Feeling special? I know I am. Because tonight we’re drinking Anchor Steam’s 2011 edition of their holiday “Our Special Ale” and watching the 2006 indie flick Special starring Michael Rapaport. So let’s find out if this really was a special pairing, or just an average evening.
Special follows the sad, lonely life of a Los Angeles parking enforcement officer (an occupation you never see on screen) who believes he develops superpowers after participating in a drug trial. Spoiler: he doesn’t actually have superpowers. But the film isn’t particularly concerned with convincing you of whether or not its protagonist, Les, actually has powers or is just crazy. Rather, its purpose is more to put us in the shoes of a man in desperate need of a change in his life. In Les’s case, that change comes in the form of a little blue pill called Special. Intended to “suppress the chemicals in the brain responsible for self-doubt,” Les instead apparently learns to float (Criss Angel status), read minds, walk through walls, teleport and be a badass. All of these powers are cleverly displayed, and disproven, using visual tricks, and it just makes you feel sad for Les (except for the badass part. He gets hit by a car twice and can still walk). But loneliness is what this movie really is. It’s a study in sadness. The writing and the acting are a bit stiff and generic, but the film’s photography is deeply infused with loneliness and alienation. Some of the greatest moments in this film are just long, silent shots of Les walking home after a rough encounter with the forces of evil. As Les points out, being a superhero is lonely work. He feels like everyone turns against him and that’s a fairly true assessment. As he comes to believe more and more in his powers, everyone around Les, including the audience, watches him deteriorate into madness. And while the absurdity of the premise and the general comic nature of Les and his powers help keep maintain levity, the film altogether leaves you feeling a down, because we know just how not special the protagonist is, even if he doesn’t realize it himself.
It is important to point out that this movie is very clearly done on the cheap. So with that in mind, it’s quite a remarkable film. The effects are strong, the cast is decent and it is shot beautifully. Kudos, indie filmmakers!
But was our beer special? That’s a good question. Tonight’s 2011 Our Special Ale has an interesting history. According to the label, this beer is Anchor Steam’s 37th version of the beer. Apparently, every year they change the recipe of this beer with sole intent of creating a beer that people can come together over during the holidays. While I believe that most of these 37 incarnations are probably on the darker, more Wintry end of the spectrum (’tis the season for dark beers), it is hard to judge this beer based on its pedigree or consistency. But regardless, let’s talk about the beer that I drank tonight. It poured a dark, chocolate-y color and had a nice, dark malty aroma to it. Upon first sip, you’ll get hit with some unexpected bitterness up front. However that bitterness quickly dissipates into a sadly mild and fleeting pine-y taste. The woodsy flavor wasn’t bad, it just evaporated and didn’t leave much behind, which meant I easily forgot what this beer tasted like. And with such a dark color, I was expecting a fuller body but it actually went down very easily. Almost too easily for a Winter beer (typically winter beers are heavier, maltier and more complex compared to their lighter, crisper Summer brethren). The beer wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t much of anything sadly. I like Anchor Steam, but they may have missed the mark on this one. I hate to say it, but this beer was nothing special.
So that was my special evening: watching Special and drinking a 2011 Our Special Ale. Neither stands out as an amazing experience, but at least the movie was occasionally thoughtful and, dare I say, beautiful. Unfortunately I can’t really say the same for this beer. It was just too simple and uninspired to be the hearty Winter beer it should be.
Stay tuned for more editions of BAAM in the near future. I hit up my favorite beer shop this week so I have some cool beers (including two IPA’s) coming up soon.
Great premise with good execution
Not the best writing
Visually striking and thoughtful