Hillary Clinton makes stop at City College before June 7 primary

Originally posted on saccityexpress.com on June 6, 2016

Additional reporting by Maxfield Morris.

Former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton takes the stage in the North Gym. Photo by Zachary FR Anderson | Managing Editor | zachanderson.express@gmail.com

Outside the North Gym, hundreds of people waited to hear Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speak at Sacramento City College Sunday, June 5 — two days before California’s June 7 presidential primary.

Clinton took the stage between 6 and 7 p.m. as Rachel Platten’s “Fight Song” (Clinton’s official song) played. She was introduced by Congresswoman Doris Matsui, who also worked in the White House during Clinton’s tenure as First Lady to former President Bill Clinton. Matsui reminisced about when her husband, Congressman Bob Matsui, died, saying that Hillary Clinton was the first to call and offer her condolences.

The former Secretary of State’s speech focused on domestic policy. She shared emotional moments with the crowd regarding her time as a senator from New York during the Sept. 11 attacks as well as her experiences running the State Department during the 2011 siege on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan that resulted in the death of the infamous terrorist.

Focusing on connecting with the state’s voters, Clinton applauded California’s diversity calling it, “…as big as a country and as diverse as one, too.”

Supporters listen to Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-Sacramento) introduce Hillary Clinton in the North Gym. Photo by Zachary FR Anderson | Managing Editor | zachanderson.express@gmail.com

During her speech, Clinton applauded President Barack Obama for “digging us out of the ditch,” referring to the president’s efforts to strengthen the economy during the Great Recession.

“It is a fact that the economy does better when we have a Democrat in the White House,” said Clinton, who also indicated that the recession began during the presidency of Republican President George W. Bush.

Clinton also criticized Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, on key issues, such as his ability to be a responsible and reliable as commander in chief.

“Here’s somebody who in the last few weeks has insulted our closest allies,” said Clinton, “has praised dictators like [Kim Jong Un] in North Korea. Has advocated pulling out of NATO, which is our strongest military alliance. Has said in very cavalier [fashion] that he doesn’t really mind if other countries get nuclear weapons, including Saudi Arabia.”

Other politicians at the event also voiced their concerns regarding the business mogul’s ability.

“…All you have to look at is what’s happening in this country in the past week with this guy Trump,” said Sacramento mayoral candidate Darrell Steinberg, “calling out a judge because of his Mexican heritage and saying he can’t be impartial, applying the same logic to any Muslim judge. This is dangerous.”

Steinberg was referring to Trump’s recent comments regarding the federal judge overlooking the California lawsuit against Trump University, Gonzalo P. Curiel.

Steinberg endorsed Clinton as the next president.

“She’s eminently qualified,” said Steinberg. “She’s going to be respected around the country and around the world.”

Sacramento mayoral candidate Darrell Steinberg greets Clinton supporters outside the North Gym. Photo by Zachary FR Anderson | Managing Editor | zachanderson.express@gmail.com

Nancy McFadden, Gov. Jerry Brown’s chief of staff, took a lighter approach. She compared Trump to the “Harry Potter” villain Voldemort by referring to him as “He who must not be named.” She justified this by saying that Trump likes hearing his own name.

“Who puts their names on steaks?” McFadden joked to the crowd that roared with laughter.

Before Clinton addressed the standing-room-only crowd, the first to speak was former United States Ambassador to Hungary Eleni Tsakopoulos Kounalakis, a Sacramento native. Other speakers included Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, Congressman John Garamendi and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson.

Though knowledge of Clinton’s campaign making a stop in Sacramento had been released over a week earlier, the location remained undisclosed. It wasn’t until Thursday, according to Public Information Officer Rick Brewer, that the Clinton campaign contacted City College officials about holding the event on campus.

California residents registered as either Democrats or with no party preference may vote in the Democratic primary Tuesday, June 7.

