Pomo Picks

What to Read, Watch, and Listen to This Week: Oct 15

The content in our queues, from Hocus Pocus to Barry Lyndon

By Portland Monthly Staff October 15, 2020

Food editor Katherine Chew Hamilton has been getting lost in Korean cooking YouTube, learning to make things like gyeranppang (egg bread), a popular Seoul street food pictured here.

Given *gestures broadly*, there's a good chance you're looking to escape, however briefly, into a show or a book or an album right now. To get the wheels turning, here’s the stuff filling our queues at Portland Monthly this week, from Hocus Pocus to Barry Lyndon

Barry Lyndon

Are there any less sexy words in the English language than "three hour period piece"? This two-part Kubrick juggernaut has been a daunting entry on my watchlist for many years now, constantly being pushed down by titles that run an agreeable amount of time and are not set in the 18th century. Something possessed me, though, to rally the group chat and organize a two-day Barry Lyndon screening this week—probably the fact that it is a sweeping picaresque about Irish history that is supposed to be good, and I am currently slogging my way through a sweeping picaresque about Irish history that I hate.

Spoiler alert: Barry Lyndon (widely available to rent) is super good. Kubrick's sprawling account of an Irish cipher's rise and fall has everything: breathtaking design and photography, much of it nodding to the work of William Hogarth; soapy Oedipal undertones that sometimes make it feel like gender-swapped Mildred Pierce; an unspeakably hot Ryan O'Neal in various shades of beige. While I am definitely pro-Kubrick, I'm no screaming fanboy, and I am not especially predisposed to dig a stately 184-minute examination of class in 18th century Europe. But dig it I did—the 3 hours really do fly by, even as you feel you're covering a whole life, and it makes an excellent companion piece to (the admittedly more fun) Marie Antoinette, which was the MVP of my recent Sofia Coppola bender. —Conner Reed, arts & cutlure editor

Bel Canto

In a desperate bid for escape, I somehow found myself with a novel about captivity in my hand. Truth: I’ve had a hard time reading novels of late, a worrying development for someone who fairly defines herself by her devotion to fiction. (Insert here something about focus and the energy required to dive into another world when the downward pull of this one exerts such a hold.) But recently the 2001 novel Bel Canto jumped off a shelf near me and, exhilaratingly, I couldn’t put it down.
Ann Patchett took the 1996 hostage crisis in the Japanese embassy in Lima as inspiration for this lauded work and added—well, an internationally acclaimed opera singer, for starters. She assembles a cast of dear and impossibly winning characters, all locked into a world together that levels the hierarchies of rich and poor, captor and captive.  There’s the country’s Vice President who finds himself cleaning house and waiting on his “guests,” the translator who becomes the most popular man in the room, the weary Swiss negotiator, the uxorious French ambassador, the lovestruck Russian businessman, and the dozens of hostages and captors who make a life inside their new and strangely lavish prison.
Patchett brings lightness to this dark historical episode without ignoring its brutality. There’s something finally compelling about the exploration of a crisis more than two decades in the past sifted through a somewhat romantic fictional lens. Did it make me feel like I had my finger on the pulse of artistic production in America? Yeah, not so much. But I forgot to care that I was 19 years behind the curve: I was just glad to find myself absorbed in a story on a page again, and for the fact that something artful and warm won out over my Twitter feed. —Fiona McCann, senior editor-at-large 

Hocus Pocus

I’m not a Halloween Person exactly. I mean I’m definitely no naysayer. I have labored over makeup to get my Morticia Addams right and one year I spent way too much money on a cape to perfect my Phantom of the Opera. I even love a good Halloween bash! There was a particularly memorable house party in NE where I danced between a group costume of the Red Hot Chili Peppers when they famously only wore tube socks, and while shaking it, a group of 20 folks came in dressed as pioneer zombies gnawing on human legs—the Donner Party—without ever breaking character. That was a night!

All that is to say: I am not into spooky or putting up spiderwebs on October 1, but I am unabashedly a theater kid. As in, I acted in a haunted house in Salem, Oregon in high school where I screamed bloody murder as another teen in medical scrubs stabbed me to death every three minutes for several hours a night. (Another young person chased people down with an actual chainsaw as they walked out the exit thinking they were safe. It supposedly had the chain taken off, but it was still a kid chasing people to their cars with a chainsaw—it was 1996, the rules were different.)

So, with this all incredibly useful background I have given you, let me now posit that Hocus Pocus (streaming on Disney+) is the best Halloween film. If you somehow haven’t seen it—please note the 1993 film is currently in a theatrical rerelease currently on track to beat Empire Strikes Back at the box office—let me give you some word association surrounding it. Bette Midler going for it; a talking black cat; the name "Thackery"; a virgin and a Black Flame candle; a pre-Sex and the City Sarah Jessica Parker as a delightful horny ditz; Kathy Najimy snorting her way to magic.

It works for those of us who like Halloween and the fun around it, but aren’t obsessed. It definitely works for Halloween People. It’s PG so the kiddos can watch, but it also has enough sass and pop culture zingers that it’s adult friendly entertainment too. Enough talking, let it put a spell on you already. —Eden Dawn, style editor

Korean Street Food YouTube Videos

Street food has to be my favorite genre of food—it’s affordable, flavorful, and quick, yet often requires specialized skills and equipment that even a talented home cook couldn’t reproduce. Case in point: these Korean egg breads, which cost 1000 won each (that’s about 87 cents). They’re made by drizzling batter into specialized tins, cracking an egg atop each piece of bread, and making a whole separate row of bread to go atop the eggy side. Once the two sides are assembled by flipping the molds together, the lacy edges of the egg are gently trimmed with scissors. Sure, you could make these in a muffin tin, but they wouldn’t have the perfect oblong shape these babies do.

I also found myself watching this video of tornado omelette rice being made on repeat. The timing of that egg swirl is pure skill—maybe one I’ll try to pick up during quarantine if I have a few dozen extra eggs to spare. —Katherine Chew Hamilton, food editor
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