Son of a Gun—On Target

 

A few weeks ago we had the pleasure of going to Son of a Gun, a newish West Hollywood restaurant. Small, intimate—when we first drove by, we had to circle the block twice to find it—the food is original and delicious.

We started off with the hamachi with vinaigrette apple and radish sprouts.

Hamachi with Apples, Sprouts and Vinaigrette
Hamachi with Apples, Sprouts and Vinaigrette

Sashimi-grade yellow-fin tuna with tart apples and a light splash of rice-vinegar dressing and a sprinkling of green spouts. This precious appetizer deserves a shout-out. Next, we had the steelhead roe which was good, but not memorable, the uni with burrata and yuzu didn’t knock our socks off, and the huge mound of yellowfin tuna with avocado was just bizarre. So, stick with the hamachi!

For the entrees and small plates, we had the lobster roll—very tiny but melt-in-your-mouth delicious so we ordered two. The shrimp toast that is highly praised on Yelp as one of Son of a Gun’s best appetizers is just too deep-fried for our taste, so we would pass on it next time. The linguine with clams with an uni olio was delicious as was the cucumber salad with two kinds of cucumbers (fresh and pickled) on a delicious bed of mizuna and tiny cherry tomatoes laced with a citrusy yuzu dressing. We could have eaten another one of those.

Cucumber Tomato Salad
Cucumber Tomato Salad

The special of the night was sea bass in a Vietnamese pho-style broth but no rice or noodles, just delicious bok choy and greens with lots of cilantro. A real winner.

The towering fried chicken sandwich (one of their signature dishes) also was just too much fried batter but the pickled cole slaw balanced the oil nicely. The hamachi collar on beans and mustard greens was original and tasty.

Fried Chicken sandwich with cole slaw
Fried Chicken sandwich with cole slaw

On first reading, you might think this is a mixed review and that Son of a Gun is not a keeper. But their startlingly good dishes that we loved, we really loved and will go back for those again! For those of you who do love deep fried foods my critique of those dishes may not apply to your palate.

Go visit Son of a Gun and enjoy the ambience—the maritime, old-fashioned theme reminiscent of a small seafood restaurant you might find in Cape Cod or Boston neighborhoods. We’re going back!

 

“Wayward Pines”—Stray at Your Own Risk

 

Wayward Pines
Wayward Pines

Based on the Wayward Pines trilogy by Blake Crouch and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, (creator of The Sixth Sense,–“I see dead people”), “Wayward Pines” is an intense thriller and dystopia, which premiered on Fox-TV in mid-May. This series is “The Prisoner” meets “The Walking Dead” with a bit of “Twin Peaks” and “Hunger Games” thrown in. Definitely not for the faint-of-heart.

The first episode opens with a hook: FBI agent, Ethan Burke (played magnificently by Matt Dillon) has had a car accident in Wayward Pines, Idaho, on assignment in search of two fellow FBI agents, one of whom was his lover, Kate Hewson (Carla Gugino from “Entourage”). Both have gone missing. Ethan wakes up in a hospital, unable to leave or to call home. Staring at Nurse Pam (the frighteningly good Melissa Leo) with an emotionless gaze, he is clueless, as she reassures him that all he needs is hospital rest. Nothing is as it seems, however. Dream sequences, flashbacks and supernatural events mingle and blur. Time slips confuse Ethan and the viewer both.

Soon Ethan discovers the inhabitants of Wayward Pines are trapped by a set of rules enforced by Sheriff Arnold Pope (Terrence Howard of “Empire”). Any attempt to escape is punished by a “reckoning.” Drifters and outliers beware! Each resident of Wayward Pines is complicit in a massive conspiracy. No one can claim innocence.

We do not yet know, from Ethan’s point of view, what secrets are hiding in plain sight. Like “Game of Thrones” and “Hunger Games” death of main characters is surprising, even devastating. Great TV watching!

 

“Empire” –It’s All About Cookie

 

Cookie and Lucious
Cookie and Lucious

“Empire”, part family saga, part “Glee”, and part soap opera, is an entertaining new television series on Fox with something for everyone!