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Ballot of apathy

Originally published in the Express on May 5, 2016

Student leadership to generate involvement in Student Senate, Club and Events Board

City College student Melody Jimenez, political science major, speaks to students in the quad during candidate forums on April 7, 2016. Jimenez is running for the position of Student Senate Secretary of Legislative Affairs. The position is also contested by Savannah Mendoza. Hector Flores, Staff Photographer. | hectorfloresexpress@gmail.com

Despite a low voter turnout and a majority of candidates running unopposed, City College students have selected a new slate of Student Senate and Club and Events Board members to serve in the 2016—17 academic year.

Current City College Student Senate president Marianna Sousa was elected by students from all four colleges as Los Rios student trustee, a position she will assume June 1.

Student Leadership and Development Coordinator Kim Beyrer released the results of the elections April 15, a day after the elections.

However, most of the candidates, including the Senate vice president, ran unopposed. No Senate presidential candidate was listed on the electronic ballot that students accessed through City College eServices.

The lack of student participation from the main campus and outreach centers resulted in uncontested positions being filled by appointment, according to Beyrer.

“There are reasonable [causes as] to why a lot of students don’t participate,” said Beyrer, “whether they have to work, they have families, they have other responsibilities.”

The Senate officers elected were Raymond Concha for vice president, Joshua Feagin for treasurer, Alan Neftali Hernandez for secretary of technology, and Melody Jimenez for secretary of legislative affairs. The five senators elected to office were Keanna Laforga, Emily Lai, Julianne Maninang, Gerardo Mendoza and Huinan Pang.

After the elections, the Student Senate voted to fill the presidential vacancy by appointment at the April 20 meeting which was held in the Student Center. At that meeting, secretary of legislative affairs-elect Melody Jimenez was nominated and appointed Senate president, pending approval of City College interim President Michael Poindexter.

The Club and Events Board (CAEB) faced similar issues with many candidates running unopposed and other positions remaining vacant after the elections.

Moises Ramirez was elected CAEB president, Leo Molten vice president, Ashley Michelle Rowe secretary of public relations, Zachary Silvia secretary of technology, and Georgia Sherman project coordinator.

To generate more interest in student government, the Student Advisory Council (SAC), a committee composed of associated student body presidents at all four Los Rios colleges and the student trustee, have discussed the possibility of recommending to the district stipends for some student government positions, according to Student Trustee Cameron Weaver at the April 13 City College Student Senate meeting.

Weaver said that three of the four colleges in the district must indicate support for the idea before it can be discussed on the district level. The student senates can do this through either an official resolution or statement of support. To date, only two colleges have decided whether to support the idea.

According to Weaver, Folsom Lake College decided against the idea, recommending that other options, such as priority registration, should be explored rather than any forms of financial compensation.

Tony Tran, the Senate president at Cosumnes River College, said that the CRC Student Senate informed Weaver that they intend to support the idea in full.

Weaver said that he is still waiting on responses from City College and ARC.

“The decision still ultimately lies with the district, however,” said Weaver.

Everybody Wants Some!! (2016) Review

Originally posted on saccityexpress.com on April 21, 2016

Everybody_Wants_Some_posterScore: 5/5

There are directors like Quentin Tarantino and Francois Truffaut who make good movies,  and once in a lifetime will make a film that stands the tests of time. Then there are Directors – with a capital “D”– like Yasujiro Ozu, Federico Fellini and Werner Herzog who have consistently created great films, with minor works still being good.

Throughout his career, Richard Linklater has proved to be a Director with a capital “D.” Beginning with his first feature-length film “Slacker,” the Austin native has created a style of filmmaking that is equal parts autobiography, slice-of-life, philosophical rambling and stoner thoughts that is quintessentially Linklater.

The most recent addition to the auteur’s portfolio is “Everybody Wants Some!!” and though it is a minor work that will be lost in the shadow of “Boyhood,” it still stands as an example of how Linklater continues to produce quality content.

A typical Linklater film is set in the near past in a short time frame. In the case of “Everybody Wants Some!!” the year is 1980, and the time frame is three days before classes start at a small college in Central Texas.

