Louisiana Gumbo (and some Lagniappe)

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Re: Louisiana Gumbo (and some Lagniappe)

Post by Macrology » Tue Oct 01, 2019 10:03 pm

New Orleans, Exported

Just a quick throwback to this post, featuring Homer's odyssey (heh heh) through the New Orleans culinary scene.

In a Herculean effort, two Swiss tourists, Katrin von Niederhäusern and Janine Wiget, created the montage shot for shot.

I'm both jealous and impressed.



(Note at 00:17 seconds in, where the iconic Gene's Poboys has since shut down -- victim of a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood.)
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Re: Louisiana Gumbo (and some Lagniappe)

Post by Wooley » Wed Oct 02, 2019 4:59 am

Macrology wrote:
Tue Oct 01, 2019 10:03 pm
New Orleans, Exported

Just a quick throwback to this post, featuring Homer's odyssey (heh heh) through the New Orleans culinary scene.

In a Herculean effort, two Swiss tourists, Katrin von Niederhäusern and Janine Wiget, created the montage shot for shot.

I'm both jealous and impressed.



(Note at 00:17 seconds in, where the iconic Gene's Poboys has since shut down -- victim of a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood.)
So amazing, those two women are welcome in New Orleans for life.

Also, I thought I'd heard that Gene's was being saved or coming back somehow?

But the gentrification of our fair city has become a terrifying issue. Will all our culture be lost and we'll be reduced to transplant-led second-lines for tourists?
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Re: Louisiana Gumbo (and some Lagniappe)

Post by Macrology » Wed Nov 06, 2019 6:10 am

Ernest J. Gaines, whose A Lesson Before Dying I recently wrote about in this thread, just died today. His NYT obituary. I need to read more of his work.

Planning to update this thread with a more substantial post soon.
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Re: Louisiana Gumbo (and some Lagniappe)

Post by Macrology » Thu Jan 09, 2020 7:44 pm

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The Apostle | Robert Duvall | 1997

I first heard mention of this film when I was reading up on Flannery O'Connor after finishing her
Collected Stories. While the film is a far cry from the brutal (and decidedly Catholic) religious
ecstasies of O'Connor's fiction, it's easy to see why the writer compared the two: both strive to
reconcile religious attitudes with violent realities, and they are among the few works of American
fiction that handle the subject of religion without resorting to condescension or sentimentality.

The story starts in East Texas, where an Evangelical preacher (Duvall) commits a crime of passion
and flees to rural Louisiana to evade arrest. With incredible, riveting charm, he connects with the
local community and goes about starting a congregation. Based on the violent beginnings and the
standard Hollywood take on evangelicals, one expects him to callously manipulate his followers,
but this is the anti Elmer Gantry: Duvall treats his protagonist with absolute earnestness, a
man who believes that he is called by God to call others to God. The result is not only an electrifying
character study (and arguably Duvall's greatest performance), but one of the only honest depictions
of evangelicals in cinema -- one that addresses human failure without condemning its ensemble.

The film is most remarkable for the way that it illustrates how religious life engenders a sense of
community and belonging, with Duvall rallying diverse people (across race lines, although almost
invariably poor) and creating a physical and emotional space that enriches their lives. This culminates
in a scene where a belligerent, racist outsider (Billy Bob Thornton) shows up with a bulldozer and
threatens to tear down their newly restored church, and the unexpected emotional force of this
scene rivals some of O'Connor's most vivid revelations. As for the setting, while it doesn't scream
Louisiana (West LA and East TX are very similar), it captures the vernacular of the area as few films
do -- the way people talk and preach and interact -- thanks in part to its location shooting in St.
Martinville and Des Allemands and its casting of several local actors and nonprofessionals.

Lagniappe
While The Apostle is about evangelicals, Louisiana is comprised primarily of Southern Baptists
(in the predominantly Anglo North Louisiana) and Catholics (in French/Spanish South Louisiana,
where I live). And while cities like New Orleans have grown more secular over time, and some of
the city's Catholic churches have been converted into theaters and event spaces, many Catholic
traditions are still firmly in place and have even been adopted by non-Catholics.

Even the New Orleans football team is called The Saints, and I discussed our St. Joseph's Day traditions and the
Holy Trinity of Louisiana cooking in previous posts, but there are a few other peculiar local traditions
that deserve our attention. In the Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel on Rampart Street in New Orleans,
there's a statue depicting Saint Expeditus, a Roman centurion martyred for converting to Christianity.
According to local lore, the chapel received a large shipment of saintly statuary, but one of the
packages wasn't labeled. Since the package was marked 'Expedite', the nuns figured it must be St. Expedite.

