lights.

          Union Station is also home to the new St. Louis Aquarium.  Opened less than a year, the building itself is beautiful. However, the aquarium leaves something to be desired.  Since STL is located right on the Mississippi River, many of the animals throughout the aquarium are river animals, so it’s not as exciting as other aquariums that have a majority saltwater animals.  I assume as the years go by they will add more animals, but right now there are very few things to look at; you can get through the whole aquarium in about 30 minutes, if you don’t intentionally take your time at each exhibit.  One cool thing on display though is a blue crab, donated by a Boston seafood restaurant after the Blues beat the Bruins for the Stanley Cup.  Unless you just love river fish, or you have children, the aquarium just isn’t worth the price tag. I’ll save you some money; here’s the one shark tank they have on exhibit:

          While at Union Station, stick around for the fire show!  Similar to other place’s dancing fountains, the water feature here does a fire show, with bursts of flames rising out of the water synchronized to music.  It’s very cool, and free!  There are also several restaurants, a carousel, and mini golf here too.

Downtown St. Charles

          Take a step back in time as you walk along the stone streets looking at historical houses.  You can easily spend 3-5 hours walking along this street, popping into restaurants, stores, and boutiques.  You can find just about everything on this street, from gourmet food, to homegood stores, to cookie and ice cream shops to antiques and cutesy clothing boutiques.  All the homes are over 200 years old, but if you get tired of admiring them you can walk across the street and walk along the river’s edge. “

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

With the impressive showing of the South Korean film Parasite at the Oscars and other various awards shows this season, I want to speak this into existence for 2020: Foreign films need to be more mainstream.

We are blessed in Nashville to have several theaters that show foreign films on a regular basis, so they are always pretty accessible. Did you know that the 100 Oaks Regal theater always has at least three Bollywood films showing on any given day?

After your first couple foreign films, “reading” the story becomes second nature and you can focus on the movie as a whole. Deep, meaningful plots, experimental styles, all while learning a few new phrases in another language– what’s not to love?

One film that garnered the attention of many audiences during festival season is releasing next Friday, February 20th at the Belcourt Theater in Hillsboro Village (and many other locations worldwide, of course). Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a French film portraying the story of star-crossed lovers, sure to tug on your heart strings.

Set in 1770 France, an artist and a young woman betrothed to another form a friendship that eventually leads to more. The movie portrays their relationship from beginning to end, and is sure to remind you of your own fleeting romances.

The two leading ladies are absolutely captivating. Their seemingly delicate personalities give way to passion and humor as the story progresses. While the beginning of the movie is quite slow, from the 30 minute mark on, it is hard to look away. Their chemistry together is perfect, balancing their desire for one another with their circumstances. One even remarks, “Do lovers always feel as if they’re inventing something new?”

There are several breathtaking scenes during the course of the movie, including the scene from with the title is taken. The ending is spectacular as well, although hopeless romantics will likely be disappointed.

If you’re looking to try out a foreign film sometime in the near future, this may be the one for you IF: you’re a fan of romance dramas, not offended by nudity, and prefer artsy movie styles rather than blockbuster hits. If that doesn’t sound like you (and that’s okay!), I have plenty of Bollywood recommendations for you that would fit your style.

Watch the preview here: https://vimeo.com/385126235.

The Rhythm Section

A vague, catchy title, a trio of A (minus) list actors, and an action-filled trailer: what could go wrong? Well, it turns out, a lot. . .

Blake Lively plays a struggling twenty-something who is trying to accept her new reality. Three years prior to the opening scene, her entire family died in a plane crash, and she is on a mission for revenge.

I could have slept through the first 75 minutes of the movie and not missed anything. . . I’d say it was a slow burn of a beginning, but there was nothing burning about it. There was only one mildly interesting scene in this time frame, and that was when Jude Law showed up an hour into the film.

The writer tried to throw in a few twists towards the end, however they were completely predictable. I know I watch a lot of movies, so I know what to expect, but if I saw it coming twenty minutes before it happened, then I’m sure you will be able to guess them too.

The ending was satisfying, as it showed Lively’s character finally growing into her skin, but it was too little too late. I realized as the credits rolled that something was missing the entire time, but I couldn’t quite place it. The main actors don’t spend enough time with each other on-screen for me to fairly say they have no chemistry– they didn’t have the opportunity to show any. The few action scenes that were in the movie were infuriating. Lively’s character, a DIY spy trained by an ex-MI6 agent, realistically should have died in every mission she embarked upon. She was inexperienced and careless, yet she somehow managed to avoid any major injuries when tracking and attacking professional terrorists.