The focus is on a group of college baseball players that live in two houses on the outskirts of campus. Not exactly a fraternity, but the ambiance is the same, minus the stereotypes. Their coach tells the players that he doesn’t care what goes on inside the houses as long as they follow two simple rules: no alcohol allowed inside, no girls allowed upstairs in the bedrooms. In short, no partying.

But here’s the thing: They’re young athletes. Of course there’s partying; they’re young athletes–jocks, bros. Shenanigans are bound to ensue. It is the animal part of “Animal House.” But I digress.

Many of Linklater’s films do not have a concrete plot or story, and “Everybody Wants Some!!” is no exception. It is a collection of relatable characters that are observed from the point of view of an active “straight man.” The straight man in this film is Jake (Blake Jenner). With this formula, the possibilities are endless.

From Jake’s point of view we meet characters like Plummer (Temple Baker), who I will spend quite some time on. I know guys like Plummer and I assume we have all known guys like him. He’s one of those guys who doesn’t know that he’s a douchebag and can’t help it, yet he has a heart of gold. For that we can’t help but like him. Baker, who according to IMDB has no prior acting experience, plays Plummer well and it is hysterical.

Linklater says that the film is a “spiritual sequel” to “Dazed and Confused,” but I suppose that is just what his agent told him to say for the film to sell tickets. Though the two films have similarities, they stand apart.

Though the film is set in the 1980s, Linklater was careful to differentiate between the 1980s of MTV, John Hughes and Reagan. To most of the country, 1980 was still the end of the ‘70s. Jimmy Carter was still president and muscle cars reigned supreme. The scars of Vietnam and Watergate still hadn’t healed. In a way, America in 1980 was still clenching onto a wild kind of innocence.

Linklater knew this and with that insight in mind, he used “Everybody Wants Some!!” to remind people what it truly meant to be young, wild, free and full of beer.

“Everybody Wants Some!!” is currently playing at the Tower Theater on Broadway in Sacramento.

The Great American Table

Originally published in the Express on March. 15, 2016

“They all come to look for America.”

            -Simon and Garfunkel

We celebrate St. Patrick’s Day for the same reason we celebrate Cinco de Mayo: Americans love to drink.

But in celebrating the holiday, people walk the fine line between being appropriate and being racist, which results in many falling into racist behavior.

It’s all with good intentions, however. People are not sitting around and drinking by themselves. They’re hosting parties with family and friends, cooking massive helpings of boiled food to be consumed with absurd quantities of spirits that go beyond the heart’s content.

Through all of the end-of-the-rainbow brouhaha, it’s easy to forget what St. Patrick’s Day is really about.

It is said in Christian lore that St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland after they interrupted him during a 40-day fast.

But as with many legends, the truth is lost within the romantic. St. Patrick was a Catholic missionary who came to Ireland with the intent of spreading the Gospel, using the shamrock as a symbol for the holy trinity (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit). As a result of his work and the legends about him, he became Ireland’s patron saint.

This still does not explain why Americans celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. The correct question, though, is why St. Patrick’s Day should be celebrated.

It is said in American lore that the Irish — along with countless other ethnic groups — fled their homes to seek a better life in America.

The immigrant arriving by boat in New York Harbor is an iconic American image. Along with the wave of Irishmen fleeing the Great Famine came the customs of their homeland. St. Patrick’s Day, naturally, crossed as well.

But St. Patrick’s Day should not be just another reason for Americans to party. Instead, it should stand as a symbol of how this country values its people. Since the arrival of those Irish immigrants, their descendants have assimilated into the broader American culture. The diaspora has shrunk since the times of the Great Famine, and today, the Irish occupy only a small corner of the Great American table.

In the latter half of the 20th century and the start of the 21st, immigration from Europe has been reduced. Instead, much of the new American migration comes from countries to the south and the west of the U.S.

It’s time to browse around the rest of the table.

