“Prisoners”: Kidnapping Your Mind


PrisonersThis provocative film opens with a father and son hunting in the woods, the Lord’s Prayer recited in voiceover.  The viewer sees the father, Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) as a deeply religious man, a carpenter who believes in family values and the safety of his community.  When his little girl and her friend go missing on Thanksgiving Day, the world he has believed in is destroyed. “Prisoners” is a powerful tale of human nature gone awry.  What are parents capable of in their darkest moment, when their worst nightmare happens?

Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) is put in charge of the investigation and immediately arrests a mentally compromised driver of an RV, Alex Jones (the mesmerizing Paul Dano), because his vehicle had been parked nearby.   However, due to a lack of physical evidence, Jones is released.

“Prisoners” is not for the fainthearted.  Although violent and disturbing, the twists in the multiple crimes are riveting and the clues are tautly woven together.  Detective Loki pursues different leads while both girls’ families begin to unravel.  Keller’s wife (Maria Bello) is seen mostly in fetal position, sedated and semi-comatose from the loss.  The other parents in grief and desperation (played by Terrence Howard and Viola Davis) raise serious moral issues but the viewer is left with questions unanswered.  In some ways, the extreme suspense of “Prisoners” contributes to an equally disturbing portrait of characters who are convinced they have morality on their side.Hugh Jackman



Although an unusually long film (153 minutes), “Prisoners” sucks the viewer in from the first frame.  Its portrayal of the  desperate nature of people who believe they are good, righteous God-fearing people with strong moral convictions is nothing short of dazzling.   When their view of the world turns upside down, all hell breaks loose. No more can be said about the plot, without giving away too much.  That being said,  this film is a model for screenplays, with unexpected tensions in almost every scene.  While some threads of the plot are not neatly tied together (perhaps edited out), the substance of this thriller with its astounding cast will kidnap your mind.


Mezcla–Mixing It Up South American Style


We had the pleasure of discovering this Nuevo Latino fusion restaurant on a recent trip to Montreal.  A mixture of Latino cultures, mainly Peruvian but even a dash of Chinese, made for an unforgettable experience:  a delight both visual and palatable.  Located off St. Catherine Street in what is called Gay Village or simply Le Village, this unassuming restaurant is a wonderful culinary experiment in originality.A  small bistro with no more than 20 small tables and  a lively bar in the middle, Mezcla caters to a late evening clientele. We arrived late but the dishes on the blackboard– the specials for the evening–were still mostly available. Even at 9:30  Mezcla was almost full.

The amuse bouche was a delightful small bit of duck liver in an aioli that was tinged with jalapeno and a slightly sweet aftertaste, perhaps maple syrup.  Quite an excellent start to a superb meal, a surprise little fugue before the main concert.Mezcla2


The first dish came sizzling hot: octopus served in a small cast iron pan,  placed on top of carmelized yucca with a splash of maple syrup, something we found rather unique not only to Montreal cuisine but also Vermont.

Our entrees were the braised bison short ribs served with parsnips and mushrooms in a demiglaze and crispy duck with foie gras (arepitos de pato y foie gras) with a soy glaze topped with  a sprinkle of watercress sprouts on Chinese steamed buns.

All wines were reasonably priced, including a rose cava, which is rather difficult to find in the States. This menu takes the imagination to new heights making the Nuevo Latino more accentuated on the “Nuevo” for its unbelievably  unique experimentation of flavors, mixing up the cuisines south of the border with those from around the globe.  Hope you get to try Mezcla in the future, a delightful gourmet adventure!


Inuit Art: Fusion of the Arctic and the Pacific


Inuit art has always had a profound impact on my aesthetics, almost as much as Japanese art.  The humor, minimalism, and abstraction in form combine in an original way.  On a recent visit to the Musée des Beaux Arts in Montreal, I had the memorable experience of viewing perhaps the best collection of Inuit art in the world.

