Monthly Archives: May 2012

New Belgium’s Dig & Fantastic Mr. Fox

Hey there, Drinkers!

I’m having just a fantastic night here with Wes Anderson’s 2009 stop-motion film Fantastic Mr. Fox and New Belgium’s Dig spring seasonal. Though it’s more summer than spring now, I found that both of these lovely escapades were perfect for the warm weather and for the start of a great summer. Let’s get digging.

While many casual viewers may not know Wes Anderson, they almost assuredly know his style. With only a handful of films under his belt, Wes Anderson has built one of the most distinguishable visual and narrative styles in modern, commercial filmmaking. Known best for his 2001 film The Royal Tenenbaums, Anderson is known for his quirky dialogue, hyper-formal visual style and vintage sense of fashion and music. All of his films deal with the anxieties of youth or coming to terms with one’s age in a way that is both hilarious and deeply saddening. Moreover, Wes Anderson likes to constantly remind his audience that they are indeed watching a film. His films almost always begin with a book and many of his sequences are titled. To be honest though, his style is difficult to put in words but is immediately recognizable in every frame in each of his films. The difference with Fantastic Mr. Fox? It’s all stop-motion.

So stylish

Briefly put, stop-motion animation is a series of still photographs with minor changes between each frame. These series of photographs are then sped up to 24 frames-per-second to mimic motion. Remember those flip books you made as kid? Fantastic Mr. Fox is basically a more complicated, expensive and time-consuming version of that. But let’s dig into the substance of this film, shall we? This Roald Dahl adaptation tells the story of a smooth-talking fox who provokes three nasty farmers into a fantastical war that unites the animals of the countryside. Setting aside my personal appreciation for Wes Anderson’s films, I really love this movie.  For the entire 87 minutes, I had a huge grin on my face and, at times, I couldn’t help but bust out laughing altogether. The film is whip-smart in its comedy, heartwarmingly quirky in its drama and simply gorgeous to watch. Every last detail has been accounted for. From tiny name tags to the rustling of Mr. Fox’s hair in the breeze, everything is fully, and lovingly, realized. And while the film has a few odd diversions, including a weird banjo-dancing montage, every frame just puts a smile on your face. And it wouldn’t be a Wes Anderson movie without a stellar cast. The voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman and an amazing Willem Dafoe give life to just a few of the many distinct characters that make this film such a pleasure to watch. There are too many tiny details and one-line zingers for me to discuss here but I have to say that this is one of those movies that makes you think “this is why I go to the movies.”

And I’m not sorry for the repetitive hyperbole. This film’s a cussin’ good time.

And since Fantastic Mr. Fox features a significant amount of digging, it seemed only appropriate to try out New Belgium’s Dig spring pale ale. This clear, orange colored ale is what many beer-drinkers like to call a “session” beer. A session beer is, in short, a beer you don’t mind having a few of in a row without running the risk of getting sloshed. This 5.6% ABV pale ale is light, refreshing and has mild hints of pine and sweet fruits/citrus. While those with more defined palates will be able to distinguish the types citrus, I’ll just say that I got some nice fruits in there. Anyway, this is a great easy-drinking beer. It’s fairly light, quite flavorful and should have a broad appeal to drinkers everywhere. And while this beer is probably leaving liquor store shelves now to make room for more summery beers, I’d recommend grabbing that last case and firing up the grill.

Don’t drink too much.

Though I hate people who say this, I’m going to say it anyway: I’m really digging tonight’s combination. The beer was light, refreshing and pretty delicious while the movie was pure fun. Some people may be off-put by Wes Anderson’s quirky writing and his very noticeable visual style, but Fantastic Mr. Fox is such a simple pleasure to behold that one would be hard-pressed to not have a good time. Seriously. If you haven’t picked up on how I feel about this movie, go watch it. Now. Then comment below and tell me how right I was. And enjoy a beer while you’re at it.

Keep drinking, my friends.

Tonight’s Tasting Notes:

New Belgium’s Dig:
Pours a nice, clear orange color
-Hints of piney hops & citrus
-Easy to drink two or three of these

Fantastic Mr. Fox:
-A real smile-bringer
-Unmistakably Wes Anderson in style & tone
-Willem Dafoe plays a crazy rat. Fantastic

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Orkney’s Skull Splitter & Thor

By Odin’s Beard! We’re back, Drinkers!

