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March 19, 2010 09:49 AM

I was on my way somewhere else when I stopped short in front of a bar on Red River.

There was something awfully familiar about the sound issuing from the doors, though it seemed unnatural to hear such a song in daylight. It was music for midnights, at the very earliest. But I had to know.

So I stepped inside, and lo and behold, it was indeed Eugene's own macabre psychobilly punks The Sawyer Family.


(It's a hastily snapped iPhone shot; be kind.)

There should have been more people in the bar, but those that were there seemed to be enjoying themselves. (It's hard to tell how much enjoyment is present in a room full of people who almost certainly haven't gotten enough sleep and equally almost certainly are already nursing hangovers with hair of the dog.) Seth Sawyer signed off, "We'll see you fuckers next time." Hopefully there are more of said fuckers when the band next lands in Austin.

March 18, 2010 12:03 PM

The word Micmacs, director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie) explained before the screening of his new film, is slang for “shenanigans,” a word which sounded impossibly playful in Jeunet’s thick French accent. “Impossibly playful” is also one way to describe the film, which is as sweet and joyful and imperfect a revenge fantasy you might hope to see.

Micmacs begins unexpectedly, for a Jeunet film: A soldier steps on a landmine. The strongest response to this is displayed by a donkey, which runs off, honking loudly. Back in France, the father’s death has a greater effect on his young son Bazil, who finds clues to the cause of his father’s death in a box of the man’s possessions.

Years later, Bazil (Dany Boon) is working in a video store when a stray bullet lodges itself in his head. Bazil survives, but not without losing his job and his apartment. Before long, he’s taken in by a gaggle of oddballs — among them a contortionist, an inventor, a human calculator and Jeunet regular Dominique Pinon as a would-be world-record setter — who live as a patchwork family outside normal society. Mama Chow (Yolande Moreau), who lost her own children in a hall of mirrors, feeds and scolds them all in turn.

(Keep reading...)

Jeunet’s films conjure a good deal of magic by finding the fantastical in the seemingly ordinary. His characters see things less for what they are than what they have the potential to be (the Rube Goldberg-y contraptions that make use of everyday objects; the box of knickknacks that sets off a life-changing series of events), which heightens their disconnection from normality. Color, in Jeuent’s off-kilter worlds, manifests in a gorgeous and unsettling manner: In Micmacs, the golden tones of the cluttered oddball family’s den contrast with the burnished richness of an arms dealer’s home; cool green seeps in for discomfort and the unforgiving brightness of reality is a rare sight. Jeunet and cinematographer Tetsuo Nagata (La Vie en Rose) give Bazil’s story a sepia-toned sheen that amps up its fable-like quality. The world is a cold, hard place, but find your people, and warmth and richness will fill your days.

Warmth and richness and revenge, that is. When Bazil figures out that two rival arms dealers are responsible for his father’s death and the bullet in his brain, he embarks on a quest for payback that requires the special skills of every one of his new family members. This is how Jeunet’s stories work: Unlikely bonds between (good, talented) people will change the world.

Micmacs is clever, sweet, beautifully shot and disappointingly unsatisfying. Its self-awareness is quirky and cute but to no real end; the posters for the movie that appear within the movie are there because they make Jeunet, and the audience, laugh, but do they — or the unlikely scenarios, the gizmos, the inventions — have anything under the imaginative surface? There’s certainly relevance in the idea of the cast-offs of society taking down those rich white men who manufacture the means of destruction for people the world over, but it’s lost amid the tricks played and traps set. Jeunet is borrowing a very real issue for a very pretend story; he said in the after-show Q&A that the characters are the Seven Dwarfs, or the toys of Toy Story, which makes them seem even more unreal. As another writer points out in a thoughtful piece here (‘ware spoilers), the film’s finale, shared with the whole world via YouTube, rings false as soon as the trick is revealed. I was more unsettled by Jeunet’s thoughtless appropriation than I was delighted by the story of misfits getting the upper hand. (A side plot involving a group of African men looking to buy arms for an unspecified, presumably fictional dictator, is also uncomfortably poorly thought-out.)

