Snowpiercer: Severed From Reality

In Writing on November 21, 2014 at 1:04 am


Originally posted on The Hooded Utilitarian. 

Some stories seem too smart to be symptomatic. Rather than try to suppress or exorcise the fraught, irrational elements that inevitably bubble up through the floorboards, some stories court the absurd directly. This instinct is the one truly smart thing about the movie Snowpiercer, the summer’s critical dark horse, recently released to a very positive reception on Netflix. The world’s audiences and film critics can be forgiven for projecting this intelligence upon the rest of the film, which doesn’t deserve it. (more…)

House Wine: Obvious Child’s Cheap Anonymous Red

In Nightly Glass, Writing on September 2, 2014 at 2:46 pm


Originally posted on The Nightly Glass

Wine signifies wealth on film. The successful boyfriend in the beer-fueled Drinking Buddies packs wine on a picnic hikeRobocop’s cocaine kingpin drinks it at work. In Say Anything, the heroine’s affluent family grills her blue-collar boyfriend while sipping from crystal glasses.

This connotation obscures a fundamental truth about wine: that it is often the cheapest booze available. A bottle of wine costs as little as a few dollars. Yet many film-goers would not recognize whether a bottle was expensive or cheap just from the look of it. Plenty of cheap wines have fancy labels, while prestigious boutique producers use the same eye-catching, colorful designs as mass-produced corporate brands. (Highly branded wines are the easiest to identify. Many people have a basic understanding that ‘Silver Oak’ is expensive, which underlies its popularity despite its poor price value.) If a glass of wine isn’t known to be high class, its assumed to be aspirational of high class. The same could be said of wine drinkers.

A pile of cans’ or ‘a flask’ visually connote cheap drinking more effectively, but their representation becomes inextricably tied with characterizations of desperation, and recklessness. So chalk it up to Obvious Child, whose heroine Donna finds herself knocked up by a relative stranger after losing her job, apartment, and serious boyfriend, to be the rare movie that documents the reality of the struggling wine consumer. (more…)

Super Tasters– Is This A Thing?

In Nightly Glass, Writing on July 28, 2014 at 11:35 pm

maria ruiz five senses


Originally posted at The Nightly Glass.  Illustration from The Five Senses by Maria Ruiz

A friend asked me the other day, “Are super tasters better wine tasters, or does it not matter?”

Which is something worth thinking about. The super-taster concept is well accepted in the world of wine. So well accepted that the personal taste of one self-proclaimed super-taster, Robert Parker, took hold of the market twenty years ago, and still hasn’t let go. Parker rates wines along the same 50-100 point scale teachers use to grade papers, which is an appealing subversive system to many Americans intimidated by wine. Parker published The Wine Advocate single-handedly for many years, and made or broke wine reputations with his scores. Winemakers began to change the way they made wines, so as to increase the chance of a better score. This would not have worked if Parker’s judgements had seemed to be ‘one man’s taste.’ He had to appear to have a superior sense of taste, to the extent that consumers would let Parker decide for them. In Lawrence Osborne’s words: “Remarkably, Parker’s reputation rests partly on certain purported properties of his own body. His palate is said to be equipped with a unique “cleft.” The Cleft, as it is known, is (one imagines,) a singular ravine over which the wine molecules play with happy freedom… The Cleft never tires…The critic therefore is not just an intelligent man with a  singular passion; he is a deformity of nature equipped with powers that you and I do not possess.” (127)

This is not the description of a critic. This is the description of an athlete: increased lung capacity, longer legs, an extra chromosome. Foodies do not wax neurotic about their inability to taste the difference between local and industrial beef. Music fans do not discount their limited ear-drums– if only they were a super listener!(more…)