Friday, March 09, 2018

Spartacus and the Stooges

Celebrated a sunny, if windy, morning with oatmeal and diced peaches for breakfast while watching more Good Eats. Since I was planning on having pasta and meatballs for dinner, I thought it was the perfect time for the first "Pantry Raids" episode on pasta. Alton shows you how to cook your favorite pasta, what to cook it with, and what to put on it.

Worked on writing for the rest of the morning. Leia and Obi-Wan spend the next few days traveling. Leia's having constant nightmares about her parents' death and Luke's wherabouts. She awakens hearing a dog whimpering in one and thinking it sounded all-too-real. The girl follows the sound into the woods, where she finds a brown wolf with a very thick, shaggy coat caught in a trap. She manages to free it, while Obi-Wan heals its leg with his herbs. They bring the wolf along with them while he recovers.

The Imperial Road takes them to Death Star Fortress, on the Salt Cliffs of Crait. Obi-Wan uses his Force mind magic to convince the soldiers guarding the entrance to open the drawbridge. He and Leia pass themselves off as a man and his niece making a delivery to the kitchen, then put on cloaks as disguises to get inside.

Broke for lunch around 1:30. Continued with Good Eats pantry-themed episodes while I ate. I'm a big fan of honey on pancakes - it's cheaper than maple syrup and better for you than that sugary "pancake syrup" glop - but it has other uses as well. I've made Alton's honey mustard dressing many times, and may have to try the fruit dip sometime, too.

Ran to the grocery store after I ate. Bought a packet of spaghetti sauce mix and Parmesan cheese for my dinner. Took advantage of good sales and coupons on frozen vegetables, packs of breaded fish, clementines, another bag of the rice-pea snacks, and buy one-get-one-free sponge packs. Restocked crushed pineapple, brown sugar, whole wheat and unbleached flour, yogurt, skim milk, eggs, ground turkey, brown rice, and an onion.

My schedule for next week is...exactly the same as this week, with the exception of an additional hour on Sunday. Other than I wish they'd spread out that 8 1/2 hour day, that actually works to my advantage. I can get to the gynecologist's before going to the Haddon Township Library on Tuesday, then put in some serious writing and research next Friday and Saturday (and enjoy St. Patrick's Day next Saturday as well).

It was so late by the time I got home, I just opted to stay there and start cleaning. Did the bathroom first, then the kitchen. The bathroom in particular was kind of grungy, but the kitchen was messy, too. I was still finding uncooked rice on the stove from dinner the other night.

Watched Spartacus as I cleaned, and later as I began dinner. Kirk Douglas plays the title character, a slave who is brought to the gladitorial school of Lentulus (Peter Ustinov) after he's found to be too proud and strong-minded for regular work. Angered after he's forced to perform before ambitious senator Crassus (Laurence Olivier), he kills the trainer (Charles McGraw) and helps the other gladiators to escape. Among those joining in their crusade is Varinia (Jean Simmons), a slave of Crassus who had fallen for Spartacus after he refused to hurt her when she was sent to seduce him. They start their own army of former slaves, all of whom are ready to fight for the right to be free. The Roman Senate is far less happy with this uprising and sends Crassus with an army after young Caeser (John Gavin), the protege of the older senator Gracchus (Charles Laughton) tries to get them out of Rome. Crassus may win the battle, but he'll never win the war for the people's hearts and minds. Spartacus commands far more love from his men than the senator ever did, even after he and his men are threatened with slow death.

This used to be a favorite of Dad-Bill, who watched it quite often during my childhood. It didn't make much of an impression on me, but then I was never a big fan of the sword-and-sandals genre. I like it much better now. Stanley Kubrick may have thought Spartacus was too perfect of a character, but he did some fine work in this sprawling film. I was especially impressed with the rugged cinematography and production design. This is a very different Rome from the colorful, massive world of Cleopatra, released three years later, slightly more earthy and less soap-opera-ish. Ustinov won a Supporting Actor Oscar as the wily Lentulus. I also loved the Alex North score.

This is another movie that we're lucky got made at all. The author of the screenplay and of the original book were both blacklisted. It took John F. Kennedy crossing picket lines to see this movie and its subsequent success to end the blacklisting and bring screenwriter Dalton Trumbo back into the limelight.

If you're a fan of the cast or a good sword-and-sandals drama and have time on your hands, you may find much to like in this one.

My dinner went really, really well. Had turkey meatballs and pasta with home-made tomato sauce, pearl onions in white sauce, and broccoli. Other than I overcooked the broccoli and forgot the egg in the meatballs, my meal was absolutely amazing. I'll have to make my own tomato sauce more often.

Finished the night with The Three Stooges Meet Hercules as I had Hummingbird Cake with coffee gelato for dessert and cleaned up afterwards. Moe, Larry, and Curly Joe are druggists who accidentally end up on a time machine with a nerdy inventor and his crush and find themselves in ancient Rome. Their arrival winds up putting the nasty Odeuous on the throne of Ithaca, rather than the good Odysseus. When the boys try to rescue the right man, they end up as galley slaves. All the rowing gives the inventor muscles that rivals the legendary Hercules. Once they get their freedom, the Stooges promote their friend as Hercules...which doesn't amuse the real warrior one bit!

Amusing later-day Stooges film is buoyed by some fun bits, especially the trio with the cyclops and in the finale. Fun if you're a fan of the Stooges or the sword-and-sandal genre.

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