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St. Expedite in the Our Lady of Guadalupe Chapel.

One of the most prevalent Catholic traditions in South Louisiana -- one that is still practiced, though
it is beginning to fade -- is the celebration of All Saints Day. Traditionally, this involved dressing
up in your finest Fall fashion, visiting the cemetery to bedeck the family tomb with flowers and
wreaths, repairing any damage to the tomb, and mingling with the other visiting families.

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An illustration depicting All Saints Day in the late 1800s.

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All Saints Day in the 1940s.

Now, only a few families in New Orleans actively take part in All Saints Day traditions, but the
tradition still thrives in some of the small towns outside of the city, particularly places like
Lacombe, Louisiana, on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain, where observers spend the day
decorating their family's grave sites and tombs with flowers and candles, so all through the
evening roadside cemeteries and graveyards tucked into the woods glow with gentle, beautiful
persistence. I've gone to Lacombe twice with friends to see the All Saints decorations, and each
time ended up conversing with local residents, who shared stories about dead loved ones or
their struggle to keep this slowly dying tradition alive. Here are a few of the pictures I took.

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Approaching one of the cemeteries set back in the woods.

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A closer look at that cemetery.

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One of the most lavishly decorated cemeteries.

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I visited this grave both years: it's adorned not only with candles, but a whole miniature fairy tale scene.

If you're interested, this lovely article goes into detail about more of Louisiana's Catholic folk traditions.
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Re: Louisiana Gumbo (and some Lagniappe)

Post by Torgo » Thu Jan 09, 2020 7:50 pm

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Re: Louisiana Gumbo (and some Lagniappe)

Post by Captain Terror » Fri Feb 07, 2020 3:08 pm

Macrology wrote:
Thu Feb 19, 2015 12:39 am
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Always for Pleasure | Les Blank | 1978

In honor of Mardi Gras, I decided to crack open Criterion's Les Blank boxset with its titular film. And that title couldn't be more appropriate.

Blank totally eschews documentary reportage to offer us a sensual distillation of New Orleans street culture and the jubilation of Mardi Gras. He offers only enough background to establish a rudimentary understanding, so it only scratches the surface of the culture, but that surface is a shimmering, resplendent display of color and vitality. The film itself is a sustained celebration of the fact that we love to celebrate.

It's interesting to see a New Orleans of 1977 on film, mostly because outside of fashion, very little has changed in 35 years. It features the Wild Tchoupitoulas, who we discussed earlier in the thread, and the film's opening takes advantage of the street name motif that is so common in the city's literature (after all, we have a Pleasure Street in New Orleans). However, I'm baffled as to why Luis Bunuel is thanked in the credits. Anyone have insight into that?

(Y'all can expect reviews of Blank's other Louisiana documentaries in the months to come as I make my way through the set.)

Voodoo: [ ]
Mardi Gras: [x]
Live music: [x]
Gratuitous reference to local cuisine: [x]
Questionable accents: [ ]
I rewatched this one last night. Figured you'd have written about it already, and found this old post.
I slightly disagree with your "very little has changed" comment, because I feel like things were more insular then. We were in our own world and if tourists wanted to share that they were welcome, but we weren't putting on a show for them. I feel like we're accommodating outsiders more than we used to. Which is fine, but different nonetheless. Anyhow, that's a topic for another day.

Regarding the doc- Yes, it's just as aimless as a doc about New Orleans ought to be. Here's a parade, here's a MOUNTAIN of cayenne pepper being poured into a boiling pot (jeezus!), here's a funeral, etc. The footage of the Tchoups onstage with the Nevilles is priceless. I'd love to know how much of that was filmed, would love to see the outtakes.
Although most of this was filmed in neighborhoods I did not frequent at age 6-7, it still brought back lots of memories and also helps explain why I feel like such a weirdo when I visit other parts of the country.
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Re: Louisiana Gumbo (and some Lagniappe)

Post by Macrology » Mon Feb 10, 2020 4:35 am

Second lines probably have changed in the intervening decades, but I've only been attending second lines post-Katrina, so it's harder for me to say. But in my experience of second lines, very few tourists seem to know about them or attend, and second lines have always had a performative quality. You can see that in this film, and maybe the people performing for the camera makes the insularity less obvious.

As for Mardi Gras, we've been indulging tourists since at least the 50s, just based on what I've read. Though Mardi Gras Indians have definitely become more of an attraction, even just in the time I've been here.

