Evening Egg Espionage and the #BrunchLivesMatter Movement

Four Courses Podcast - Episode 23

Happy New Year! A new year signifies beginnings, and what better way to honor that than with an episode all about the meal that begins the day? Yes, it's an all-breakfast bonanza, and I'm so happy to welcome back Four Courses co-founder Kyle Kratky to serve as guest host in this episode! It was certainly a fun one to record, so go give Episode 23 a listen.

Topics include the Goody Goody Diner, the light and flaky majesty of the biscuit, a discussion about how breakfast fits into modern society, and an attempt to untangle the ethical knots of brunch. Please enjoy! Preferably with a plate of scrambled eggs and bacon in front of you.

Oscar Nominations 2016

Movie awards season has always been a source of great fun and excitement for me, and in years past, I've really embraced it, from seeing as many nominees as possible to running an Oscar pool at my lab. So, this is an uncomfortable confession for me: I've been a terrible movie-watcher this year. As I mentioned in my State of the Art post, I've barely seen anything, and not enough of the ones I have seen are the standouts that critics, audiences, and personal tastes would normally steer me towards.

So, while I'm happy as always to delve into the nominations, it comes with a big, fat caveat, in that I've only scratched the surface of the nominees this year. I suppose I'll take this post in a new direction, and use the nominees to refine the list of movies I'm looking forward to catching up with at some point, and which ones can be safely passed by. Let's hit it!


The Big Short
Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant

Case in point! I've only seen two of the Best Picture nominees (Room and The Martian, both of which were excellent), but have a strong interest in four of the others. I'd really like to get to The Big Short, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Spotlight. I'm surprised and slightly upset that Carol didn't get nominated, and would easily bump Bridge of Spies for it to have a spot. I haven't seen Bridge of Spies; it just seems from everything I've read and heard that it's a perfectly decent movie with nothing particularly remarkable about it except for Mark Rylance's performance.

There's more sad news for me, because The Revenant is the favorite to win this year. Everything about that movie completely turns me off, from its trying-too-hard marketing to the tales I've heard of its excessive gore. And yet, it seems to be riding a wave of inevitability. Of course, that's what I said about Boyhood last year, and look what happened there.


Bryan Cranston (Trumbo)
Matt Damon (The Martian)
Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant)
Michael Fassbender (Steve Jobs)
Eddie Redmayne (The Danish Girl)

I'd love for Damon to take this one, but I am prepared for disappointment. This category is a good representation of why the people angry that no people of color have been nominated for acting awards in two years have an ironclad argument. This is a weak, weak, weak-ass field. Bryan Cranston is apparently required by California law to be nominated for something, and the best they could do after Breaking Bad ended was to put him up for a movie I literally hadn't heard of before hearing of his nomination. Nobody is talking about Trumbo. Audiences stayed away from Steve Jobs in droves. Redmayne's nomination smacks of a half-hearted nod to transgender issues without really giving any consideration to whether the movie is any good.

And then there's the Leo issue. He wants this. He wants this bad. And as with Best Picture, I heave a heavy sigh in believing that he's probably going to get it. DiCaprio put himself through physical hell to get The Revenant made, and apparently, that ought to be enough to cement his win. Let's look on the bright side, though. Maybe if he finally wins one, he can stop putting on that I AM SERIOUSLY ACTING face he's taken to displaying in every movie.


Cate Blanchett (Carol)
Brie Larson (Room)
Jennifer Lawrence (Joy)
Charlotte Rampling (45 Years)
Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn)

In any other year, I'd be pulling for Cate Blanchett to win her third Oscar. She was outstanding in Carol, but then, she's outstanding in everything. No, this year, I am all about Brie Larson. Happily, Hollywood seems to be behind me on this one. Her role in Room was an extraordinarily difficult one, and she knocked it out of the park. I also like that she seems to be an extremely versatile actress. Just line up her roles in Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, Short Term 12, The Spectacular Now, and Trainwreck, and you'll instantly see why I'm such a huge fan.


Christian Bale (The Big Short)
Tom Hardy (The Revenant)
Mark Ruffalo (Spotlight)
Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies)
Sylvester Stallone (Creed)

What a weird category. Jacob Tremblay, who I believe was literally in every single scene of Room, isn't nominated, and the overall front-runner is...Sylvester Stallone. I haven't seen Creed, though I'd like to, and I'm perfectly willing to believe he's good in it. It just seems odd, especially since Michael B. Jordan is nowhere to be seen. As I mentioned above, the only noteworthy thing I've heard about Bridge of Spies is Mark Rylance's performance, so I'm pleased to see him nominated, but no matter who takes this win, I'll be scratching my head about how this category shook out.


Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight)
Rooney Mara (Carol)
Rachel McAdams (Spotlight)
Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl)
Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs)

Jesus, this year. I quite like everyone on this list as actresses, but none of these individual roles fills me with excitement (again, allowing for the fact that I've only seen Mara's). I'll defer to the odds-makers on this one, though it'd be nice to see Carol get as much love as possible.


