18 Sep

Beginners

Why are you at a party if you’re sad?

-Anna

Want to hear our thoughts instead? LISTEN TO US TALK ABOUT Beginners ON OUR PODCAST ON ITUNES OR STITCHER!

The Setup

Hello Everyone! Welcome back, welcome back, sorry we were gone so long, but hey, things happen. The larger news is that with our return, we have a new addition to the Birthday Super Munch series! Back in August when André and Leanna were flying their lovebird-selves to various cities in Europe for their honeymoon, Ben celebrated his birthday, which means it fell on his shoulders to choose the next entry into this series. What movie did we watch this week you ask? Well if you some how missed the large text right above, we sat down to watch the much-loved, 2011 movie, Beginners: A tale of finding love amongst grief and depression and coming to terms with unexpected news.

The Food

For Beginners, we took inspiration from the idea of and references to sadness in the film. We took our own experiences with sadness and the food we eat to cope with it as the basis for this meal.

To get you into the mood for the food in this post, quickly take a look at the closest window nearby (and if there is not one, conjure up an image of it in your mind’s eye). Now, no matter what the weather is outside, place in that pink matter of yours the image of a dark grey day, that is neither cold nor warm. A day with no movement, solace not found in the potentiality of rain, because that is just an afterthought on this day. It is the Monday of a three-day weekend, and the weight and requirements of the capitalist world weighs on your shoulders, and you are in no way looking forward to the responsibility of a job tomorrow. Your mind is cluttered, dark, sad after you have just broken up with your significant other, non-significant other now, and your normally fluffy and friendly dog has no interest in offering you comfort. Despite all of this, you are a human and you have needs, the increasing pains in your midsection remind you so. You wrestle your body off of the cold and oppressively hard floor, dragging yourself over to the refrigerator to satiate yourself in any way possible. The following meal is what you find.

André here. When I think back to the saddest food I ever had, I am reminded of a time before I lived with Leanna, and had no one watching out for me to make sure I was eating balanced, wholesome meals. When I was sad, I had no desire to spend any time cooking at all. What would usually happen is I would get hungry, look in the fridge, see nothing ready to eat, and decide to eat later. Once I reached a new level of hunger, I would repeat the process, lowering my standard for what would make an acceptable meal. One day, I saw that we had Costco’s spinach and artichoke dip in the fridge, which was one of my favorite treats at the time. However, we were out of pita chips, which were my preferred dip delivery system. By some happy accident, there were tortillas in the fridge, so I decided to heap some dip on the tortilla, fold it in half, and nuke it in the microwave. In 30 seconds, I had a spinach and artichoke quesadilla ready to go. This quickly became my go-to sad meal and I ate it more times than I am willing to admit.

For this post, we recreated the meal in all of its sad glory, but this time with homemade spinach and artichoke dip, rather than the pre-bought stuff at Costco. It was important that on this day we ultimately celebrated Ben’s birthday with delicious food, and hey, we are also a food blog, and we have standards to uphold! We scooped the freshly cooked dip onto room temperature tortillas, so there was no microwave involved. This made the quesadilla much less soggy than I remember, which significantly improved the meal.

And now back to Ben. Next up, the main meal. Even when I am alone and sad, I try to still create a meal for myself that is as well-balanced as can possibly be (or at least well-balanced to my groggy, heavy, sad mind) that also takes the smallest effort humanly possible. I will grab a red pepper, and bite into it. Vegetables? Check. I find a forgotten piece of fruit in the drawer and set that aside to eat as well. Fruit? Check. But I need protein. How will I get my protein? Well I just so happen to love quality beef jerky, and thanks to packages from my mother, I normally have some nearby. Placing that next to the fruit, a pluot in this case, and the red pepper, my meal is complete. Simple, natural, with out having to really cut or open anything, I have found the nutrients to survive.

For our actual meal we decided to make our own beef jerky under the watchful guidance of one Alton Brown. Ideally we would have a dehydrator and could have created it through the correct means, but under time constraints and lack of proper tools we decided to use the oven. First, you need to freeze the meat for a short period of time so we can achieve a thin cut for proper beef jerky cooking. Place the cut pieces in a bag, and add in Alton Brown’s own marinade and let it sit overnight. From there, you essentially set your oven to an abnormally low number to recreate a dehydrator-like effect, and then just let it sit.

Congratulations. You now have one of the saddest meals in existence.

And now over to Leanna. This one may seem predictable, but it’s certainly honest. I had more pints of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to myself than I care to count during periods of extreme angst and disappointment in high school. Although I wasn’t necessarily committed to always enjoying this particular flavor, Cherry Garcia was the one that came to mind when we decided to make some ice cream because it was my first solo pint. I don’t remember exactly who or what I was upset about, although I have some idea. I do remember buying the pint and thinking to myself, “I’ll just have half.” When I got to half, I still felt hurt and helpless, so I just kept going. It helped that Cherry Garcia’s dark chocolate chunks (which are practically good for you, right?) and dark cherries (it’s a fruit, so its healthy?) are a match made in heaven for your tastebuds. The spoonfuls just fly by until you’re left with an empty container and an even emptier heart.