Sorry folks, I went to a screening of Anchorman last night night, so I’m feeling exclamatory.  But now that The Avengers has been out for some time, I figured this was an appropriately inopportune time to check out Marvel’s Avengers lead-up film Thor and Orkney’s Skull Splitter. So let’s get crackin’.

Let’s start with The God of Thunder. For an superhero action film, very little actually happens in Thor. An angsty, war-mongering and ravishingly handsome god disobeys his dad, gets cast out of Asgard, eats breakfast foods with Natalie Portman, fights a robot and then returns home a reformed hero. I’m actually impressed that they were able to drag it out to a 115 minute film. Part of that is due to director Kenneth Branagh’s (of Much Ado About Nothing fame) sweeping, operatic vision. The visual splendor of Asgard and its clothes ate a decent amount of screen time. And while the movie looks pretty, the acting is pretty stiff. But I guess that’s to be expected when half of your cast are gods from another region of space.

It’s not even fair.

Tom Hiddleston (Loki) does manage to steal every scene he is in by injecting true passion and rage into his character. For me, he was the real highlight of the film, a sentiment echoed by many viewers of The Avengers. And Natalie Portman also manages to stand out as well by simply being a fantastic actress and really good-looking. Unfortunately, they are exceptions to the rule. Our protagonist Thor, played by the inhumanly attractive Chris Hemsworth, manages to undergo a complete character transformation in about five minutes with little explanation. Apparently he and Natalie Portman fall in love but that’s more of a statement of fact rather than the conclusion to a meaningful character dynamic. Also, for no other reason than the studio wanting some explosions, a robot destroys a small town. That’s not even related to acting quality, but I wanted to point it out. Overall, I found this movie to be honestly be quite shallow. What I mean is that the film remains entirely on its surface. The narrative can be condensed into about 15 minutes and all of the actors seem to just be floating through it. When the credits began to roll at the film’s conclusion, I truly found myself wondering what had just happened. I actually thought that there might be more as I never felt that the stakes were particularly high. Not to be an Earth-elitist, but shouldn’t the fate of the planet be on the line? So Loki might have destroyed a nasty ice planet and illegitimately seized control of Asgard, but what does that mean to me? To us as silly mortals?  If you want another opinion on this film, and the other Avengers films, I suggest you head over to We Recycle Movies, where my friend Anne does a great job of breaking down the whole series in a way more befitting our film degrees.

But in an effort to prove that I have actually studied film, I do want to point out the use of canted (Dutch) angles in this film. Those are the shots where everything seems to be leaning to the side. While, at times, they do appropriately reflect the unbalanced scenario of our protagonist, I found the visual trick to be overused and occasionally unnecessary. Okay, I’m done.

Forged in Fire and Plaid, love is born between god and mortal.

And our Skull Splitter? (Yes, I know Thor has a hammer, not an axe, but you get the connection.) This UK brewed, Viking-inspired brew is actually far more subtle than a blow to the head. According to BeerAdvocate, this dark copper beer is classified as a Scotch Ale, meaning that it has a smooth mouthfeel despite its high ABV. And I think I have to agree. At no point did I feel this beer’s 8.5%. Rather, I got a smooth drink with some earthy, fruity malt flavor. I actually didn’t know what to expect from the Skull Splitter. With a name like that, I figured it would be knock me around a bit with big, robust flavor and overpowering booziness, but neither was the case. Instead, I found this beer to be smooth, relaxed and very easy to enjoy. Not sure how common this beer is here in the States, but if you come across it, I’d suggest grabbing a bottle or two.

And so, by the Hammer of Thor, I declare this 47th BAAM review to be complete! We had  fairly shallow movie with a surprisingly deep beer. The movie left me wanting for something more. More character, more action, more explanation; but fortunately this tasty beer helped carry me through the film and made the evening fairly enjoyable.

There’s only two more reviews to go before we hit our 50th. Coincidentally, the 50th review will match up perfectly with our one year anniversary here at beer and a movie. I’ve got some good movies and beers lined up, so stayed tuned. But until then, keep drinking my friends.