Adam McKay (The Big Short)
George Miller (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Alejandro G. Iñárritu (The Revenant)
Lenny Abrahamson (Room)
Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)

Room was my pick for favorite movie last year, so it would be churlish of me not to root for Abrahamson. I don't know that The Big Short or Spotlight were flashy enough in terms of their direction to win the award, so my guess is that it'll come down to Miller vs. Iñárritu, in which case, I'd love to see George Miller take it.


Matt Charman, Ethan Coen, and Joel Coen (Bridge of Spies)
Alex Garland (Ex Machina)
Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, and Josh Cooley (Inside Out)
Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy (Spotlight)
Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff (Straight Outta Compton)

This is one of the more interesting categories. I didn't know until writing up this post that the Coen brothers were involved with Bridge of Spies. Ex Machina has tons of online support, while Inside Out is one of Pixar's strongest story-based movies ever. McCarthy may get awarded in writing if people don't vote for him for directing, and the whole controversy about only white people getting nominated for Straight-Outta-Compton has made this one the most fascinating races to watch. No pun intended.


Charles Randolph and Adam McKay (The Big Short)
Nick Hornby (Brooklyn)
Phyllis Nagy (Carol)
Drew Goddard (The Martian)
Emma Donoghue (Room)

Tough one! A win for Emma Donoghue would be spectacular, but adapting the scientific jargon of The Martian into a tight, exciting movie makes Goddard a good choice, too. Brooklyn is supposed to be gorgeously written, and adapting a book about the ins and outs of the financial sector can't be easy. Plus, Carol was haunting. I suppose there's no way to make this one a five-way tie? Darn.


Boy and the World
Inside Out
Shaun the Sheep Movie
When Marnie Was There

Inside Out. Next.


Embrace of the Serpent (Colombia)
Mustang (France)
Son of Saul (Hungary)
Theeb (Jordan)
A War (Denmark)

I have no earthly idea. Earthly, get it?!? I'm here all week! Try the veal! I'll try to get an idea of what these movies are about as I watch the Oscar telecast, and see if any appeal to me.


The Hateful Eight
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant

If, like I suspect, The Revenant takes a lot of the top prizes, this would be a spectacular place to award Mad Max: Fury Road.


The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant

How is Carol nominated for so many things and yet not a Best Picture nominee?!? Gah! It's the only one of these five I've seen, and the costumes were, indeed, gorgeous.


Bridge of Spies
The Danish Girl
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant

My quote from last year: "I imagine this may be where outer space gets a chance to shine, so I wouldn't count out Interstellar." My take this year: "I imagine this may be where outer space gets a chance to shine, so I wouldn't count out The Martian."


Cartel Land
The Look of Silence
What Happened, Miss Simone?
Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom

The only two that appear to have broad support are What Happened, Miss Simone? and Amy. That's not to say either of them will win (Cartel Land has the whiff of a film that the Academy would love to reward), but if the younger members are able to consolidate their votes, it may just go to Amy.


Body Team 12
Chau, Beyond the Lines
Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah
A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness
Last Day of Freedom

Not only am I not familiar with any of these shorts, but just reading their titles makes me tired.


The Big Short
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I find Editing to be one of the more intriguing categories from year to year, and often, has the most infuriating winners. Neither Memento nor Boyhood won in their respective contests, which is obvious lunacy. I'm not sure what to make of this year, though my gut tells me I'd be pleased with a Mad Max: Fury Road win.


Ex Machina
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I enjoyed Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and it had perfectly competent special effects, but I can't remember anything particularly outstanding about them. Still, that's my guess as to who's going to win. I have seen some of the effects of Ex Machina, though, and am rooting for them.


The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Revenant

I suppose they're not allowed to only have two nominees, though they could have made an effort to fill the third spot with a movie that anyone has heard of. Let's go Mad Max: Fury Road on this one.


Bridge of Spies
The Hateful Eight
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I'm not sure, and would like to hear what Dave Chen over at the /Filmcast thinks. He's usually on-point when it comes to judging film scores.


“Earned It” (Fifty Shades of Grey)
“Manta Ray” (Racing Extinction)
“Simple Song #3” (Youth)
“Til it Happens to You” (The Hunting Ground)
“Writing's on the Wall” (Spectre)

Oscar nominee Fifty Shades of Grey, everyone! No, wait... Oscar nominee Lady Gaga, everyone! I think the Spectre song was pretty bad, actually, and haven't heard any of the other four.


Bear Story
Sanjay's Super Team
We Can't Live Without Cosmos
World of Tomorrow

I believe that World of Tomorrow is streaming on Netflix right now, so I'll have to make an effort to watch it before the ceremony. Also, I've heard that Sanjay's Super Team is better than the movie that follows it, so I'll choose that as my prediction.


Ave Maria
Day One
Everything Will Be Okay (Alles Wird Gut)

I haven't heard of any of these, so whatever the voters think is fine by me!


Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Until further notice, I'm just going to copy my comments for the last two categories every year: Have you got your copy of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony ready to go? Great! Go ahead and hit play! No-bo-dy caaaaaaaaaares. No-bo-dy caaaaaaaaaares....