I'll be updating this thread with another post within the next week or two. Whenever I can get around to it. I'm working hard on producing a play at the moment.
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Re: Louisiana Gumbo (and some Lagniappe)

Post by Macrology » Tue Mar 03, 2020 8:23 pm

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Mardi Gras Massacre | Jack Weis | 1978

A nondescript middle-aged man goes on the most uninspired killing spree ever,
seeking out "evil women" and sacrificing them to a Peruvian god for no particular
reason. There are Bad movies, which miss the mark but can still entertain, and
there are Blah movies, which simply lack any kind of verve or spirit. All the
murders in this film are shot for shot exactly the same, to the point that we
were analyzing shots to make sure they used different actresses. In the hands
of a more methodical filmmaker that ritualism might have been interesting,
but here it makes for pretty redundant viewing.

But it wasn't a totally worthless experience. There are sporadic moments of
unintentional hilarity, and near the end, when the police are trying to track
down the killer, we get some near-documentary clandestine French Quarter
street footage and a glimpse of late 70s Mardi Gras revelry. Plus, the whole
experience was salvaged by watching it with some good friends in Lafayette
and playing a game they invented called Bad Movie Bingo (which I'll explain
in the Lagniappe section down below - more people deserve to know about it).

Lagniappe
Bad Movie Bingo, invented by my friend Tshy and her boyfriend Trent,
is a game that makes any bad movie more palatable. The rules are simple: pick
a bad film that no one has seen, make a bingo grid (5 rows on each axis, making
25 squares), then go in a circle naming things that you think might appear in the
film, based only on the title, the poster, and whatever thumbnail description
the streaming service offers.

Here is a sample sheet, the one we did for Mardi Gras Massacre. Note
that all of the squares are labeled by name.

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(Click image for higher resolution)

Every person arranges their grid as they like, and every time something
happens, you mark out that square on your bingo grid. When your guesses
happen, you get 1 point. (We also pick each person's "Least Likely to Appear"
square, and if that shows up, you get 5 points - those are the circled squares.)
The first bingo rakes in 10 points, with each successive bingo bringing in
diminishing returns until they settle at 2 points each. You tally up the points
at the end and see who won.

A drinking element is easily incorporated, where you drink whenever a square
is scratched, finish a drink when someone hits bingo, etc. Very straightforward,
but makes even the most dismal films a more engaging viewing experience.
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Re: Louisiana Gumbo (and some Lagniappe)

Post by Wooley » Sat Mar 07, 2020 6:54 pm

I have still never seen it.
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Re: Louisiana Gumbo (and some Lagniappe)

Post by Macrology » Tue Mar 10, 2020 6:22 pm

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Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans | Werner Herzog | 2009

What an unlikely film. A reboot of an unmarketable Abel Ferrara film, directed by
Werner Herzog (who had never seen the original), starring Nicolas Cage. It's amazing
that the film ever got made, but what's even more amazing is the weird alchemy
that makes this film work so well. It seems obvious in retrospect, but I never would
have guessed on my own how well Nic Cage's sensibility meshes with Herzog's off-kilter
style, how much his screen presence recalls Klaus Kinski's irrepressible energy. It bears
nothing but a superficial resemblance to Abel Ferrara's fascinating meditation on
morality and Catholic conviction, but both films formulate esoteric, morally complex
worldviews within an otherwise conservative genre: two bright, beautiful arthouse
bubbles in the sea of cop movies. In Herzog's case, he anchors his protagonist's
troubled, destructive behavior with a seed of deeply ingrained moral certainty and
inflects the sordid post-Katrina milieu with moments of hallucinogenic clarity.

The main reasons to watch this are Nic Cage's unhinged performance and Herzog's
unpredictable direction, but the whole ensemble is tight, and I particularly enjoyed
Xzibit's role ("possibly the most affable and credulous drug lord in cinema history").
Reading up on the film after I watched it, I was also struck by how much New Orleans
itself featured in critics' commentary. Granted, the city does appear in the title and
the film opens with a Katrina scene, but otherwise, the film doesn't draw particular
attention to the setting. It certainly avoids The Big Easy pitfall of indulging a
host of local stereotypes, despite working within a similar mold. They shot here because
of Louisiana's tax breaks, but New Orleans quietly steals across the film. It reminds one
how distinctive New Orleans is and how its peculiarities shape the films that are set here.