Tonight’s Tasting Notes:

Orkney’s Skull Splitter:
Deep copper color
-Surprisingly smooth despite the high ABV
-Nice, layered maltiness

Thor:
– Surprisingly little happens. Shockingly little
-Impressive set and costume design (kudos, Art Department!)
-Special thanks to Tom Hiddleston & Natalie Portman for making the film somewhat enjoyable

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Rogue’s Dead Guy Ale & Beetlejuice

Hey there, drinkers!

Now that I’m back from the East Coast (aka Sixpoint Brewery and Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project drinking-trip) and have somewhat reliable internet,  BAAM is back! Tonight’s combo actually comes from a friend of mine.  A few weeks ago, a good college friend came down to Los Angeles with a “thanks for letting me crash at your place” gift of four bombers of Rogue brews (she’s from Portland).  The only condition of her lovely gift, other than being able to stay at my place, was that I pair the beer with the uniquely bizarre 1988 film BeetleJuiceSo, being the awesome friend that I am, I happily drank all 22 ounces of the beer with a quizzical smile on my face as I tried to figure out what Beetlejuice was all about. So shall we?

Tim Burton’s 1988 Academy award-winning film (it won for makeup, but a win is a win!) is, simply put, the story of a dead couple trying to rid their home of new, obnoxious tenants. Unsure of what to do, they kinda-sorta ask this weird dude named Beetlejuice to help them out. Michael Keaton, in one of his most bizarre roles (other than Batman…thanks for that one, Tim Burton!), performs some low-grade shenanigans and the two previously frustrated parties make amends. But the plot is mostly irrelevant as that’s not really what the movie is about. Sure, the movie makes a hint of sense, but the film’s primary purpose is to serve as a forum for Tim Burton’s now tired but distinct visual style. Using asymmetric angles, bright colors and creepy stop-motion animation, Tim Burton successfully creates a thoroughly realized world that we can all appreciate for its quirkiness. But really, the movie has almost no point whatsoever. It’s mostly just an expensive way for Tim Burton to show off his artistic sensibilities. The supposed danger that is Beetlejuice is never explained and he does not serve as the focal point of the film. He’s mostly there to be silly, like most other parts in this film. For example, a young Winona Ryder plays a My Chemical Romance-esque goth girl and Alex Baldwin is skinny. Catch my drift?

Academy award nominee Winona Ryder!

It’s all just too weird to handle. For me, Beetlejuice is one of those films is that mostly remembered for being stylish. If you’re really in the mood for some Tim Burton, go watch The Nightmare Before Christmas or Edward ScissorhandsDon’t even both with Mars Attacks!I already took care of that one for you.

This really explains nothing about the film.

And our other Dead Guy? Well, this isn’t BAAM’s first rodeo with Rogue. In fact, this is BAAM’s third booze-fueled rodeo with the Portland brewery, so I guess they’re doing something right. The Dead Guy Ale pours a very nice honey/amber color with about an inch of head and smells pretty much like how it tastes. With a strong, malty backbone, the Dead Guy is actually a remarkably well-balanced beer. It’s quite smooth and easy to drink despite holding onto that distinct malty flavor. The fact that it’s 6.5% ABV (just above average) also helps to make this beer a real crowd pleaser. I found that it wasn’t too dark to keep casual drinkers away and wasn’t too light to earn condemnation from beer snobs like myself. And so, despite its name, I found the Dead Guy to be quite lively…I couldn’t help myself. I’m sorry.

So that’s it, drinkers! A baffling, if not stylish, film and a simply tasty beer to help you get through it. The quiet buzz I got from drinking 22 ounces by myself helped wash down this bizarrely empty film. And before any of you Burton-lovers come down on me for being a hater, I invite you to take a look at his next film. Frankenweenie. Or Planet of the Apes.

Really?

Tonight’s Tasting Notes:
Rogue’s Dead Guy Ale:
-Appealing, amber color
-Very well-balanced beer while still remaining “dark”
-Easy-to-drink & approachable

Beetlejuice:
-Beetlejuice (Michael Keeton?)
-Betelguese (Winona Ryder?)
-Betelguise (What just happened?)