According to Voices of America, 77 percent of Americans choose some form of ethnic cuisine when dining out. Of the top 10 most popular cuisines, four of them are from Asian countries — China, India, Japan and Thailand.

The Pew Research Center says that Asian-Americans are the fastest growing immigrant group as of 2010, making up 36 percent of immigrants in the past decade.

The impact of Asian-Americans in politics, science and the arts have made them great contributors to this country. Take the late Daniel Inouye as an example. He lost an arm as a serviceman in World War II, earning him the Congressional Medal of Honor. He represented Hawaii in the U.S. Senate from 1963 until his death in 2012. During his term, he served as president pro-tempore of the Senate, making him the highest ranked Japanese-American in the country.

Also, let us not also forget the contributions of immigrants from countries to the south. Since the founding of this nation, Hispanics and Latinos have served in every capacity available.

The Huffington Post reported that 17 percent of members of Congress are of Hispanic or Latino descent, the highest percentage thus far.

The Civil War admiral David Farragut was the first Hispanic admiral in the U.S. Navy. He is also known for his heroism at the Battle of Mobile Bay where, legend has it, he said, “Damn the torpedoes — full speed ahead!”

The current United States poet laureate is Mexican-American Juan Felipe Herrera, who also served as the Poet Laureate of California.

In 2015, one of the recipients of the MacArthur “Genius” Award was Puerto Rican composer Lin-Manuel Miranda. His groundbreaking work in musical theater has laid a path for actors of color since his debut musical, “In the Heights.”

It is these achievements and more that give us reason to celebrate the opportunities that this country has created for its immigrant descendants.

It is important to remember the next time you are pinched or drink green beer on March 17 that to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day is an act of honoring the diversity that makes our country strong. It’s sharing what’s on the table.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny (2016) Review

Originally posted on saccityexpress.com on March 3, 2016

Crouching_Tiger,_Hidden_Dragon_Sword_of_Destiny_posterScore: 2/5

“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” is a film that can exist only by itself. The artistry and love that director Ang Lee put into the most successful foreign language film of all time cannot be matched nor surpassed.

“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny” has nothing to do with the original film. The only parallels between the two films are both have a mostly Asian cast and the characters are all fighting one another with swords.

The film is about a master of the sword named Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh), who travels to Peking, China, because it is necessary for the story. The sword of destiny in question once belonged to her lover, Li Mu Bai. So important is the sword that many try to steal it.

This weak storyline could be forgiven if the film was well crafted and handled with respect for the martial arts genre. Mercy would be given to the filmmakers  if the performances were multi-dimensional. Unfortunately “Sword of Destiny” has no interest in mercy or forgiveness, and because of this lack of interest, it will receive neither.

But the 800-pound gorilla in the room is what it is trying to achieve but does not: diversity.

Diversity in film is an issue that must be addressed in the 21st century. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, 58 percent of California residents identify as being non-white. The largest “minority” demographics are Latinos and Asian-Americans.

Hollywood has had great bouts of progress to become more inclusive. Modern films represent American culture and the changing racial makeup. Yet the Asian-American community, according to Hollywood, consists of two kinds of people: the closed-off, ultra-geek and the fresh-off-the-boat immigrant.

There is also a third category that is just as damaging, though not as mean. That category is that of the exotic warrior.

“Sword of Destiny” populates the screen with exotic warriors who fight over nothing but sword. It is their only drive. They’re barely even human. This is dangerous because it reinforces another stereotype.

“Sword of Destiny” may not be as offensive or outright racist as “No Escape,” but the lack of insight is equal.

If this is supposed to be the film that 2016 chooses to represent Asian-Americans, then it should be viewed as an insult that is ludicrous, sour and toxic.

“Sword of Destiny” is currently streaming on Netflix.