The cinematography was blah, the plot was less than thrilling, and the acting was average. If I were you, I’d skip this one.

This Month in Review: January 2020

Below are all of the movies I have watched throughout the month, along with the rating I would give each one.

Now in Theaters

“Prati Roju Pandage” – 5/10
“Dark Waters” – 8/10
“Little Women” – 8/10
“1917” – 9.5/10
“Underwater” – 5/10
“Dolittle” – 2.5/10
“The Gentlemen” – 4.5/10
“Jojo Rabbit” – 10/10
Oscar Shorts Nominations: Animation and Live Action – 9.5/10

Streaming and Home Release

“Catch Me if You Can” – 9/10
“The Two Popes” – 9/10
“A Vigilante” – 5.5/10
“Kingsman: The Secret Service” – 9/10
“Kingsman: Gold Circle” – 9/10
“The Sun is Also a Star” – 1.5/10
“Imagine That!” – 5/10
“Gulliver’s Travels” – 5/10
“Pretty Woman” – 8/10
“Unknown” – 7/10
“Judy” – 6/10
“Tell Me Who I Am” – 4.5/10
“Pain and Glory” – 5.5/10
“For Sama” – 7.5/10

One Movie I loved: “The Two Popes,” Stream it on Netflix!
One Movie I hated: “The Sun is Also a Star”…. DON’T stream it on HBO
One Movie I’m looking forward to: Wendy
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKktQFFcXL0)


Yearly Movie Total: 23


Oscar Predictions 2020

My favorite night of the year is quickly approaching, and it’s time for me to make my Oscar predictions!  Below is my list of winners, both who I want to win, and who I think will win.  Tune in February 9th on ABC to see who wins!

Find the full list of 2020 Oscar nominations here: https://oscar.go.com/nominees

Best Picture:

Who I want to win: “Jojo Rabbit

Who I think will win: 1917

Additional thoughts:

            This year’s best picture is a tight race.  1917 has been campaigning hard, and with its success at other award shows this season, it is definitely possible it will take the big prize.  At its heels is Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino’s penultimate film.  With a star-studded cast and a brilliant script, it’s possible OUATIH could take the win, especially since its one of Tarantino’s final chances for the prize.  A fierce (VERY deserving underdog) is Jojo Rabbit.  Given the Academy’s penchant for choosing quirky, meaningful films like Shape of Water and Birdman, this lesser-known film could surprise everyone and take home the night’s biggest prize.  While there is lots of press and popularity surrounding Joker, I do not think it holds up to its competition in this category.

Lead Actor:

Who I want to win: Leonardo DiCaprio, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

Who I think will win: Joaquin Phoenix, “Joker

Lead Actress:

Who I want to win: Renee Zellweger, “Judy”

Who I think will win: Saoirse Ronan, “Little Women”

Additional Thoughts

            This category is a complete toss up, however I think it’s between Saoirse Ronan or Renee Zellweger.  Harriet was a beautiful movie and Cynthia Erivo did a superb job in her role, I do not think the Academy will select her over the more well-known names.

Supporting Actor:

Who I want to win: Tom Hanks, “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” OR Anthony Hopkins, “The Two Popes”

Who I think will win: Brad Pitt, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

Supporting Actress:

Who I want to win: Kathy Bates, “Richard Jewell”

Who I think will win: Laura Dern, “Marriage Story”

Director:

Who I want to win: Sam Mendes, “1917”

Who I think will win: Sam Mendes, “1917”

Animated Feature:

Who I want to win: “Toy Story 4,”  Josh Cooley

Who I think will win: “Toy Story 4,”  Josh Cooley

Animated Short:

Who I want to win: “Memorable,” Bruno Collet

Who I think will win: “Hair Love,” Matthew A. Cherry

Additional Thoughts:  All the nominees are absolutely stunning, I had a hard time choosing between Dcera and Memorable, and Sister’s animation style is beautiful.  Since they’re all short, you should give them all a try!  (*The best I could do on the foreign ones is the trailer…)

