Thursday, January 30, 2014

'Labor Day's' opening likely to stir passion for pies

Josh Brolin, Kate Winslet and Gattlin Griffith in Labor Day (Dale Robinette/Paramount Pictures).
The film “Labor Day," based on the best-selling novel by Joyce Maynard, opens Friday.

I saw the film starring Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin and Gattlin Griffith at the Toronto International Film Festival last fall and was not surprised Maynard's book was a best-seller. It's a heartwarming story about Adele (Winslet), a woman suffering from depression, and her teen son Henry (Griffith), who run into escaped con Frank (Brolin). Frank forces them to give him a ride out of town and then burrows his way into their lives to escape capture by police. Over time he also finds a place in their hearts. 

Baking a pie on the set (Dale Robinette/Paramount Pictures).
Brolin does a fine job as the bad guy with a good heart who mentors Henry and mends Adele, a vibrant and passionate woman who has forgotten what it's like to be in love. But, Winslet's performance is lukewarm - except for the romantic scene where Brolin shows her how to make a peach pie. 

Note: During the filming of “Labor Day,” Winslet told a reporter for the Chicago Sun Times, "Josh became a little bit obsessive about making pies. He would get up at 4 in the morning and come to work with a box and say, 'Kate, I baked you a pie.'"

On the set of "Labor Day" author Joyce Maynard shows Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet the right way to make her pie (Dale Robinette/Parmount Pictures).

So, let's bake that pie … especially since Maynard has offered readers the pie recipe in his book. Jan. 23 was National Pie Day, but everyday could be “pie day” in my book.

Joyce Maynard's family recipe for peach pie


3 pounds peaches

3/4 cup sugar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup Crisco vegetable shortening

1 stick plus 1 tablespoon chilled butter,

cut into pieces

1/3 to 1/2 cup ice water

2 tablespoons Minute Tapioca (plus

2 additional tablespoons to stir

into peaches)

1 beaten egg

1 tablespoon sugar

Combine the peaches, sugar, lemon juice, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Stir in the Minute Tapioca to help absorb juices. Set it aside, stirring occasionally.

Preheat oven to 400 F. In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt. Using a pastry blender, work in the shortening and 1 stick of butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the ice water over the flour mixture, stirring gently with a fork. Continue adding the water just until the dough holds together. Shape the dough into a ball and divide it into 2 discs, one slightly larger than the other.

Place the smaller disc on a sheet of waxed paper, and use a lightly floured rolling pin to roll the dough into a 12-inch circle. If the dough sticks to the rolling pin, dust it lightly with more flour. Lay a 9- to 10-inch pie pan face down on top of the circle; flip the pan over and remove the paper. To make the crust, on a sheet of waxed paper, roll out the other disc to form a 14-inch circle. Do not roll the dough more than necessary.

On the bottom crust, add a sprinkle of tapioca and the filling, mounding it in the center, and dot with 1 tablespoon butter. Lift the waxed paper with the remaining crust and flip it over the filling. Peel back waxed paper. Trim the edges of the crusts and pinch together the top and bottom crusts. Optional: Roll out the crust trimmings and cut into decorative shapes. Brush the pie with the egg, and arrange the shapes on the crust. Sprinkle with sugar. Poke fork holes or cut vents in the top crust. Bake 40 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve warm.

Put pie plate on cookie sheet to catch drips. Bake in 350 F oven for about 1 hour. Cool and serve as dessert after the movie!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Does anyone remember ice skating at Belle Isle?

I remember as a child a great deal of my time during the winter was spent on the ice skating or playing broom ball. Broom ball is a sport similar to hockey only instead of a puck you chase a round ball and instead of ice skates you wear special rubber-soled shoes. Sometimes my friends and I would plan to meet at the ice arena in town. Other times I would head for a nearby pond and skate with whoever happened to be there. If I had a friend spending the weekend I might plan something adventurous -- such as skating along the river from our house to Lake St. Clair. It took some doing -- as it was more than a few miles to the lake and someone had to be around to drive us back -- but it was always worth it. It was a good workout and a great way to spend time with a friend.

Around here, I am told, Belle Isle was the popular spot for ice skating.

My mother-in-law said she loved spending the day there. On Saturday mornings (usually sunny Saturdays) she would wake up early and make a big pot of soup and a stack of meatloaf sandwiches. Then she and her children (all seven of them) would pack the car with their ice skates and picnic lunch along with a few warm blankets and a Thermos of hot chocolate and head to Belle Isle for a full day of ice skating.

I wonder?

Do people still go skating at Belle Isle?

If not, where do people go?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Comedian Lily Tomlin rings in for Michiganders

Comedian Lily Tomlin rings in for Detroiters.
Detroit is in for a treat. 