Anderson’s Oscar Predictions (2016)

Originally posted on saccityexpress.com on Feb 27, 2016

oscars-770x437Though the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has come under fire for its lack of choosing racially diverse nominees, predicting the winners is still fun for movie lovers across the globe. To differentiate from my Golden Globes predictions, I have also included a list of snubs for each category. Here are my predictions (listed in bold) for the 88th Annual Academy Awards:

Best Picture (Director)

  • “The Big Short” (Adam McKay)
  • “Bridge of Spies” (Steven Spielberg)
  • “Brooklyn” (John Crowley)
  • “Mad Max: Fury Road” (George Miller)
  • “The Martian” (Ridley Scott)
  • “The Revenant” (Alejandro González Iñárritu)
  • “Room” (Lenny Abrahamson)
  • “Spotlight” (Tom McCarthy): It is one of the most important narrative films of 2015. As Americans continue to yearn for truth, “Spotlight” chronicles the noble search for it. Though it is too early to call, “Spotlight” may occupy the same space as “All the President’s Men” as one of the most iconic newspaper films ever made.

Snubs: “Straight Outta Compton”; “Chi-Raq”; “Inside Out”; “Tangerine”; “Beasts of No Nation”; “Suffragette”


Best Director (Film)

  • Adam McKay (“The Big Short”)
  • George Miller (“Mad Max: Fury Road”)
  • Alejandro González Iñárritu (“The Revenant”): No other director in the 21st century would be able to pitch a Western after making as phantasmagorical of a film as “Birdman” the year before. Iñárritu has made his mark in future film textbooks with his stellar work.
  • Lenny Abrahamson (“Room”)
  • Tom McCarthy (“Spotlight”)

Snubs: Ridley Scott (“The Martian”); F. Gary Gray (“Straight Outta Compton”); László Nemes (“Son of Saul”); Spike Lee (“Chi-Raq”); Cary Joji Fukunaga (“Beasts of No Nation”); Sarah Gavron (“Suffragette”)


Best Actor (Film)

  • Bryan Cranston as Dalton Trumbo (“Trumbo”)
  • Matt Damon as Mark Watney (“The Martian”)
  • Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass (The Revenant): Though Fassbender was unmatched as tech giant Steve Jobs, DiCaprio’s reign as an Oscar winner will begin with “The Revenant.” Like Adrien Brody in “The Pianist”, Hugh Glass is a role that people will bring up whenever they want to talk about method acting.
  • Michael Fassbender as Steve Jobs (Steve Jobs)
  • Eddie Redmayne as Lili Elbe/Einar Wegener (The Danish Girl)

Snubs: Michael B. Jordan (“Creed”); Will Smith (“Concussion”); Abraham Attah (“Beasts of No Nation”)


Best Actress (Film)

  • Cate Blanchett as Carol Aird (“Carol”)
  • Brie Larson as Joy “Ma” Newsome (“Room”): 2015 was a strong year for female actors as a result of the abundance of multi-dimensional roles. Cate Blanchett and Jennifer Lawrence are always good, and Saoirse Ronan’s performance is so far the high point of her career. But Sacramento native Brie Larson has broken from the teen genre bubble with an eruption of emotion and scars in “Room.”
  • Jennifer Lawrence as Joy Mangano (“Joy”)
  • Charlotte Rampling as Kate Mercer (“45 Years”)
  • Saoirse Ronan as Eilis Lacey (“Brooklyn”)

Snubs: Lily Tomlin (“Grandma”); Amy Poehler (“Inside Out”); Teyonah Parris (“Chi-Raq”)


Best Supporting Actor (Film)

  • Christian Bale as Michael Burry (“The Big Short”)
  • Tom Hardy John Fitzgerald (“The Revenant”)
  • Mark Ruffalo as Michael Rezendez (“Spotlight”)
  • Mark Rylance as Rudolf Abel (“Bridge of Spies”)
  • Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa (“Creed”): It is a true shame that the Academy has recognized Stallone for a character that he portrays for the seventh time over the superb work of Michael B. Jordan, who was not nominated in the Best Actor category for the title role. But Stallone’s coolness has made him comfortable as Rocky Balboa and it is a deserved homage to the legend that he created.