“Dcera,” Daria Kashcheeva https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0K4iTXElx4E
“Hair Love,” Matthew A. Cherry https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNw8V_Fkw28
“Kitbull,” Rosana Sullivan https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZS5cgybKcI
“Memorable,” Bruno Collet https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=heKo4wLYIAg
“Sister,” Siqi Song  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jvkonayXWHw

Adapted Screenplay:

Who I want to win: “Jojo Rabbit,” Taika Waititi

Who I think will win: “The Irishman,” Steven Zaillian

Original Screenplay:

Who I want to win: “Parasite,” Bong Joon-ho, Jin Won Han

Who I think will win: “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Quentin Tarantino

Cinematography:

Who I want to win: “1917,” Roger Deakins

Who I think will win: “1917,” Roger Deakins

Best Documentary Feature:

Who I want to win: “For Sama,” Waad Al-Kateab, Edward Watts

Who I think will win: “The Cave,” Feras Fayyad

Best Documentary Short Subject:

Who I want to win: “Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone,” Carol Dysinger

Who I think will win: “St. Louis Superman,” Smriti Mundhra and Sami Khan

Best Live Action Short Film:

Who I want to win: “Nefta Football Club,” Yves Piat OR “A Sister,” Delphine Girard

Who I think will win: “The Neighbors’ Window,” Marshall Curry

Additional Thoughts:  All the nominees in this category are also absolutely stunning.  You may want to watch them all separately; some of the subject matter is pretty heavy, and watching them all back to back is overwhelming.  If you do want to try them all in one sitting, save NEFTA for last, it’s the most lighthearted. (Unfortunately, only the previews are available online for the final two nominations).

“Brotherhood,” Meryam Joobeu https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sN67UI7psYo r
“Nefta Football Club,” Yves Piat https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YP30vp2mCeg
“The Neighbors’ Window,” Marshall Curry https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k1vCrsZ80M4
“Saria,” Bryan Buckley https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xRl_nhESIE
“A Sister,” Delphine Girard https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJw9UrewSAA

Best International Feature Film:

Who I want to win: “Parasite,” Bong Joon Ho

Who I think will win: “Parasite,” Bong Joon Ho

Film Editing:

Who I want to win: “Parasite,” Jinmo Yang

Who I think will win: “The Irishman,” Thelma Schoonmaker

Sound Editing:

Who I want to win: “Ford v Ferrari,” Don Sylvester

Who I think will win: “1917,” Oliver Tarney, Rachel Tate


Sound Mixing:

Who I want to win: “Ford v Ferrari”

Who I think will win: “1917”

Production Design:

Who I want to win: “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Barbara Ling and Nancy Haigh

Who I think will win: “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Barbara Ling and Nancy Haigh

Original Score:

Who I want to win: “Little Women,” Alexandre Desplat

Who I think will win: “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” John Williams

Original Song:

Who I want to win:  “I’m Gonna Love Me Again,” “Rocketman”

Who I think will win: “Into the Unknown,” “Frozen 2”

Makeup and Hair:

Who I want to win: “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil”

Who I think will win: “Joker”

Costume Design:

Who I want to win: “Little Women,” Jacqueline Durran

Who I think will win: “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” Arianne Phillips

Visual Effects:

Who I want to win: “Avengers Endgame”

Who I think will win: “The Irishman”

BE Hive

This is one of my favorite hidden gems in Nashville!! It can be found in a tiny strip mall in East Nashville, and if you’re lucky enough to find a parking place, you will not be disappointed.  At first glance, you’ll see it’s dive bar meets deli.  As soon as you walk in, it’s a very industrial and grunge look, but don’t let that discourage you.  There are very few seats inside, so it’s definitely best for take out. 

If you’re looking for take out, they have a standard menu featuring Nacho Tots (featured below), Crunchwraps, and various deli sandwiches.  They also generally have one special each weekend, whatever the chef’s heart desires:  most recently was a phenomenal French Onion Dip Sandwich.

Vegan Nacho Tots

On top of serving some phenomenal chef-prepared food, they are also a full service vegan deli counter.  They have everything you could think of:  blocks of various cheeses, TRKY, Roast BEef, Pepperonis, sausages, chicken, and several thicknesses of seitan.  They even have prepared dressings like Ranch and Caesar.  They also have a new line of cBEd products, which includes some cookie dough (In case you haven’t caught on, most products play on their “BE” Hive name).