In the Q&A, Jeunet said that all of his films are about an orphan fighting a monster. Sometimes the monster is literal (had he made The Life of Pi, as he said he almost did, the monster would have been a tiger); sometimes it’s a pair of greedy arms dealers. But the monster is also loneliness. His oddballs slip into a self-selected, insular, comforting but small world of their own, where strange things are possible and reality has only a tenuous grasp. It’s escapism on a grand and beautiful scale, and sometimes it works absolute wonders. This time, I couldn’t quite join the trip.

March 15, 2010 02:39 PM

I honestly thought I'd be blogging every day from SXSW.

That's the most laughable idea I've had in ages.

Since Friday, I've been in Austin, Texas, for South by Southwest, which is hard to sum up in just one sentence: It's a long-running music, film and nerd festival (the nerd track is loosely called "Interactive") at which many of the things I write about overlap and converge (what a goddamn buzz word that is). I'm here to see bands, learn about Austin's music scene, watch movies, go to panels and, well, write about them all.

So this is your fair warning. Coming soon: reviews of Some Days Are Better Than Others, a Portland-set movie about loneliness and the little things; Mr. Nice, about a Welsh drug dealer; and many other films, and an overview of what little of the interactive portion of the festival I saw (not little as in I didn't care, but little as in the inability to see everything you want to see is a big part of SXSW).

The music portion starts on Wednesday, and while I'm going to miss the nerd crowd, I'm excited to see what happens when Sixth Street gets even more batshit crazy than it is already.

If you're interested in the little details, you can follow me on Twitter at @theothermolly, which is presently half posts from panels and presentations, and half random commentary from the entire Austin Experience, which has, in the last few days, involved short Stormtroopers, cheap beer and a serious lack of breakfast tacos. Currently, it's Shiner Bock and Jaron Lanier's presentation. Lanier just asked us all to experiment by putting the gadgets away, and I'm going to play along.

If you have any requests or suggestions — things you think I should do in Austin or things you want to know about from SXSW — by all means, leave a comment!

Someday, I may even get to eat some queso.

March 12, 2010 03:22 PM

The new Seneca biomass plant in Eugene will get millions in state tax breaks while the state releases prison inmates and stuffs kids in overcrowded classrooms for lack of tax revenue.

Ostensibly the tax breaks are for "green" power, but the Oregonian reports today that the Seneca biomass plant will "release more carbon dioxide and lung-damaging particulates than a comparable coal-fired power plant."

OSU forestry professor Mark Harmon tells the paper that Seneca's claims that the biomass plant is carbon neutral are "very misleading."

March 4, 2010 12:52 PM

Yes, you could go see Alice in Wonderland this weekend. (I certainly plan to.) But you could also do something a little different and hop over to DIVA for one of the screenings of this year's Oscar-nominated short films. Pick animated only, live-action only or go all-out and watch both — though if you have to pick, for my money, the animated set is the way to go. My personal favorite (but an unlikely winner; I'd look to "Logorama" to take the day if voters are feeling at all subversive, or "A Matter of Loaf and Death" if they think Nick Park needs another shiny for his mantel), "Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty," is embedded below (be sure to watch it in HD).

The Oscar-nominated shorts show at DIVA this weekend (animated shorts, 10 pm Friday, March 5, and 3:15 pm Sunday, March 7; live-action shorts, 9 pm Friday, March 5, and 1 pm Sunday, March 7) and again over the next two weekends. Each screening is $6.

The Oscars air at 5 pm Sunday, March 7 on ABC — or you can go to the Bijou and watch them in high-definition on the big screen. Tickets are $10, and proceeds benefit The Haitian Sustainable Development Foundation.

March 3, 2010 11:56 PM

Yeah, I thought that might get your attention.

If you've somehow managed to miss the flurry of flyers, postcards and other announcements floating around town, let me be surely not the first to remind you that Eugene gets its own cupcakery this Friday, March 5, when The Divine Cupcake Café opens at 11th and Chambers. From 10 am to 10 pm, every visitor to the new café gets a free cupcake.

Yes, they're vegan. But don't let that stop you! Hey! Come back here! Look, I've had my share of dry vegan baked goods, and these cupcakes? These are not the bland vegan cupcakes of yesteryear. No, they don't have butter. Yes, they're delicious.