Snubs: Idris Elba (“Beasts of No Nation”); Seth Rogen (“Steve Jobs”); Jacob Tremblay (“Room”); Michael Keaton (“Spotlight”); Liev Schreiber (“Spotlight”); Nick Cannon (“Chi-Raq”)


Best Supporting Actress (Film)

  • Jennifer Jason Leigh as Daisy Domergue (“The Hateful Eight”)
  • Rooney Mara as Therese Belivet (“Carol”)
  • Rachel McAdams as Sacha Pfeiffer (“Spotlight”)
  • Alicia Vikander as Gerda Wegener (“The Danish Girls”)
  • Kate Winslet as Joanna Hoffman (“Steve Jobs”): Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine described Winslet’s performance as “glorious,” and there is no synonym available that is comparable. As the no-nonsense, but always loyal Joanna Hoffman, Winslet is the only actress who could portray such a brave soul.

Snubs: Meryl Streep (“Suffragette”); Phyllis Smith (“Inside Out”); Angela Bassett (“Chi-raq”)


Best Original Screenplay

  • “Bridge of Spies” by Matt Charman, Joel and Ethan Coen
  • “Ex Machina” by Alex Garland
  • “Inside Out” by Pete Docter, Meg LeFauve, Josh Cooley and Ronnie del Carmen: Pixar truly outdid themselves with this charming tale about the inner emotions of a young girl’s mind. There was a chemistry that was perfected by the scribes that cannot be replicated.
  • “Spotlight” by Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer
  • “Straight Outta Compton” by Jonathan Herman, Andrea Berloff, S. Leigh Savidge and Alan Wenkus


Best Adapted Screenplay

  • “The Big Short” by Adam McKay and Charles Randolph (based on the book of the same name by Michael Lewis)
  • “Brooklyn” by Nick Hornby (based on the novel of the same name by Colm Tóibín)
  • “Carol” by Phyllis Nagy (based on the novel “The Price of Salt” by Patricia Highsmith)
  • “The Martian” by Drew Goddard (based on the novel “The Martian” by Andy Weir)
  • “Room” by Emma Donoghue (based on her novel of the same name): This movie is a triumphant piece on the endurance of the human spirit as a result of being held hostage for years. Instead of looming on the horrors of the situation, Donoghue explores the inner workings of the female victim. Imagine the “Inside Out” characters in the mind of Ma; wouldn’t that be cool?

Snubs: “Steve Jobs” by Aaron Sorkin; “Chi-Raq” by Spike Lee; “Beasts of No Nation” by Cary Joji Fukunaga


Best Original Score (Composer)

  • “Bridge of Spies” (Thomas Newman)
  • “Carol” (Carter Burwell)
  • “The Hateful Eight (Ennio Morricone)
  • “Sicario” (Jóhann Jóhannsson)
  • “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (John Williams): “Star Wars” has always relied on the strength of its score to finish painting a galaxy far, far away. The latest installment of the beloved franchise has awakened with electricity the mind of Master – with a capital “M” – John Williams, who while exploring known themes, discovered new ones.

Snubs: “The Danish Girl” (Alexandre Desplat); “Steve Jobs” (Daniel Pemberton); “He Named Me Malala” (Thomas Newman)


Best Original Song (Film)

  • “Earned It” (“Fifty Shades of Grey”)
  • “Manta Ray” (“Racing Extinction”)
  • “Simple Song #3” (“Youth”)
  • “Til it Happens to You” (“The Hunting Ground”): The song and the film are fueled with powerful titles. “The Hunting Ground” is a documentary about rape on college campuses, and its title strikes what campuses across the country have become for young women. Lady Gaga aids the anger with “Til it Happens to You,” which has been seasoned with betrayal, resulting in a piece that yells furiously. It expresses how no one will ever understand sexual assault unless it happens to him or her.
  • “Writing’s on the Wall” (“Spectre”)