Created by Lee Daniels (of “Precious” and “The Butler” fame), “Empire” gives both Terrence Howard as Lucious Lyons and Taraji P. Henson as Cookie, his ex-wife, the platform to demonstrate their considerable acting and singing skills. The drama focues on hip-hop music mogul, Lucious Lyons, an underworld lowlife criminal whose wife took the seventeen-year prison sentence he should have had as partners in crime. Empire Entertainment, the hugely successful music company Lucious built while Cookie was in prison, is worth a fortune. Now the three sons fight for control, hoping to inherit fortune, fame, and power while their father is expected to die of a terminal illness. An IPO is pending and the sibling rivalry becomes ugly. Moreover, Cookie has suffered and after seventeen years separated from her sons, she now wants to claim what is rightfully hers: her sons and half of Empire. Empire2

The number-one broadcast drama on television, , “Empire” has the rich dialogue expected of the best screenwriters overlaid with the campy, over-the-top performances one usually associates with soap opera. But there is one very big difference. Cookie steals every scene she is in –a force of nature who chews up her lines and the other characters, a ferocious lioness and a comic. One of my favorite lines: Cookie’s view of her son’s false bravado, posturing about life in the ‘hood’– “The streets ain’t made for everyone – that’s why they made sidewalks.”

To say the Lyons family is dysfunctional is an understatement.   There’s the gay son, Jamal, battling with the cold, sadistic homophobic father (Lucious), the defiant son Hakeem, experiencing “dearest Mommy” issues, and the outlier son, Andre, who is excluded from all communications that count. Cookie’s return to the family fold begs the question: What is family, when the mother has been imprisoned for seventeen years?

The empathy for characters, unfortunately, does not always flow smoothly when the music appears. Mostly rap, the songs sometimes jar the narrative, although they can be appealing to the younger viewer. “You’re So Beautiful” is an exception, sung by Jamal, a leitmotif connecting the past rejection by his father with the present confidence as he comes out as gay. Cookie glows as she revels in Jamal, her favorite son, the one who has her soul.

As the undisputed star of Empire, Cookie is the most watchable character in a highly watchable show.  Carbonated joy. Delicious. It’s all about Cookie!

Split-Screens—Contemporary Dualism

splitprism

Social networks, the structure of some of today’s blockbuster novels, and experiments in original content for television and movies have given us a world that is a split-screen reality. Plot has merged with multiple points-of-view (POV) more than ever.

Pushing further, there is no one reality but a gradient of realities, in flux, and based upon the beholder. A split-screen reality.  No black and white, but seemingly infinite shades of gray. Our individual reality, in truth, is a fiction emotionally true and relevant but not absolute.

TV series like the award-winning “The Affair” or Netflix’s “Bloodlines” , present a number of points of view, with the audience unsure about the truthfulness of any given character as the drama moves forward. Other examples of split-screen reality include the blockbuster novel and movie Gone Girl, and Celeste Ng’s exceptional novel, “Everything We Never Told You”. The authors dive into a range of point-of-view characters whose retelling of scenes often is head-spinning. But that’s the point.

Characters we love can also be unlovable. The dualism pulls us in more. Just watch as the point-of-view shifts in Gone Girl. Amy is a demon (from her husband, Nick’s, point of view) until we hear her side of events. While not a sympathetic character, we soon realize the two main characters both have different realities, revealing only what they wish to reveal: what novelists call “unreliable narrators” who can’t share a single narrative.

Multiple witnesses of events recall the Rashomon effect (named after the classic 1950 Kurosawa film). We as viewers watch the same story, only from a different character’s point of view. Each character’s viewpoint seems like the truth until we hear the next version. We end up unable to make sense of the contradictory stories: to connect the dots and reveal the truth. Who is lying and who is telling the truth? The answer may be “both”. The viewer’s (or reader’s) sympathies switch from account to another. At the conclusion, all versions remain equally plausible and equally suspect.

Still, why does it amaze us when intelligent folks can diverge so much in their opinions and perceptions of exactly the same thing? We want to know more about that divergence. No matter what we read, no matter what we hear or see on TV, YouTube, or Facebook we are confronted with someone else’s interpretation, created from their own experiences and background… experiences and background which may be completely different from our own.

The split-screen reality of drama, literature, and the Internet reinforces the notion of multiple realities, of contradictory interpretations of the same event by different people. Memories are already being replaced  not only by the stories we tell, but also by the posts we read, the blogs, the “data”– so that all that remains is a memory of a memory of a memory of what is fact and what is truth. Some details are reinforced with each telling while others fade, lost forever. Which version will I tell to whom? And why? Which do I believe is real?