 

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Magic Hat’s #9 & Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Hey there, drinkers!

I’m finally healthy again and off antibiotics, which means BAAM is back! And what better way to celebrate than with a magical evening? Tonight we’re enjoying Magic Hat’s delightfully difficult-to-describe #9 brew and watching the 2001 franchise progenitor Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. While I’ve had this beer fairly recently (it’s one of my favorites), I probably haven’t seen this film since it came out when I was 12 years old. Time flies, huh? And so do brooms, apparently.  Grab your Sorting Hat and let’s get started!

Plot synopsis seems a bit unnecessary when discussing any Harry Potter book or film, so tonight we’ll just be analyzing and critiquing Potter Film #1, Sorcerer’s Stone. Before the last books were written, a cinematic franchise firestorm was created with the release of the first HP film. In Sorcerer’s Stone, we are taken on our first trip to the deathtrap that is Hogwarts and, through ceaseless exposition, shown all the detailed delights of the Wizarding World. Literally every single bit of J.K. Rowling’s jingo is loudly presented, explained and used properly in a sentence.

Example:
Hagrid “Silly Muggles.”
Harry “Muggles?”
Hagrid “Muggles are people who aren’t magical, such as your inexplicably abusive and  repressive Aunt & Uncle.”
Harry “Thanks Hagrid. I now understand the definition of Muggles.”
Hagrid “Atta boy, ‘arry”

Okay, so maybe I’m exaggerating, but most of the film operates in this manner. I recognize that there is a ton of information that needs to be clearly presented in the first film of this franchise, but the writer seems think that we’re really stupid and need to be hit over the head repeated. Much like a child playing Quidditch. Or like a child doing anything at Hogwarts.

Other things to note in this film? The Hogwarts staff is utterly unobjective and blatantly plays favorites with Houses and students throughout. I’m looking at you, McGonagall.  And Snape really is a dick for no reason. I mean, I know it gets explained in a convenient chapter or two in the last book, but seriously, what an asshole. You too, Draco.

Finally, I just want to point out that at much as we’ve come to love Daniel Radcliffe & Co. over the years, in Sorcerer’s Stone, his main acting technique seems to be bugging his eyes out in feigned surprise. At least Rupert Grint is acting. Radcliffe seems to be acting at acting. But he was young and he’s improved, so I’ll give him a pass. And Emma Watson’s hair stylist definitely got fired after this film. Thanks to whoever made that call.

Get a haircut. No one likes you.

And our other magical entertainment for the evening? Vermont brewer Magic Hat is difficult to find out here in Los Angeles, but I’ve been seeing a recent uptick in kegs and bottles out here, which has brought a smile to my face. Magic Hat’s curious flagship #9 was one of the first beers I ever had and remains one of my favorites. #9, which is self-described as a “not-quite-so-pale-ale” pours a golden copper color with lots of fine bubbles. The thick, white head gives off strong fruity aromas. I would describe the smell as apricot but there’s something else going on in there as well that’s hard to describe. That fruity-apricot aroma comes through with the first taste, giving way to a light-bodied ale that goes down smooth the whole way. It’s not a particularly complex beer, but it’s different and refreshing. The fruit characteristic is very hard to define, making the “not-quite-so-pale-ale” label quite apt.

This is only partly related to Harry Potter:

So that’s it, wizards and witches! BAAM is finally back after being sick for first time since I was probably 12. And after feeling like crap for over 10 days, there are few better ways to celebrate than with a delicious, but not overly complicated beer. And while Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is not exactly the finest in the series, it is still fun and has helped define a generation of young readers and movie-goers. And I respect it more than Twilight.  Sorry vampires, wizards are cooler.

TEN POINTS TO MAGIC HAT!

Tonight’s Tasting notes:
Magic Hat #9:
-Very nice, golden color.
-Strong aroma of fruit (apricot & something else).
-An exciting change of pace for easy-drinking beers.

Harry Potter & The Sorcerer’s Stone:
-Understandably, yet annoyingly, over-explained.
-Launched one of the most definitive movie franchises in recent history.
-Remember when Harry, Ron and Hermione were little & unattractive?

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