A great experience, a not so great experience and an experience for the soul.
It was 12:15pm and and I still hadn’t gotten out of bed. It was another involuntary late one the previous night, all hopped up on caffeine and pent up fuck energy, watching old Frasier episodes while falling in and out of sleep, and constantly checking my Instagram and Twitter like one of my friend’s posts was going to blow the fucking lid off my reality. I made my way to the shower at 12:17pm, lathering my greasy hog corpse with the cheapest body wash Target had available. “I’m hungry” I thought out loud to myself, getting shampoo in my mouth. “I’d fucking murder for some pho right about now, just a hot, steamy puddle of liquid beef filled with tripe, tendon, brisket and meatballs, not to mention bean sprouts, rice noodles, jalapeños, basil, all topped with house made chili sauce, hoison sauce and squirt of key lime. Maybe get some pork and shrimp spring rolls for an appetizer and a cafe su da (fresh coffee + condensed milk over ice) to fuel me through the day.” There was only one place a hungry young buck could go in valley of the Sun, Photown’s finest, you rewind this, Da Vang’s on 19th on Campbell.
At 12:59pm, I pull up in my Kia Soul Bong Joon-ho picked out for me, and there’s a line out the door. I realize I’m going the wrong way in the parking lot and this angry man honks at me. Fearing an awkward encounter, I flee to a side street to park my vehicle. I notice the time and I have to leave this establishment in thirty, maybe thirty-five minutes to catch this Black Widow movie on the other side of town I had tickets for at 2:15pm. I walked up to the restaurant, wrote my name in, and decided to wait outside in the shade cause there was like forty-five motherfuckers in the restaurant. Outside I see a young pregnant couple talking about how good this place is and it sounded like Vietnamese food in general. There was a very loud couplet of homeless men shout singing to each other from opposite sides of the parking lot, pacing up and down the shaded strip mall corridor as if they were security guards. An old lady pushes her walker into the door frame of the restaurant and says to me “HOW LONG IS THE WAIT?” to which I reply “I dunno, like five or seven minutes so far, I imagine they’ll seat me in the next five minutes or so because I’m just a table of one.” In the middle of me talking, about when I say “…so far…”, she turns her back to me and waddles inside the restaurant. However, I continue speaking to the empty door frame because that was rude of her to play me off. I’m not a sound editor at an awards show, you will listen to what I have to say. The guy in the pregnant couple raises an eyebrow to me. Whatever.
Finally, I get seated at a big honkin’ table and order without even looking at the menu. Menus are for strangers, Da Vang‘s is my home. I tweedle on my phone but alas none of my friends are blowing the fucking lid off my reality on Twitter or Instagram. I peer outside to see an almost hyperventilating man in a Blue Lives Matter t-shirt, pacing outside. He comes into the restaurant and attempts to infiltrate the kitchen. He’s been waiting a whole ten minutes for a table, damn it. They apologize and tell him to be patient and he mutters something under his breath and goes outside to continue to wait. At 1:25pm my spring rolls and cafe su da arrives, and I scarf them down. 10 minutes before I have to leave to catch this Scarlett Johannsen (sp?) movie. At 1:31pm, my bowl of 1B Pho with extra beef brisket arrives. I douse it with homemade chili paste, submerge the bean sprouts, basil and jalapeños , dribble a little Hoison, and I begin stirring it around. I take my first bite and I decide, I’m not going to rush this. Fuck the movie. Fuck Marvel. Fuck Scary Jo. The only thing that exists right now is me and this beefy bowl of love. Sweat rolls down my forehead because the jalapeño seeds are beginning to cook in the broth, pulsing in the bone stock like they’re orgasming over and over again. I take a quick break at 1:42pm to text my friend about watching RuPaul’s Drag Race that night and then I finish the bowl. Only a few bean sprouts and jalapeños and basil stems remain.