You can read a bit more about Divine Cupcake owners Thaddeus Moore and Emily Downing-Moore in the April 2008 issue of Chow.

See you at the cupcakery!

February 9, 2010 09:34 PM

The Eugene Citizens Review Board voted unanimously tonight that a police officer used excessive force in Tasering a Chinese student last year.

February 4, 2010 03:11 PM

When I last lucked into tickets to the Oregon Truffle Festival's Grand Truffle Dinner, the event was still held at LCC. The dinner’s current location at the Valley River Inn is a better-lit, more comfortable space that manages, despite its cavernousness, to feel a little more intimate. The floral arrangements, which rose from towering glass vases and drooped back down in green fronds, were a little over the top, but who's paying attention to the table decorations when a meal like this is on the way?

I barely had time to grab a small glass of the reception wine — Sweet Cheeks' sparkling red, which I want to try when I can pay it more attention — before we were finding our way to our table (to my amusement, VRI staff removed the table numbers shortly after most people were seated, which led me to envisioning lost attendees swiping plates from servers' hands in desperation. This did not appear to happen).

Let me be honest: I am not going to review the dinner so much as repeatedly point out, in 100 words per course, how rich and delicious it was. I was there to experience it, and the experience was, for the most part, delightful.

Also, it was a lot of food.

COURSE ONE

Crème Fraiche Tarts with Triple Cream, Shaved White Truffles & Mâche Salad with Black Truffle Vinaigrette
Chef Naomi Pomeroy, Beast

Click here to read — and see — more!

We were really excited about this one, but while the mâche salad was very good, we were a little let down by the tart itself, which, though the crème fraiche came through nicely, was a little bit dry. Later, another diner told us we must've just gotten slightly-less-than-perfect plates, as his was fantastic. Pomeroy, after her course, praised Portland’s Steve’s Cheese, from whence came the triple cream brie, and talked about the simplicity of the tart dough, which she said acts like puff pastry with none of the work. Everyone got either white or black truffles, she said, but she'd wanted both.

COURSE TWO

Pacific Ling Cod Effeuilée with Foie Gras & Black Truffle Broth
Chef Pascal Sauton, Carafe

I think I was in love with this one before it was settled on the table in front of me. "Where's the foie?" asked a tablemate, but the answer was quickly clear: in the incredible, rich broth, which left us wishing we had bread with which to wipe the dishes clean. Sauton's dish, with its flaky, moist cod, was my favorite, though my date wished the vegetables in it had been prepared differently. When it came his turn to talk, Sauton explained that the very thinly sliced cod was cooked by the broth as it was poured over the fish.

COURSE THREE

Blanquette of Oregon Rabbit with White Truffles
Chef Gabriel Rucker, Le Pigeon

Oh, Le Pigeon. Where I had just indulged the night before, sharing venison heart orecchiette and pigeon and onion soup with friends and devouring most of a beautiful piece of pork on my own. As you can see, Rucker didn't stint on the rabbit, and the taste of it shone through in the simple presentation. Some of our tablemates lamented the lack of crispy skin, but I was too busy pulling every iota of meat from the bones to notice. We missed Rucker's explanation of his dish, but you have to get up sometimes. Especially when you're eating like this.

COURSE FOUR

Duck Leg Confit & Black Truffle Pommes Sarladaises
Chef Philippe Boulot, Multnomah Athletic Club and Heathman Hotel & Bar

This is the point in the night when you think someone is playing a joke on you. A massive piece of duck confit ... last? Served with potatoes cooked in yet more duck fat? A tiny pile of frisée shared this plate, and its crisp bite was like water after a long, dry walk. Not that I'm complaining — though I did feel guilty leaving any of Boulot's dish behind. His course was the least emphatically truffled of the group, but the lusciousness of the confit was such that I barely noticed. It was classic and decadent and deliciously overwhelming.