Snubs: “See You Again” (“Furious 7”)


Best Documentary Feature (Director)

  • “Amy” (Asif Kapadia)
  • “Cartel Land” (Matthew Heineman): This chilling documentary about the border between the United States and Mexico plays more like an action film narrative than a documentary. With camera crews embedded on both sides, it creates a rush of adrenaline for viewers.
  • “The Look of Silence” (Joshua Oppenheimer)
  • “What Happened, Miss Simone?” (Liz Garbus)
  • “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” (Evgeny Afineevsky)

Snubs: “All Things Must Pass”; “The Hunting Ground”; “Where to Invade Next”; “He Named Me Malala”; “Welcome to Leith”; “The True Cost”; “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief”


Best Animated Feature Film (Director)

  • “Anomalisa” (Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson)
  • “Boy & the World” (Alě Abreu)
  • “Inside Out” (Pete Docter): The two settings are San Francisco and the mind of a young girl. Yet in “Inside Out” the two seem to morph into one metaphor for change and growth. The voice cast is of the highest order and the quality is quintessentially Pixar.
  • “Shaun the Sheep Movie” (Mark Burton and Richard Starzak)
  • “When Marnie Was There” (Hiromasa Yonebayashi)

Snubs: “The Good Dinosaur”

Follow Zach on Twitter at @ZFRAnd for live Oscar updates.

Cooked (2016) Review

Originally posted on saccityexpress.com on Feb. 25, 2016

CookedScore: 5/5

The argument made by “Cooked” is that the act of cooking is a part of the foundational fibers of ecosystems and civilizations.

This documentary is based on the book by legendary food writer Michael Pollan, and like the book, it ventures through styles of cooking across the globe. It also focuses on Pollan’s own experience to learn how to cook different foods.

The book’s four parts are divided according to the classical elements of fire, water, air and earth. Pollan’s learning coincides with these elements. Barbecued pig connects with fire, pot roast with water, bread with air, and beer with earth.

The focus is still on a global scale. The opening shot is of a patch of the Australian outback being burned by a couple of indigenous Murri women. After the fire burns out, they find burrowing lizards that have left their homes. It is revealed later that their hunting style is not destructive, but crucial to the survival of the ecosystem. Without the Murri’s hunting, newer plants would be unable to flourish.

In the air segment, the age-old trope of bread being equal to life is used. In Morocco, a woman kneads flour and water together to form a crude loaf. It is a metaphor for how life and work coexist with each other. The woman’s younger son looks at her with confusion. She answers the unasked question: Why? And answers it’s impossible to live without bread. Replace “bread” with “work” and the answer is the same.

The artistry in filmmaking hits similar notes in  the documentary “Jiro Dreams of Sushi,” in which  the process is portrayed as the creation of a landscape painting by a master. In the water segment, onions and parsnips are dropped into boiling water, where they dance in harmony before being interrupted by the beef. Soon the pot has turned into an orgy of flavors and nutrients until it becomes a stew.

In both the book and documentary, cooking is intertwined with humanities, biology, anthropology, geography and other disciplines. The broad art of cooking is condensed as being a ritual of religious importance.

It also stands as a warning to younger generations who treat cooking with the dangerous attitude that intervention in food production is unnecessary. As processing grows to an industrial scale, health is put into jeopardy. In India, a family orders takeout food four times a week, causing a fractured family unit.

Yet home cooking is viewed by others in India as a duty to preserve culture. The film shows how workers in India are brought home-cooked lunches every day by bike-riding delivery boys. The work is hard, but the people cooking see it as a necessity.

In “Cooked,” a home-cooked meal is never just the result of vegetables and meat coming in contact with heat. The personhood of the cook is ingrained into the fibers of the culture. Not just the cook’s emotion, but also his or her ethnic background, pains and pleasures, and history.

The film’s key argument is this: To not cook is to destroy a person.

“Cooked” is currently streaming on Netflix.