Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What's Kale Got to Do with It?

I recently watched Steven Soderbergh's 2012 film Magic Mike, starring Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, and Alex Pettyfer, and written by Reid Carolin (who has a small role in the film).  I don't recall the reviews, except one that said it was the best performance ever of McConaughey's.  And then at the end of the year I happened to see the film on the top ten lists of some indie film bloggers.  So, ever curious, I eventually got the DVD from Netflix, and it sat under the flatscreen for three or four weeks.  I was resistant.

When I finally watched the movie, I was more than pleasantly surprised.  I kept waiting for the film to disappoint, but it didn't.  It just got better and I became more and more invested.  I have to say that it has one of the sexiest (involving no sex, I might add) and satisfying endings of any film I've seen in the past year.  An end that's really a beginning....

Magic Mike is Channing Tatum's alter ego at the strip club where he's the star; the club is owned by McConaughey's character, Dallas.  Mike takes Pettyfer's stripping newbie Adam under his wing, and also develops an attraction to Adam's sister Brooke (Cody Horn), who will have nothing to do with him.  Olivia Munn (whom we love from The Newsroom, right?) has a supporting role as a Ph.D. candidate in clinical psych (!) who has the occasional hook-up with Mike.

What I like about this movie is how it resists convention.  Mike is a good guy who's relentlessly good--which is not to say that he's boring or has no arc.  He's saving his tips (he's amassed $13K in cash so far) to start a furnishings business (one-of-a-kind items he makes), but the bank of course turns him down for a loan.  In any other movie, the character would have a postal moment, but not Mike.  Because he embodies decency, kind of like a contemporary Jimmy Stewart (no, not the one from Vertigo).

The choreography of some of the dancing/stripping scenes is pretty damned awesome.  And of course there are all of those pristine hairless chests and six-pack abs.  But the strip club milieu is just the film's vehicle.  Nevertheless, that seems to have turned off a lot of people.  One friend said it wasn't for her and insisted that Channing Tatum can't act.  Another acquaintance wouldn't even brook the idea of watching it, saying he was too "hetero" for the material.  Admittedly, the trailer is not appealing, and it's misleading.  But for what it's worth, here it is:

This resistance from friends who usually trust my recommendations/share my taste puzzled and interested me (as all "resistance" does a therapist--although in psychotherapy it's a somewhat outmoded concept--we therapists actually have to look at how we're co-constructing what appears to be patient "resistance").  Then the other day I mentioned the film to a therapist colleague (who had also previously worked in the film business), and the first words out of her mouth were, "Wasn't that a great film?"  I high-fived her.  I don't know that it's a great film, but it's a really good one, and I think a better one than Soderbergh's Side Effects, which I liked quite a lot.  Better because you become emotionally invested in it.

Magic Mike the film is a lot like kale.  Kale salad is ubiquitous now, at least in Los Angeles, but I imagine that most of us initially balked at its appeal, wholesome as it may be.  (Although, ironically, the balking at Magic Mike may have more to do with the perceived unwholesomeness of the male strip club arena.)  The first kale salad I made took what seemed like hours of de-stemming and de-ribbing and cutting.  But now that Trader Joe's does the cutting and bagging, well, I don't know about you, but bagged kale has changed my life, and I'm eating kale salad every other week (I like to alternate with arugula).  So here's my favorite recipe for kale salad (H/T Meghan at dosa for the original).  It's great fresh but if you can't eat it all, it's also terrific for lunch the next day.  Kale won't wilt or get soggy; it's solidly good, like Mike.


Chop a couple of cloves of garlic and toss them in a small frying pan with a tablespoon or so of olive oil and a half cup of panko (fancy Japanese--they do make a difference) bread crumbs.  Stir until the breadcrumbs are toasted, about two or three minutes.  Set aside.

For the dressing, chop a shallot (not onion!) and combine with the juice of one large lemon; whisk in a tablespoon or so of olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.  Let sit while you assemble the salad.

Fill a bowl with pre-cut washed kale (or do it yourself if you must), and lightly salt and pepper it.  Add a half cup or so of crumbled feta cheese, and a handful of finely grated Reggiano parmesan.  Throw in some toasted pine nuts and, finally, the bread crumbs.  (You can add leftover chicken for more protein.  Bacon rocks as well--Trader Joe's also sells convenient no-nitrate pre-cooked strips.)

Whisk the dressing again and drizzle it over the salad.  Then toss it all with your fingers, the way all the happenin' chefs do these days. (At least that's what Nancy Silverton recommends--that and salting the greens before you dress them.)

Then pour some more of that bodiful red you've already been sipping, roll with your resistance (a term from motivational interviewing--scroll down that wiki page) and slide the Magic Mike DVD into your unit.   Then, after you've done it all,  leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

BTW, it may very well be McConaughey's best picture so far....

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