CHEESE COURSE
Ancient Heritage Dairy Adelle,
Estrella Family Creamery Old Apple Tree Tomme
and Tumalo Farms Classico Reserve

This is when my already sparingly taken notes utterly fail me. I'm a cheese fiend. I didn't even take a picture before diving in. The cheeses were served with local wildflower honey with white truffle. I believe the table favorite was the Adelle, but I liked the Classico, and all three were enhanced by a swipe through the honey. This was dessert; I opted to save the truffled treats from Marché Provisions, which were thoughtfully presented in an easily-taken-home bag. (Sadly, these melted together in my purse later in the evening, so my impression of them is essentially, “Sticky! Yum!”)

Afterwards, tablemates and friends dubbed the rabbit the best course, with some votes for the duck and my nod to the fish. But the decadence wasn’t over yet. Someone, later in the night, came up with the idea of shaving truffles onto the whipped cream on a Spanish coffee. Someone else — and I know not exactly to whom I owe this delight — caused an entire bowl of truffled whipped cream to arrive at the table.

Does that sound weird to you? I've had people look at me like I'm crazy when I told them about it. Listen, kids, don't knock it 'til you've tried it.

Truffle shavings in whipped cream — fresh, barely sweetened if at all — proved to be borderline exquisite. Think of the way real whipped cream coats your mouth, all that fatty goodness sticking to your taste buds, lingering and heavy. Now think of that as the delivery source of a savory, earthy, intense flavor like that of truffles. I felt like I was getting the essence of truffle, and I still can't describe it. The bowl went round once, with a demitasse spoon for each of us, and I waited impatiently for it to come around again. The man responsible for the truffle shavings was laughing, kindly, at me from the other end of the table, and calling me an addict; I was treating my spoonful of whipped cream like a popsicle made of gold.

You never know when the most unforgettable experiences will happen.

February 3, 2010 04:36 PM

... is that no one has to know (and, as Suzi points out, likely no one cares) if you're looking at pics of scantily clad women at work.

Keep your eyes on the upper left corner of the screen at about 1:04.

(Via Boing Boing. Apparently, it was all a prank — which doesn't make the video any less amusing, really.)

January 28, 2010 08:12 PM

In this week's issue of Chow! there are a few little "Word Is" tidbits - news we didn't have time or space to cover in depth. One of them was meant to tell you that The Divine Cupcake, Eugene's vegan cupcake company, is opening a retail location (on West 11th across from Ring of Fire) quite soon. March, we hear. It'll be Eugene's first dedicated cupcakery. And these are some tasty cupcakes.

But the placeholder ran instead. That would be the little box of text that tells you that I hoped to have details soon.

So yeah. Oops. My apologies to the fine folks of the Divine Cupcake and to anyone confused by what looked like a very silly block of text.

January 15, 2010 01:00 PM

In a few months, Eugeneans will have a new Italian food option. Come spring, Rocky Maselli, the executive chef at Marché, is opening Sfizio in Oakway Center.

Like Marché, Sfizio will use local producers "for almost everything," says the press release, which describes the restaurant as follows:

This 96-seat Italian eatery will be open for lunch and dinner seven days a week, with brunch on Saturdays and Sundays. In warmer weather, seating will spill out onto the courtyard of the Oakway Center and expand to serve more than 130 guests. But food and drink will be the central focus. The interior is designed around the open kitchen and bar, where patrons can be in the middle of the action at the 18-seat kitchen-bar counter. Private booths and a long family table will offer a range of experiences, from a family night out to a convivial business dinner or lunch with friends.

Maselli is working with architect Dan Hill on a space that will combine "the sleek feel of modern Italian design with the warmth and green sensibility of the Pacific Northwest" using sustainable materials including finished concrete, locally sourced wood and reclaimed timber.

I'd like to suggest we greet this news with a collective "Huzzah!"

UPDATE: After talking to Maselli, I don't know what to be more excited about: the promise of Sfizio's house-made pasta and house-cured meats, or the fact that former Bel Ami bartender Jeffrey Morgenthaler is consulting on Sfizio's cocktail menu (I take my delicious cocktails very seriously). Let's just say that the news about Maselli's new place is welcome on multiple levels.

Maselli says he's been planning to open an Italian restaurant off and on for a few years. Sfizio will make its home in Oakway because, he says, "it's a great location" for a handful of reasons, not least the courtyard, the already-in-place kitchen infrastructure, the limited dining options on the north side of the river and the distance from restaurants operated by friends and family. Though the space is currently occupied by Oakway Wine & Deli, Maselli says it will be unrecognizable when Sfizio opens.