Lagniappe
This film wasn't Nicolas Cage's first time in New Orleans. He's shot several films here
(including a lot of oddballs, like Lynch's Wild at Heart and the straight to video
Zandalee), and he also owned property here for many years. The first home he
bought was the famously haunted LaLaurie Mansion in the French Quarter, whose story
of tortured slaves features in the third season of American Horror Story. It's a
regular stop on the city's ghost tours, and allegedly Nic Cage only spent two nights there.

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The LaLaurie Mansion, where Delphine LaLaurie was discovered tormenting slaves in her attic.

His second house (ostensibly purchased to have a non-haunted place to sleep in town)
was in the Garden District. It's one of the largest and most stately homes in that already
opulent neighborhood, and its previous owners include Anne Rice, the Catholic Church (it
served as a chapel for decades), and Henry Lonsdale, a coffee importer (the incorporation
of chicory into New Orleans coffee is often popularly attributed to him). However, Cage
had to sell both of these homes after his bankruptcy, when his tax evasion came to light.

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But his most fascinating property in New Orleans - one he still owns - isn't a home. It's his
pyramid shaped tomb in St Louis Cemetery #1, the city's oldest extant cemetery and the
setting of the acid trip in Easy Rider (it also makes a brief appearance in the opening
of The Cincinnati Kid). Some ascribe its bold design to Masonic symbols and the pyramids
at Giza, others chalk it up to his National Treasure movies. Tour guides joke that he
stashes cash inside to keep it from the IRS, or that it's hiding the Declaration of Independence.

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Nic Cage's $200,000+ pyramid tomb. The inscription means "All from One" in Latin.

But even with his tomb he's had bad luck. Late last year, someone came into the cemetery
with a hammer and smashed the tableau (the marble frontispiece, which had to be replaced),
and female admirers regularly show their affection for Cage by leaving lipstick marks on it.

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Re: Louisiana Gumbo (and some Lagniappe)

Post by Torgo » Tue Mar 10, 2020 6:58 pm

I like that movie a lot too. The one part in it I haven't been able to completely wrap my head around, however, is the "rusty spoon scene."
Is it about how everyone and everything, like the once-tarnish-free spoon, gets corrupted, but that this fact should not stop you from doing what you think is right? Since the story is essentially about McDonagh learning how to differentiate right and wrong again, I'd like to think that this scene is a pivotal step in his journey. Or, maybe I'm looking too much into it...maybe Herzog found the spoon on the ground, gave it to Cage and said <Teutoic accent> "have at eet."
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Re: Louisiana Gumbo (and some Lagniappe)

Post by Macrology » Tue Mar 10, 2020 7:20 pm

If I recall correctly, I read somewhere that the whole spoon thing wasn't in the original script, and that Herzog put that stuff together on set. I couldn't tell you where I found that tidbit, but it certainly makes sense, and I'd say it illustrates how Herzog's approach deviates from the norms of the genre.

The scenes with the spoon stood out to me because it felt almost like they had wandered in from another film. They're the only moments when his character indulges in any obvious nostalgia or sentiment, so they have an odd ring to them. I don't necessarily mean that as a criticism, though. It's an interesting contrast, and another one of Herzog's disorienting tactics.
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Re: Louisiana Gumbo (and some Lagniappe)

Post by Captain Terror » Sat Apr 04, 2020 5:02 am

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Watched this one a couple of days ago. It's from 1947, but set in 1917. It's the story of a Basin St club owner who's forced to leave town when the decent folk of NO decide to clean up Storyville. It's actually more the story of Jazz than it is about NO specifically, showing how the music developed and subsequently spread across the country as the musicians migrated elsewhere. (Chicago, in this case). And the story ends with some stuffy white folks finally embracing Jazz after a pretty white girl incorporates it into her Carnegie Hall classical performance.

If any of it was filmed on location here, I missed it. And I suspect that it was all filmed on studio sets. So I can't say it's of special interest to residents, necessarily, but what you DO get is some great footage of Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday. Definitely not essential, but there's a decent copy on Youtube if you're so inclined.
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Re: Louisiana Gumbo (and some Lagniappe)

Post by Wooley » Sat Apr 04, 2020 3:32 pm

I'd like to leave this here if I may, it's a really awesome piece from the NYT (but generated by a local writer/photographer):


“I think this is making a lot of our relationships strong, we are bonding together like the city was designed to be. We’re making sure everyone in the neighborhood has food, has beer, light bulbs. This makes us feel a little more like family, than like friends.”
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Full article: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/202 ... ncing.html
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