January Favorites

I know that I’ve been a bit all over the place with update schedules (and I completely dropped the ball on my daily photo resolution this weekend)  but I thought this might be a nice time to just do an end-of-month recap!


What can I say, I really loved this movie. I cannot recommend it enough. My write-up was really long, I know, but please consider seeing it. It didn’t get 9 Oscar nominations for nothing! Run, do not walk, to go see it.

Seeing an old friend after 10+ years

In 2004, I met my friend Tammy at nerd camp. As per usual for me, we fell out of touch over the years. BUT our friendship was rekindled in the past few years as we both struggled with the decision to leave the pre-med life. She helped me a lot with the decision to walk away from something I was no longer happy to do. She was in town this past weekend — and actually used to live in the building next to mine! — so we caught up for brunch. It was a lot of fun to see her again after soooooo long.

We didn’t take any photos Sunday, so here is — apparently — the most recent photo of us. From 2004. I’ll let you guess who is me and who is Tammy (and who is everyone else).


Kale chips

Okay, so. I have been 5 months potato chip-clean. Prior to this, I was eating an entire family-sized bag of crispy, crunchy goodness every day. Maybe two bags a day. It was bad. I’m finally getting control of my life back to the point where I am not thinking about chips all day, every day. (It was a serious problem, there was a lot of crying.)

I also haven’t been eating as healthily as I should be, so I went and bought a big bag of kale the last time I went grocery shopping and tried my hand at making some kale chips.

YOU GUYS they were surprisingly so tasty and practically healthy! My recipe is simple:

Put washed and dried kale on a baking sheet. (Removing stalks optional.) Drizzle olive oil over top. Sprinkle seasonings (salt, pepper, garlic powder, Old Bay, whatever) over top BUT be sure to sprinkle sparingly. Use less than you think you’ll need, as kale shrinks significantly when roasting. Massage oil+seasoning into the kale until all coated. Put in oven at 375-400°F for 20 minutes.

Super yummy, really easy, almost healthy, and helps avoid potato-chip relapse.

Chinese sausage (lapchang)

I went vegetarian a few years ago and I was doing just fine with that. But there were 3 reasons I could not fully give up meat:

  1. Korean barbecue
  2. Hotpot/shabu-shabu
  3. Chinese sausage

That’s how good Chinese sausage is, you guys. If you haven’t had it before, it’s a cured sausage that has a lot of rendered fat in it. It tastes sweet and is juicy and makes everything taste good. I’m planning on attempting a recipe that I have never tried before featuring Chinese sausage so keep an eye out for that! And go buy a package if you know what’s good for you. I just added a sausage to some leftovers I wasn’t really thrilled about finishing and I ate every last morsel.

Peanut butter in ramen

I’ve heard this as a “hack” for ramen many, many times, but I was always very hesitant to try it. After all, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it! I love ramen and my specific brands of instant noodles; why would I do anything to alter it?

But peanut butter is real good, lemme tell ya. It thickens the broth a bit and adds a little sumfin-sumfin to the whole ramen experience. Adding a dollop of peanut butter is now part of my standard ramen process, along with adding veggies and poaching an egg.

Studying for the GMAT

At first, I was going to say that I love being post-GMAT. While I like it, I think I actually liked being in the throes of GMAT-studying just a wee bit more. Am I a masochist? Maybe. But it felt nice to have been able to — however temporarily — discipline myself to follow a study schedule and to be able to measure my progress concretely by ways of score increases. Being in-between full-time jobs as I am, I really miss having a more rigid structure in my day and being able to see improvements or progress in a concrete way.

Most of these were food-related, but who’s surprised?

February holds a lot of promise, I think. Chinese New Year is coming up! And right before then, I’ll be giving something up for Lent as per my annual tradition now. Valentine’s Day is coming up and I’m going to be mixing it up a bit this year for that.

PLUS look how gorgeous February looks on a [US] calendar [where the week begins on Sunday]:

  • Tell me about your January! What were some of your fond memories?

Birdman (2014)

Oh, where do I start with Birdman. It was so different, so bold, so ambitious, but it pulled off what it was looking to achieve so perfectly.

The thought I had consistently throughout this film was how meta it is. The film was a really thoughtful satire about acting, theater, Hollywood, critics, Michael Keaton’s career, and more. Extremely self-aware, extremely reflective. So good.

I don’t want to spoil anything, but one of my favorite things about this film was how it played with audience expectations. I’ll talk more about it after the trailer, but let me tease you by saying it reminded me of Magritte. This movie was so introspective that it made me think of surrealist art. My friends and I left the theater feeling like we had left one of our humanities seminars in college.

First of all, it stars Michael Keaton as Riggan Thompson, a washed up actor who previously found fame starring in comic book superhero films “Birdman”. You did hear me mention that this film satirizes Michael Keaton’s acting career, right? Maybe it would have been a more subtle satire if they had cast a different actor, but it was so perfect with Keaton playing the role himself. (For those not in the know, Michael Keaton is most famous for playing Batman in Tim Burton’s films Batman and Batman Returns.) The movie mirrors his career very closely; at one point, he cites how the last Birdman movie he did was in 1992, which is the year that Batman Returns was released.

Michael Keaton is great. What a stupendous performance. I really know him best from Beetlejuice, actually, but this has really opened my eyes to Michael Keaton as an actor. Amazing comeback performance. He delivers so simply but deliberately. Just excellent work on his part.

I loved this movie stylistically. The pseudo-one-take style made for really great transitions that I was a big fan of. One criticism is that the shakiness of the camerawork would get distracting. It really lent an indie film feeling to it, not really in a good way. It would seem amateurish at times, to have tight shots that were wavering over an actor’s face.

But speaking of these tight shots, I really appreciated the emphasis on the actors’ monologues in this. Combined with the seamless cinematography, the monologues added to the theater feeling of this movie, which I found refreshing. How often do you watch a movie that feels a bit like watching a play? Even when Hollywood adapts plays for films, you lose that. I loved this.

I also have to really commend Edward Norton. I haven’t seen a film of his in a long while and this performance is pretty different from the ones I’ve seen in the past. He plays Mike Shiner, a diva stage actor who is incapable of much else but acting. I forgot how much I love watching Edward Norton. He is the secondary protagonist, I would argue, for this film. While he is the source of most of the comic moments in the film, there’s this darkness in his character that we see slowly being resolved over the course of the movie. This is the kind of role that makes you an Edward Norton fan, trust me.

Director Alejandro González Iñárritu did a great job and I appreciated many of his little deliberate touches. For example, in the opening shot, we see a brief glimpse – maybe a one-second cutaway – of jellyfish on the beach. If you weren’t paying attention, you wouldn’t have know what it was or you would have missed it completely. By the end of the movie, we know what this moment was, it is significant. Little things like this are so pleasing to me in movies, tying little ends together at the beginning and end of a film.

More comments after the trailer:

Read More »