I promised myself I was done with Oscar talk but after last Sunday’s debacle I can’t sit idly by and act like nothing happened. The 83rd Academy Awards were among the more painful events I’ve endured on any screen, big or small. I don’t really know where to begin so I’ll just start with me.
The Oscars are my Super Bowl, World Series, Wimbledon, well, you get the point. I look forward to the awards the minute I see the first decent movie of the year when I pronounce which actor/writer/director I am sure will be nominated. As I’ve said before, I go to the movies almost weekly, with the exception of the summer when there is nothing worthwhile to see. So the personal stakes are high which admittedly is a little sad given that I’m not in the movie business and have no chance of walking the red carpet—unless someday I’m on the arm of Colin Firth.
I was dubious as soon as I heard Anne Hathaway and James Franco were hosting. To be fair, they’ve both done well with not particularly great material on SNL, so I kind of understood why the powers that be thought they could handle a four hour live challenge. But where did they get the idea that they would work well together? You can’t fake chemistry and wow, they had none. It was like watching the bad high school date of a goofy drama geek and a sleeping stoner who only asked her out on a dare and then got high in the bathroom while she sipped her vanilla milkshake alone. She was insufferable. Overly enthusiastic, “woo-hooing” and hi-fiving, which anyone with a brain knows is unacceptable when you are in formal wear. I can’t deal with people who over-estimate their own appeal and she seems to think she is much more charming than she actually is. So that’s Anne.
As for James, obviously there is something off about someone who seems to live the life of a hyphenate: actor-director-writer-student-student-student-artist, what have I left out, astronaut? Plus his stint on General Hospital reeks of mockery which is just not nice. Do you know how many hard-working actors would kill for the chance for a day’s work on a soap? A lot.
So the hosts stunk. Now to the show. I’m sorry but who was directing that fiasco? Here’s an idea, let’s start the evening with two awards no one cares about and then bring on Kirk Douglas for a cringe-worthy turn as a dirty old man! You’d have to be an insensitive idiot not to have a knot in your stomach as he made his way through the script. I admire his tenacity, and think he is still charming, but come on! That was too much. And thank you Melissa Leo for your grace and class.
The nightmare continued for three hours. Gone with the Wind was evoked for no apparent reason, Bob Hope appeared as a hologram, Gwyneth Paltrow tried to sing a really bad song, Celine Dion tried to sing a really lovely song and David Fincher scowled in his seat, the seat from which he never had occasion to leave. Billy Crystal arrived to the warm embrace of a very grateful Kodak theater and made a joke about Hugh Jackman, a reaction from whom you’d think the director might want to capture. But no, they kept the camera on Billy cause who doesn’t want to look at the second coming of Jackie Mason instead of Australia’s most luscious export?
According to Anne Hathaway, the Oscars were trying to be young and hip (she said that how many times?). Oh, so that’s why James Franco was checking his Blackberry when he first came on the stage, Justin Timberlake said, “There’s an app for that” and Franco made a reference to texting! I get it now. Okay, doesn’t everyone know that the one way to insure you won’t be hip is to try to be hip? The Academy Awards aren’t cool and, more importantly, they’re not supposed to be. Stop trying so hard, go back to being Hollywood’s most self-congratulatory (and that is saying a lot) evening and bring back the 21st century’s Johnny Carson. And no, I don’t know who that is but I do know it’s not James and Anne.
Not to be a complete hater I will say a few positive things. Most everyone looked great, (despite the polarizing dress worn by Cate Blanchett. I liked the color, not the fungus design), Anne Hathaway can really sing, the PS 22 Chorus was sweet (if placed in a thankless time slot) and…Colin Firth took home the statue.
I was so cranky after the show I had a hard time getting rid of the bad taste in my mouth. Earlier on Sunday I got to spend some perfect time with the newly three Niece Two. Whenever I feel myself preoccupied with useless nonsense (something that happens way too often) I think about the two little girls who always remind me of life’s simple pleasures. I had taken Niece Two to a diner, which was extremely exciting for her because we sat at the counter and got to watch all the action from the high perch of a “spinny chair.” She was particularly taken with the stack of “baby cereal boxes” and the enormous flat screen TV tuned to a golf match. “It’s really special to watch TV and eat your lunch!” she announced to the, I’d like to think, delight of the other diners at the diner. But what really got her attention was the display of giant, mutant muffins under their plastic hood. “They’re the most humongous!” she screamed more than once, leading me to believe she had only recently learned that word. So to cure my Oscar blues I knew I needed to make some muffins.
This recipe couldn’t be easier and is the perfect mix of sweet, light and crunchy. Mix together the dry, mix together the wet, add wet to dry, bake, make an indentation and fill with jam. Please remember to gently fold the wet ingredients into the dry and do so just until everything is combined. Over-mixing leads to tough, unpleasant muffins and then you’ll be back where you started, obsessing over the wreckage of the 83rd Academy Awards. Okay, now I'm really done with Oscar talk, until I see the first great movie of 2011. Stay tuned.
Oscar Recovery Strawberry Thumbprint Corn Muffins
Adapted from The SoNo Baking Company Cookbook, by John Barricelli 2010
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1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon coarse salt
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup coarse yellow cornmeal
3 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup sour cream
¾ cup strawberry preserves
Set the oven rack in the middle position. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a standard 12-cup muffin pan paper liners. Set aside.
In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, and cornmeal until combined.In another large bowl whisk eggs, buttermilk, oil, and sour cream together until blended.Gently fold wet ingredients into dry until just combined. Do not over-mix.
Using a standard ice cream scoop, divide batter among the muffin cups.Bake, rotating the pan about two-thirds of the way through, until the muffins are golden brown and a cake tester inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, 18-22 minutes.
Place the muffin pan to a wire rack and allow to cool for 5 minutes and then carefully remove muffins from pan, placing them on another rack.Using your thumb press down in the middle of each muffin, and create an indentation deep enough to hold a teaspoonful of preserves.
Spoon strawberry preserves into each indentation. Let cool for another 10 minutes and serve.
Yield 12 muffins