But enough about the place; what about the food? Sfizio's menu will be very traditionally Italian, but with an eye to the local and seasonal offerings of the Willamette Valley. "I'm kind of modeling it after an osteria, which is a kind of a tavern," Maselli says, explaining that an osteria is a kind of country restaurant, more casual than a ristorante, that specializes in local ingredients. The menu will include a take on bistecca Fiorentina "that's just going to be gigantic" — big enough to serve five or six! — lots of appetizers and a weekly supper menu. Maselli says he thinks they'll open with the supper menu, which will highlight a different entrée each day of the week, served as an all-inclusive meal. He estimates that prices will range from about $6-$14 for appetizers to "well under" $20-$25 for entrées. Pasta dishes should be from $10 to $18. "That's the great thing about pasta," Maselli says. "You can't really charge too much for it."

Along with six beers on tap and what the press release calls "Eugene's favorite cocktails," Sfizio's bar will have a wine list that Maselli says could potentially be the best Italian list in the state (he prefaces this by saying "I hate to start a competition or anything, but ..."). The wines will be affordable and the list will highlight everything Italy has to offer, he says. But in keeping with the spirit of the osteria, Sfizio will also have a house red and house white served in pitchers. "That's very much osteria style. The local wine is just decanted; they put a spigot in a barrel of wine and pour it that way. I'm going to see if I can't swing getting barrels," Maselli says.

As for staff, Sfizio's chef, Alex Bourgidu, comes from Portland's Genoa restaurant and has a restaurant of his own in North Bend. Maselli says he's "working very hard" to lure Morgenthaler from Portland's Clyde Common. "It's tough," he says. "Maybe if Eugene applies a little pressure, he'll break."

Maselli is shooting to open Sfizio in May or June, depending on how quickly everything comes along. "I'm super, super excited," he says. He's not the only one.

January 6, 2010 01:40 PM

More former Eugeneans turned Los Angelenos are doing nifty things. This time, it's the women of Warpaint, who debuted a new video yesterday.

As the press release explains, "The video was shot with the song sped up and then the visuals slowed down to match the song's original tempo to a dramatic effect." I can't say it's the greatest video of all time, but it does give a nifty sense of the feeling of seeing Warpaint live, where there's something drifty and gauzy about the experience even when the music is moving swiftly along.

The quartet is currently in the studio recording their debut full-length, and they're soon heading out on tour with Akron/Family. Alas, they're straying no further west than Texas this time around.

January 5, 2010 12:35 PM

It's not every began-in-Eugene-but-moved-to-the-big-city (in this case, L.A.) band that comes back to town for a month of Sunday shows. The Parson Red Heads have done residencies at a few L.A. venues; next month, they're settling in three cities at once, playing Mondays in Portland, Thursdays in Seattle and Sundays here, at Sam Bond's.

Wisely, the band has a different opening act each weekend, including fellow former Eugenean Erik Carlson's DoublePlusGood and still hometown-boys Yeltsin, who have a new record, Rhinestone Glow, coming out Feb. 1.

February 07 - Parson Red Heads w/Norman
February 14 - Parson Red Heads w/Leo London
February 21 - Parson Red Heads w/DoublePlusGood
February 28 - Parson Red Heads w/Yeltsin

The band's photos tend to make them look like a big hippie family transported into the wrong decade; the best quote in their press release is this one, from Metromix

This impossibly pretty gang of California love and harmony plays like Brian Wilson never lost his mind and instead spawned a new generation of composers to finish his teenage symphony to God… imagine Fleetwood Mac making Rumours without the cocaine and wife-swapping

Their most recent release is last April's "Orangufang" 7", which you can pick up in non-retro-cool-vinyl format on iTunes.

December 31, 2009 01:30 PM

Canadian singer-songwriter Serena Ryder opens for Howie Day at the WOW Hall on Jan. 15. With any luck, she'll play her gorgeous, plaintive cover of Band of Horses' "The Funeral," which you can listen to on her MySpace page. Or you could just watch the live version:

The video isn't a lot to look at, but Ryder's is a shiver-inducing rendition of the song.