Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Carnevino is in Trouble

Mario Batali Update

Loyal readers know that I intensely dislike Mario Batali the chef. His sin was that he composed the most asinine, incoherent, treacly piece of pious bullshit I've ever seen on a Starbucks cup. I mean, all of those Starbucks cup quotes were bad, but the Mario Batali one towered over the rest for its 100% pure-cut Colombian stupidity.

Then I actually bumped into him at the Palazzo in Las Vegas outside his new restaurant Carnevino. Not initially realizing who he was, I missed the opportunity to grab his ridiculous hat and run away.

I had meant to eventually eat at Carnevino but I never got around to it. I had actually wanted to sample the food of a man who, according to his Starbucks cup, was no more than two generations removed from a guy who shook hands with another guy who picked the peas of the first guy. But the word now is that the restaurants at Palazzo are tanking. Apparently you can walk in and be seated immediately at any of them, any time of day, any day of the week. Just yesterday I read a scathing review of Carnevino and I'm glad I stayed away. Oh, this is awful. I almost feel bad for Mario. Almost. Check it out (courtesy of Eating Las Vegas):

And speaking of not-so-nice prices, be prepared for some serious sticker shock and some seriously over salted food, should you or your dining companions mindlessly insist on enduring a meal at Carnevino. This Mario Batali meat emporium has all the charm of a bus station, and is so massively overpriced that you’ll feel like one of Adam Perry Lang’s overstuffed cattle being led to slaughter when you get the bill. For example: I just returned from New York where a prime, well-aged steak for two, at Wolfgang’s Steakhouse on Park Avenue South that gives Peter Luger’s a run for its money, cost $82.50….at Carnevino it’s $150.

What's the air and soil telling you now, fat boy?

The Dark Knight: A Fictional Story

Did anyone see the Dark Knight? Yeah? So did I. Skip this section if you don't want spoilers. The always dependable Moriarty wrote one of the best Dark Knight reviews on aintitcoolnews.com. Moriarty doesn't bat 1000 - he enjoyed The Love Guru for instance, but he's a capable reviewer and I agree with his take on Batman.

But hold the freakin' phone. In the review, he discusses the scene on the ferries where each group of passengers is given the option of blowing up the other group to save their own lives. He mentions the part where Tiny Lister (big, imposing black guy, here playing a convict) takes the detonator and throws it out the window. Moriarty writes:

When he steps forward and demands the detonator, I did exactly what Nolan wanted me to do: I judged Lister on his appearance. I looked at him, and I knew full well what he was going to do with the detonator. Nolan really milks the suspense, too, as Lister talks about the difference between someone strong enough to make the awful moral choice and someone who is too weak to do it. He takes the responsibility and the detonator out of the hands of the warden... and then throws the detonator out the window and returns to his friends so they can pray. It’s not a moment I would have ever expected to see in a summer blockbuster, but more than that, it’s a moment that made me realize that no matter how enlightened I like to think I am, I harbor prejudices like anyone else. I leapt to a conclusion I had no business making, and the reversal made me feel terribly guilty.

Um, Moriarty... a couple of white, non-convict screenwriters wrote that scene. Tiny Lister, an actor, was hired to play a fictional man who does a fictional thing with a fictional detonator, with hundreds of fictional lives at stake. In other words Moriarty, IT DIDN'T ACTUALLY HAPPEN. Therefore, it does not present some kind of striking counter-example to challenge your conventional prejudice. Tiny Lister's behavior in the scene does not reflect the behavior of an actual person, and thus does not create a basis for your self-doubt and introspection.

[Necessary disclaimer: there are of course REAL reasons to not be prejudiced against big imposing black guys like Tiny Lister. His Christopher-Nolan-scripted behavior in The Dark Knight is merely not one of them]

American TV and film are relentless in the way they purposefully defy racial stereotypes. If some group has a stereotype of being lazy, Hollywood will portray them as industrious. Poor? Hollywood makes them wealthy. Criminals? Virtuous. Not so smart? Geniuses. Greedy? Generous. etc. etc. But what I don't usually see if someone pulling a "Moriarty": citing these fictional portrayals as actual evidence that the stereotype is unfounded. Now that takes stupidity.

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