What is not well known is that the Canadian printmaker, James Houston, who had trained in Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock printing, brought his technical skills to Cape Dorset in 1957 to encourage local Inuit stone carvers to learn etching, engraving, lithography and silkscreen printing to support their poverty-stricken communities.  Although the Inuit adopted the techniques from the Japanese, they radically transformed the art by capturing shamanistic rituals and cultural myths. The adaptation of technique with Inuit imagery renders the source of the techniques virtually unrecognizable.  Inuit art and ukiyo-e, to this viewer, seem as far apart as two artistic styles can be yet they intersected through the mid-century efforts and importation of knowledge from Houston.

Inuit sculpture, commonly made of whalebone, serpentine or soapstone, has deep levels of symbolism derived from shamanistic rituals.  One of my favorite sculptures in the gallery,  “Drum Beater”, is carved by the male sculptor, Karoo Ashevak (1940-1974), from whalebone and suggests a fascination with rituals of death.  Shamans guide the departed spirit to a new life, through dance, beating the drum, and often while wearing masks.  The face on the figure is not a human face, but suggestive of a skull or spirit straddling between the world of the living and the world of the dead, the world of humans and the world of animals. Transfixed by the departed’s spirit or perhaps in a trance, the shaman is calling upon the forces of nature to hear the community. The execution of this whalebone sculpture reveals not only a master of the macabre, as in much of Inuit art, but also a humorist’s bold and confident flourish.

And perhaps the most fascinating printmaker among the Inuit is the illustrious woman printmaker Kenojuak Ashevak (1927-2013).  Part of Houston’s Cape Dorset guild, these printmakers became world renowned for their vivid, modernistic prints of extraordinary form and composition.  Kenojuak Ashevak  “Illustrious Owl,” selected as a symbol for Canada and memorialized on a postage stamp, epitomizes the extraordinary line and imagery of the Inuit.  More attention to this sensational art is needed! Inuit Owl


Michael’s on the Hill–A Green Restaurant in the Green Mountain State


We were delighted to dine at Michael’s on the Hill last week while we were on the East Coast.  Located in Waterbury (on the Stowe, Vermont border), this small restaurant in a charming turn-of-the-19th century farmhouse captivated us from the moment we sat down.  Their vegetable garden provides some of the produce for the menu, emphasizing the farmer-chef connection, aka farm-to-table.

The ambience is eclectic:  New England antiques with bold black and white woodcuts (3’x 4′ prints) on several walls in a dining room with  dark wood beams and molding. The menu changes seasonally as expected from a restaurant that was the first certified Green restaurant in the Green Mountain state.

I started with the crispy Rhode Island calamari with frisée, reggiano and capers, which was a knockout.  The calamari were sautéed–not until crispy– in a very light batter, more like a dusting of color than anything else.  What made this salad so unusual is that the olive oil from the calamari was the only oil provided for the salad.  A strong zesty lemon and light touch of balsamic completed the dressing, making the salad light and extraordinary. Next was a Maine crab cake with fennel, basil and roasted corn purée.  We have had lots of crab cakes in our foodie years, but this one was original .

For our main courses I had the herb butter poached Maine lobster with celery root gratin, braised leeks and truffles.  It was served in a small cast iron skillet, piping hot.  The syrupy vegetables, cooked until carmelized, made the lobster an incredible dish, not the usual drawn lemon and butter.  I suspected that there was a dash of the maple syrup Vermont is famous for splashed on the vegetables. I shared this dish with my husband’s cornmeal crusted Mountain Foot farm trout with herbed polenta and apples meunière.  The trout had a lovely crispy skin but I felt the apples detracted from the richness of the polenta and the unique delicate taste of the trout.  I still would order the dish, just putting the apples to the side.

And for dessert we had an incredible selection of artisanal cheeses, fruit preserves and slices of apple, melon, and champagne grapes to finish the perfect introduction to the best Vermont has to offer.   The wine list had wines we had not heard of and the local bread was so delicious I wanted to take some home.  Chef Michael Kloeti, Swiss-born and trained, and his wife Laura knock it out of the park with this superb Wine Spectator award-winning restaurant!