The Drink

Whiskey and a pack of cigarettes. It is all that can fill the void in your mind, heart, and lungs.

The Rules

While films dealing with serious themes and sadness are particularly hard to drink to, we did our best to compile the following list of rules:

  1. Drink whenever sadness is mentioned.
  2. Drink whenever the dog speaks.
  3. Drink whenever there is a still image. (Warning! This is a particularly dangerous rule.)

André’s optional rules:

  1. Drink whenever Oliver is wearing horizontal, macro stripes (it was originally just stripes, but this rule also proved dangerous).
  2. Drink whenever Oliver’s dad stares directly into the camera.
  3. Drink whenever Oliver draws.

The Movie

Before we dive into movie, open this YouTube video of the Beginners Theme Suite in another tab and then you are free to proceed.

Being that it is my Birthday Super Munch post, I have the pleasure of walking you through this film. A little history about it first: It was one of the first films I saw alone in a theater. Back when the Harvard Exit in Seattle was still a theater, on what was a particularly gray summer day, I decided to go spend my afternoon watching a romance film that those I had followed on Twitter at the time talked so glowingly about. After the film, one that I realized I deeply loved, I was blown away that it wasn’t just a typical film about a man and a woman falling in love. Instead, it touched on grief, sadness, the spontaneity of love, and a brief history of the LGBTQ rights movement.

The story itself cuts between the present and a recent past. In the past, Oliver, played by Ewan McGregor, well into his adulthood and a few years after the death of his mother, finds out his father is gay, is ready to be out and true to his self. Around the same time, his father, Hal, living a life in which he doesn’t need to hide, finds out he is in the late stages of cancer that will eventually kill him. From there, the past experiences and Oliver’s present cut between each other showing the highs and lows for both Hal and Oliver as they both find love and wrestle with the idea of death. The two time periods are expertly woven with one complimenting and providing details for the other. As the viewer, you can’t help feeling like you are right there in Oliver’s journey as you experience the difficult moments around Hal’s death, the sadness and grief that remains after his passing, and ultimately hoping that Oliver and Anna, played by Melanie Laurent, fall in love.

This is all accompanied by a beautiful soundtrack that has the feel of a musky, dark, old-timey cocktail bar, and a visual aesthetic that is equal parts dour and lively and blend together into a beautiful, and unlikely mix. That aesthetic is another thing that is expertly utilized in the film, and that ultimately results in some of the most memorable moments. Interspersed throughout the film are a couple of still image sequences that set the time and place for some of the events of the film, and one of these provides a history to the LGBTQ rights movement. The imagery in these moments are minimal, and with Oliver added as a voice-over, it can be deeply moving, and effective in understanding some of the relevant events of the film.

There is so much more I could talk about with this film, from the relationship a young Oliver has to his mother to the importance of seeing a comfortable and normal homosexual relationship on screen. That is all to say that you should definitely watch this film.

The Reviews

André: Never gets old. I’ve seen Beginners multiple times, and I love it each time. The whole cast is excellent, every major and minor character is interesting to me, and the main plot and subplots are equally interesting. The movie brings a lot of personality to the table, with it’s simple illustrations, jazzy soundtrack, and artful cinematography, all of which I really enjoy. I remember watching it for the first time just because the cover looked interesting and Netflix thought I would like it. I never thought it would become one of my favorite movies.

Leanna: A refreshing balance of the joy in spontaneity versus the struggles of coping with depression. This was my second time watching this movie, and it was just as delightful and moving as the first, if not more so. The film is expertly cast, and I thoroughly enjoyed Ewan McGregor’s subdued and honest performance as someone who is battling depression on a daily basis but still searching for some sun amongst the clouds. My inner designer appreciated his drawings even if nobody else did, and his relationship with his dog, one he inherited from his father, is just too good.

Ben: 90%. That score shouldn’t be surprising to anyone, but I deeply love this film. Beginners, indirectly, talks about depression and sadness and the effect in can have on your life – how you can still have these moments of fun and spontaneity while depression is still gnawing at your mind and ever present. In addition, to see a gay relationship on screen and one that is normal and heart-warming is a rare sight to see. Representation matters. Finally there is the aesthetic core to this film that as a designer I absolutely love, and always appreciate.

The Podcast

Yeah that’s right. We’re doing a podcast now. It’s still a little loosey-goosey at the moment as we find our voices, but we should be hitting the top of the iTunes charts before too long. We just have to figure out how to get a podcast on iTunes first. We didn’t even plan on posting this one but liked it enough after recording it that we thought we’d share it. Expect more thoughts on the movie from all of us, as well as a few comedic bits. Let us know what you think!

You look like you want to hear about our thoughts! LISTEN TO US TALK ABOUT BEGINNERS ON OUR PODCAST ON ITUNES OR STITCHER!