Don’t let the exterior scare you off, inside is some of the (if not THE) most delicious vegan foods in Nashville.  Follow their Facebook or Instagram to find out their specials every week, and check them out on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 – 4.

http://bethehive.com/

Dolittle

Robert Downey Jr.’s first movie following his epic run as Ironman is none other than Dolittle, a classic children’s adventure film in which he can speak to animals.

This movie has an all-star cast: John Cena, Kumail Nanjiani, Emma Thompson, Selena Gomez, Craig Robinson, and Octavia Spencer all provide voice-overs for the animals in this film. These animals, along with Antonio Banderas as a villain, make the movie mildly enjoyable. There are a few good jokes throughout, and a very memorable climax, so it was not completely torturous. But. . .

RDJ.

Robert.

When we first meet RDJ, he is a scraggly recluse, living in a mansion speaking to his animals. We get to hear him make gorilla noises, bird squawks, mouse squeaks, and more, which is shockingly not as terrible as his Welsh accent he adopts when speaking “human.” He is his same old cranky self, but it does not play as well as it does when he is an Avenger. The main antagonist, played by Michael Sheen, is even more dreadful than RDJ.

I’m not sure if it’s because I have such a soft spot for Eddie Murphy in Doctor Dolittle, or if I read too much about it beforehand, but it was a tough 100 minutes to get through. However, overhearing about a dozen people as we were leaving, other adults (including my fiancé) actually liked the film. It’s a toss up. . . If you see it, let me know where you stand!

AppleTV's Servant

Now that all the episodes have been released, I feel like I can adequately review Servant, Apple TV’s thriller tv show directed and produced by legendary M. Night Shyamalan.

I had high hopes going into this– I am a huge Shyamalan fan, and after seeing the suspenseful previews for months I finally broke down and got a subscription so I could watch it.

This is a show detailing the lives of a young married couple who recently lost their newborn son. To help the wife cope with the loss, they got a doll made to resemble their deceased child. Due to a mental breakdown, the wife Dorothy treats the doll just as a real human baby. The first episode starts with her hiring a nanny for her doll/son.

The show is a slow burning one; the ever-present creepy music always seems as if something sinister is about to happen. Unfortunately, it almost never does. I can count on one hand the times I was actually surprised. The threat of it is always there, but it’s as if the writer relies solely on the feeling of suspense rather than writing any event of substance. You’re lucky if you get one “Wow, how creepy,” moment per episode.

The cast is just meh. The main couple — Dorothy and Sean– are some of the most disappointing. Sean ( both the character and the actor who portrays him) is hard to watch. Grumpy, brooding, and always gossiping about his wife to his brother-in-law Julian, he does not add much to the show. His portrayal as a husband/father who just lost their only child is so unrealistic, it makes everything about him seem inauthentic. Dorothy is slightly better, but something about her is just unnerving. The nanny Leanne, played by Nell Tiger Free, was a perfect casting for the role. Meek, sweet yet creepy, she is one of the most (if not THE most) thrilling parts of the show. Rupert Grint shines as the brother-in-law: angry yet protective, suspicious yet dismissive.

Weirdly enough, given it is a Shyamalan show, there is not a twist ending. The ending seems to attempt two surprises in its final moments, however both are referenced earlier in the episode. The only real, unexpected surprise in the whole season comes in episode nine, when you find out how their son Jericho actually dies.

If you are considering paying for AppleTV just to check out this show, I wouldn’t recommend it. The slow burn and the tension that builds throughout the season never amounts to much, and it did not live up to my expectations. If you already have an AppleTV subscription and are a thriller/horror fan, then you may enjoy this show. Be warned: You may want to watch it sooner rather than later. Filmmaker Francesca Gregorini is suing Apple and M. Night Shyamalan for stealing her story from a 2013 movie about the same subject matter, so it may get pulled from the app soon. (https://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/tv/ct-ent-servant-apple-lawsuit-20200117-6qutorfv5faijben7cqpph3xaa-story.html)

Production has begun on season two already. But if they don’t add more blatant horror or excitement, I doubt it will make it to season three.

Underwater

I went into this movie with zero expectations. I knew it was a thriller, I knew it was about some workers in a station on the ocean floor, and I knew it was Kristen Stewart, but that was about it. . . . An odd combination. When we arrived at the theater, we were the youngest members of the audience by at least 30 years, which added to the confusion.