Bridge of Spies
Mad Max: Fury Road
The Martian
The Revenant
Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Nobody caaaaaaaaaares-Nobody caaaaaaaaaares-Nobody caaaaaaaaaares.... Nobody caaaaaaaaaares-Nobody caaaaaaaaaares-Nobody caaaaaaaaaares.... Nobody cares! Nobody cares! Nobody fuuuuuckk-iiiiiiing caaaaaaaaares!

New Tricks

There is certainly no dearth of thrillers out there for the crime-hungry reader. Aside from romance, I can't think of a fictional genre that has more books dedicated to it. With so many options out there, separating the wheat from the chaff can be challenging. I've lost count of the disappointing thrillers I've read, but I remain ever optimistic about the genre as a whole. I know there are some hidden gems out there, and am always looking for them.

Happily, one such thriller landed in my lap recently. The Hand That Feeds You is a 2015 book from authors Amy Hempel and Jill Ciment, writing together as A.J. Rich. I'm unsure why they're fusing like Crystal Gems instead of just each using their own names, but whatever.

The books centers on Morgan, a woman who is working on a thesis all about the psychology of women who have been victimized. She returns home one day to find her fiancee Bennett mauled to death, and she can't understand why the dogs who have been so gentle up until now have turned on him. That's not the only mystery, however. As she sets about informing his next of kin, Morgan begins to realize that she didn't know much about the man she pledged to marry.

As she digs deeper, she starts to attract trouble from an unknown source that is desperate to keep all of Bennett's secrets buried. Suddenly, she finds herself in mortal danger, and not from killer dogs, but from an emphatically human quarter.

There's a lot to like about this book. Morgan, though confused and vulnerable, is never a simpering idiot that way that a lot of protagonists are in these types of stories. She's introspective and dogged in equal measure. That's not to say there aren't a couple of wobbly plot points, from an unnecessary romantic subplot to some contrivances in the conclusion.

Still, the most important thing when it comes to thrillers is making the reader want to keep turning pages, and this books definitely succeeds at that. Plus, it's got dogs!

The Hand That Feeds You: B

Now It's Personal

We've entered an interesting era in video games, and it's one that's strongly influencing my playing habits. I've always been more interested in a game's story than in the mechanics. Even when I was playing first-person shooters, I gravitated to the ones with the best characters, which is why you'll hear me gushing over No One Lives Forever, while ignoring the entire Halo series.

Fortunately for me, story is becoming more and more important in the gaming world. Traditional games are spending more time in developing character relationships, and a whole new genre of game is evolving, where story is essentially 90% of the gameplay. I just wrapped up one game in each of these categories, and both of them did some great work in developing an immersive experience in one way or another.

Fallout 4 was the more traditional game. The only other game in the series I've tackled is Fallout: New Vegas, and while I liked that one, it had some frustrating structural issues. Fallout 4 solves a lot of them; travel is much less annoying, the leveling and quest systems are a lot clearer, and as I alluded to in the opening paragraphs, it's much better-written. In post-apocalyptic Boston, four separate factions are vying for control, and all of them would like you to carry their banner.

Will you lead the populist Minutemen, or the militaristic, isolationist Brotherhood of Steel? Will you develop a technological society at the behest of the Institute, or usher the oppressed synth citizens to freedom under the auspices of the Railroad? Each of these factions makes an actually compelling argument for why you should support them, making it difficult for me to come to a final decision. Each of them also contributes a companion to fight at your side, and it made the choices that much harder. Who wants to disappoint Deacon?

A lot of the criticisms of Fallout 4 I've read accuse it of being a lot of go-here-shoot-this quests, but what these arguments fail to take into consideration is the player's preferred style. Taken as a traditional open-world apocalypse story, it may have its disappointments, but if you look at it as almost a mini-Civilization, in which you must develop a home base and the friendships/rivalries that exist within it, it can be a lot of fun.

Despite the improvements over its predecessor, Fallout 4 is still a pretty traditional game. Know what isn't? Her Story. It only takes a couple hours to play, but it's the most engaging gaming experience I've had since Gone Home.

See if you can follow me on this. You, the player, are interested in following up on a police case that involves a disappearance and possible foul play that took place in the '90s. You've been given access to the police interview videos with the main person of interest, but in a technological quirk, you can only see the woman's responses to the questions, not the questions themselves. That is to say, the entire game is a single actress responding to questions you never hear.

Weird, right? So what do you do as the player? You type in words and phrases, and any video containing those terms will be returned. So, if she says something like "I don't know where he went that day, but I was at the hospital," you could search for hospital, which could lead to other story threads, and so on and so forth. It's up to you to put together the story of what truly occurred, and as the pieces start falling into place one by one, it almost feels like you're actually solving a case or writing the story yourself.

As in real life, the case is messy, and not everything will tied up in a neat little bow for you by the end. But Her Story is an incredibly fascinating way to tell a story, and I definitely recommend it.

Fallout 4: B+
Her Story: A-
Copyright © Slice of Lime