Among the comedians booked for Gilda's Laughfest in Grand Rapids going on March 6-16 is Lily Tomlin -- and and she's happy about it. 

"I love going to Michigan. It's my home state. I grew up in Detroit and I still have one relative living there," said Tomlin, who was not only funny but interesting and genuinely kind. At one point during our 2 hour interview she had to get in a car and head to an appointment. Four times along the way our call was dropped and each and every time she called me back. That never happens -- the celebrity calling you back that is. She also took the time during our conversation to send me a photo of herself wearing a tiara at the Oscars -- so I could see what she was talking about.

Most of what was said will become fodder for a feature but she also took the time to answer a few questions from local readers who chimed in on Facebook. Below is what she said:

Q: Michigan has a great incentive in place for making movies in the
state.  Are you involved in anything that might choose our great state
to set up shop?"

A: I’m not involved in any that would be shot in Michigan that I know of. (But) I know Michigan needs my support – certainly around the old area of Detroit (12th Street) where I grew up. I’ve always wanted to do a story based on my childhood and adolescence because my brother and I had so much fun.

Q: What happened to your show with Reba?

A: I loved our show and I adored working with Reba. It just didn’t get picked up.

Q: Her favorite Gilda Radnor moment. And congratulate her on her
marriage, after 42 years of dating! That's committment!

A: It’s hard to say what your favorite Gilda moment is – she was so adorable and funny.

If she had to choose a favorite Gilda character it would probably be the obnoxious personal advice expert Roseanne Roseannadanna or Emily Litella. She was the old hearing-impaired woman who gave angry and misinformed editorial replies on Saturday Night Live’s ‘Weekend Update’ skit.

Gilda's Laughfest was created by a team at Gilda's Club Grand Rapids in 2011. Since its start LaughFest has averaged 55,000 attendees per year. Proceeds from the festival will go to support the free cancer, grief and emotional health programs offered through Gilda's Club Grand Rapids. For tickets to see Lily Tomlin or other events going on during the 10-day festival visit laughfestgr.org

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Oscar season kicks off with trailer directed by Paul Feig

Director Paul Feig on the set.
Members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have until 8 p.m. to cast their vote for this year's Oscar nominees.

Then all fates are sealed.

Winners will be announced during the 86th Oscars Nominations Announcement event (held in the wee hours of the morning) at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater. Days of Oscar-this and-Oscar-that will then follow until Oscar Sunday, March 2.

The sophisticated process of tabulating and verifying votes is conducted by the tuxedo-clad accountants at the international accounting firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers; the same ones who strut the red carpet with fancy briefcases.

Speaking of tuxedo-clad men and women - have you seen the Oscar trailer directed by new Academy member Paul Feig and choreographed by dancers Stephen "tWitch" Boss and Allison Holker? 

Albeit absent of any film stars or films for that matter - it does feature the show’s host Ellen DeGeneres dancing with a whole lot of tuxedo-clad men and women. 

“I was admitted to the Academy last year and you have to be an Academy member to direct anything for them,” said the Chippewa Valley High School graduate and director of “The Heat” and the upcoming comedy “Susan Cooper” starring Melissa McCarthy. “Ellen said she’d be interested in me directing a promo for her since she’s a fan of ‘Bridesmaids.’ I obviously jumped at the chance.”

No one had any plans for the promo but being Feig is in the process of putting together a men’s style website he had been kicking around the idea of having people in suits and ties dancing to the Fitz and the Tantrums’ song “The Walker,” which is one of Feig’s favorites.

“I realized that it could be fun to have Ellen dancing down the street lip-synching to the son in a tuxedo as she’s joined by hundreds of other people in tuxes. The message being, that this year everybody gets to go to the Oscars, not just people in show biz,” Feig said. So he wrote up his idea and Ellen and the Academy approved it. Since tWitch works with Ellen on her show choosing him to choreograph it was a no brainer.

What was difficult for the director, who grew up in Mount Clemens, was working with 250 dancers and extras and trying to make sure that he captured their amazing moves on camera in one continuous shot. Two versions of the promo were made -- one 60 seconds and one 30 seconds -- but each spot is different since each is one continuous shot.

“Ellen was a joy to work with and brought such fun and energy to it all,” Feig said, adding that it was an absolute honor to do this for both Ellen and the Oscars. “Now, I just need to win an Academy Award for one of my movies and I’ll be a happy man,” he said.

DeGeneres also said she had the best time making the trailer. “I love Paul, I love tWitch, I love Fitz and I like most of the Tanstrums,” she said.

The trailer is running in theaters nationwide. The video also can be viewed on the Academy’s YouTube Channel at youtube.com/Oscars.