The movie was not horrible. It had a quick beginning and included lots of jump scares as the members of the oil rig crew tried to figure out how to survive once their station began collapsing, seven miles down into the ocean. It lasted only 96 minutes and nearly all of the time was spent in survival mode, so it did not give you a chance to get bored. The story was moderately interesting; you find out about 20 minutes into the movie what is causing the destruction of the rig. My fiancé and I enjoyed guessing what was to blame beforehand– I was closer to being right than he was.

For those of you who hate Kristen Stewart (and I know there are many of you), this is one of her more digestible roles. For the most part, she is too busy being a badass for you to focus on her lack of acting abilities. However in the last 20 minutes of the movie, there are a couple of cringey moments as she tries to feign some emotion towards one of her coworkers. The awkwardness of the encounter is soon lost in another jump scare. The ending is very predictable, but it’s not like I was expecting anything profound.

This movie was overwhelmingly average. If you enjoyed the tension of 47 Meters Down, you will likely enjoy this movie as well, however save your money. Wait a couple months until it’s on Netflix.

1917 in Regal 4DX

I had the pleasure of seeing Sam Mendes’s 1917 in the 4DX theater at Opry Mills, and WOW what an experience. Let’s dive into the actual theater first, and then I’ll get into the movie.

The signage outside the theater reads like an amusement park ride. Rain? Wind? Ticklers? When you walk in, there are seats in groups of four, just as you’d see in a 4D thrill ride. While the seats are not as comfortable as theater recliners, the experience is well worth it. The seats have airholes in the headrest for bursts of air to rush by your head. The seat in front of you emits a mist during water scenes of the movie. Industrial size fans on the ceiling provide the wind, and fog machines in the front round out the atmosphere. The tops of the headrests every once in a while spray out a mist of smell, which is probably my favorite feature.

Following the movie previews, there was a special 4DX preview that showcased everything the theater had to offer. It showed a high-speed car chase; along with the aforementioned features, the seats pitched forward and side to side with the car’s every move. At the end was a crash, complete with a bumpy “landing,” a burning smell, and smoke filling the air. There were plenty of shrieks and squeals throughout the preview from the audience, as we were getting used to the set up of everything. Luckily the movie itself was not as jarring, so no squeals interrupted the story. The 4DX features provided lots of excitement, which would be great for a more “fun” movie. However, it did not lend itself very well to 1917. I highly suggest checking out the 4D screen, but maybe with something like Frozen 2 or Star Wars (the previous two films shown there).

1917

This movie was an absolute beauty. When the preview first came out, it got a lot of play time alongside the Midway preview, however it is in a completely different league. While Midway was more of a typical blockbuster war movie, 1917 is a

m a s t e r p i e c e.

While the 4DX features did pull you into the action of the movie, it honestly didn’t really need the help. Sam Mendes filmed this in the “one-take” style, which puts the viewer right alongside the two main characters. Cuts between scenes are hardly noticeable; every so often, I found myself marveling at the genius it took to create such a thing. Mendes and his crew would follow the main characters across miles of movie sets, on golf carts or even boats at one point to make sure to create a seamless shot. They practiced the scenes without a camera for months, to ensure that the hundreds of actors knew their parts perfectly before attempting to film; they didn’t even start officially filming until April 2019. The camera follows two soldiers who travel to the front lines to relay a “halt battle” message to another unit. The soldiers run across fields, through blown up towns, float through rivers, and more. The movie makes you realize how difficult solders’ lives really were, and how many developments we have made in war and in society in general.

The beauty of this movie, besides its actual creation, is that it makes war tangible. It’s not just numbers of casualties on paper, or ribbons and medals won. It was thousands of humans who wanted desperately to survive and make it back home to their families. The two main boys are just that: only boys. They make silly jokes and act like teenage boys, they miss their mothers, and they daydream about old memories when they get scared. They are all of us– and would we carry their burden so gallantly if it was us in their shoes?

Without giving too much away, the movie is mesmerizing. You will feel pain and triumph along with the characters, and you will leave feeling satisfied. This is a lovely tribute to the “Great War,” which will hopefully ignite an interest in its often-forgotten history.

*If you want to read a little more about how 1917 was created, check out these links:

https://www.fastcompany.com/90411164/how-sam-mendes-wwi-film-1917-was-made-to-look-like-it-was-shot-in-one-astounding-continuous-take

https://ew.com/awards/2020/01/07/1917-sam-mendes-roger-deakins-interview/