On the way home I realize I was supposed to write a review about Black Widow. Fuck it, this was a far more rewarding experience even if I’ll just piss it all out two hours from now. Black Widow is a Marvel template, a Vietnamese restaurant in Arizona that has been for twenty years that hasn’t changed one iota since I started regularly going there back in 2002, now that’s a true original. Grade: A (4538 N 19th Ave, Phoenix, AZ, 85015)
In the Earth
One of my favorite horror films of the past decade is this director, Ben Wheatley‘s second film, Kill List. Unfortunately, In the Earth doesn’t quite come together with the same confidence. A lot of indie would-be A24 horror films fall victim to not really deciding on what exactly they want to say. In an effort to be original and not parrot what others have said, they end up with a murky message. That’s how I felt about In the Earth, definitely a a pro environmental message horror film but as to what exactly he (the filmmaker) was trying to say, I’m at a loss. Basically, it exists in the world of coronavirus, following two scientists who fucking suck at social distancing. One dip shit in the beginning wears his mask outside but once they get into confined quarters inside, he takes off his mask. Characters make a big deal about keeping their distance, but then when something happens, they’re like right in each other’s faces. Anyway, the scientists are Martin and Alma. Alma actually has a brain in her head, but Martin follows a long tradition of awful horror protagonists in that every decision he makes proves himself to be more useless than a flavored tampon. They meet the male counterpart of Annie Wilkes in the woods (Reece Shearsmith – the only truly great performance in the film) who ends up being a psycho and claiming the woods are alive like an ancient evil diety or some shit. No one believes him, but as an audience we obviously believe him cause whenever a horror movie goes out of its way to repeatedly tell you “But that just doesn’t make any sense” it’s totally what the fucking movie is going about. From there, I’ll just tell you a series of predictable events happen but also, some really fascinating visuals happen as well. There’s a great strobe light chase scene that’s masterfully directed and the Earth’s psychological warfare quick cuts will definitely induce acid flashbacks for all you scumbags. Visually, this movie is really cool but from a story perspective it seems rushed and unfinished, like 2/3 of the way there. Like fruit picked too soon off the tree. I wish it had more time to ripen. Grade: C+ ($6.99 rental on Amazon Prime)
Wow. Nicolas Cage hasn’t been this dialed-in and restrained since 2005. Pig, a first film by Michael Sarnosky, sees him as Robin Feld, a former award-winning Portland chef, who after his wife died, became recluse truffle hunter in the woods. His only friend in the world is his pig, who he uses to hunt truffles, a gorgeous, adorable little blonde oinker. When meth heads break into his shack, beat him severely and steal his truffle pig, he knows some hot shot asshole in the Portland fine dining scene was responsible. With the help of the seller he deals with (Hereditary’s Alex Wolff) he scours the Portland food scene to find the gourmet bastard responsible. Those expecting hair-rising action and thrills a la Mandy will be sorely disappointed. Pig is a tremendously low key film, made up almost entirely of tense, quiet two to three person encounters. It’s not even really about revenge as much as processing grief and accepting change. It’s wonderfully written and directed with confidence, which is re-assuring from a first time filmmaker, and it’s a tremendous send up of the fine dining industry. I’m sure chefs will be salivating over this movie, it’s wonderful blunt attacks against tweezer food and micro greens. There’s a scene where Robin encounters a former sous chef at his restaurant. “I remember you, I fired you for always overcooking pasta. What the hell happened to you? You wanted to open a pub.” Robin tells the chef. “What exactly is the concept of this restaurant?” The chef nervously replies, “Locally sourced ingredients that are deconstructed on the plate.” “This isn’t you, that’s not even a concept, you aren’t telling these people anything about yourself. They don’t give a shit about you or your food. You’re just like every other phony.” The chef begins to shake and nervously cry as Robin encourages him to open up that gastro pub and do liverwurst dishes. There’s a bunch of incredible scenes like this, though this might be the best. If there’s any fault here it’s that the pieces don’t always stack up neatly together. At 90 minutes, it’s a very tight film but I would have liked to see an extra five or ten minutes of padding to smooth things out. Still, this is one of the best movies in theaters right now and Nicolas Cage’s best work since Leaving Las Vegas. Grade: A- (In Theaters)