Dad blogging, culture, and tacos: Baja California Fish Tacos

There are not many guides out there about trying to keep up with movies when you have a young child.

I know this, because I’ve looked.

I figure professional critics use their normal work hours to go and see movies, while those of us who are in it as hobbyists must decide a few things. Is this a serious hobby? Something that can be sacrificed or pushed back? Obviously parenting is all about sacrifices–it’s sort of the driving force of raising a child, yet I do think I want to make a commitment to keeping up with my interests, down the road my children should appreciate that.

Yesterday, my son had a terrible night sleeping and only ended up getting a half hour between 5:30 AM and 10:30 AM, much less than typical. Now usually when he is sleeping I use the time to get the necessities done: showering, eating, getting dressed, etc… I knew that he would still battle rest if I laid him down even as he was getting tired, so I rocked him to sleep in my arms, kept him there, and opened up Netflix on my laptop. I was able to watch all of Nocturama, a French thriller I had been hoping to see (read my thoughts here). I hadn’t planned on being able to watch the whole thing, but in a rare Rumpelstilskin move, my son slept for 2.5 hours.

For those of us who are big time movie geeks, watching a movie in separate showings is pretty antithetical. It interrupts the flow, the story, and disrupts the magic of it all. But I suppose the cinephile parent must accommodate for this, expecting consistent interruptions when trying to get through 2+ hours of the artistic format we fell in love with. Having a son is more beautiful than I can describe and interrupted movies are a small burden to bear.

For you cinephile parents out there, were you able to keep up? Do you have strategies? Feel free to comment below.


Today’s tacos: Baja California Fish Tacos

Today’s taco run was also interrupted. Not by my son’s schedule, but by accidentally leaving the car lights on overnight and not having a vehicle to get anywhere.

It ended up being all right because there’s a nice taco place over by our apartment that’s within walking distance. We went there at noon to try their fish tacos.

What we listened to on the way: Nothing, because we walked.

What we ate: Shrimp, fish tacos

IMG_1724

Baja California Fish Tacos replaced a sushi spot right next to the gas station that we use, a super convenient way to get fish tacos, giant burritos, and ceviche at all times. This is their third location, with two other spots in Los Angeles. Confusingly there’s another local chain of Baja themed Mexican food serving across Orange County called Baja California Tacos, there’s no relation, though there may be a rivalry, as that chain is also highly acclaimed (I might get out there one day for a comparison).

I had wondered how it would do, as the sushi place had went out of business. It certainly wasn’t having any problems when I went there, with a line going out the door as it served customers on a Monday afternoon.

This is where there was some slight difficulty. I had a giant stroller and it made it very difficult to navigate an already claustrophobic restaurant that was packed tight with people.

IMG_1722

I went for a shrimp and a fish taco getting both with a fried batter upon the cashier’s recommendation. Each was good, stuffed to the brim with toppings: a slaw-like cabbage, creamy sauce, and pico de gallo. The problem with getting a fry batter is it can easily get soggy, particularly when topped with an amalgam of fresh garnishes.

IMG_1723

The shrimp did not really suffer this problem, though the batter easily separated from the shrimp throughout each bite, the shrimp easily maintained its chewy consistency beneath. The fish was not able to withstand the moisture, sogging up like a paper towel, too fragile to everything going on. The combination of all the toppings still made for a delicious bite, but wasn’t able to deliver on what you’re looking for–that crispy and fatty bite that comes with fried batter. The shrimp was the better of the two and is definitely recommended; going grilled might be the way to go when ordering tacos de pescado.

My son’s thoughts: He stared at me, perhaps a bit concerned by the crowd noises around him. When we went to leave I got a little nervous as to how we would be able to make our way through the crowd with the stroller. Luckily there was a side exit with no fire alarm where we snuck out without drawing attention.

Best Films of 2017

There’s still a lot of good stuff I haven’t seen that it’s almost embarrassing to release this list. Yet, here are ten movies I really enjoyed in 2017 that I can feel proud to put here. I will update as I catch up over the next couple of months. UPDATED: 2/27/18 to include Nocturama The Florida Project

12.  Mudbound 

mudbound

One of the most gorgeously shot films of the year, Mudbound is almost novelistic in its approach to two different families in the World War II south. The very land they live on, tilling away for their livelihood should make them equals, yet the unjust power structures and hateful racism do not make it so. Even acts of war that should unite disparate parts of the country are divisive for some (the film focuses on the uniting of two characters based on this). Dee Rees’ film is utterly gorgeous, it unravels a bit at the end, but the first half is tight, some of the best storytelling of the year.

11. The Shape of Water 

TheShapeOfWaterTank.0

This movie shouldn’t work. The trailer was awful, riddled with cliches, and looked kind of lame. But what Guillermo del Toro ends up crafting is something far weirder than it ever should have been. Del Toro is willing to go for the hard ‘R’ in his tale of a woman falling in love with a strange swamp creature. Sally Hawkins is mute, Richard Jenkins is gay, and Octavia Spencer is a black woman in mid-civil rights America. These are the characters  coming up against the system’s powers and if it takes a woman falling in love with a swamp monster to upend the powers that be, then so be it.

10. Nocturama 

REV-Nocturama-5

A film about terrorism in France that’s actually saying more about youth, rebellion, and consumerism. Nocturama starts slowly, skating along with little dialogue as a group of disparate teens enact an unknown plan. Slowly we see the execution of a terrorist act, one that we are given little insight into, why have these characters in their late teens and early 20s pulled of this stunt? It doesn’t really matter, instead the movie spends most of its time focusing on the aftermath, not in a Reservoir Dogs – like violent mystery of what went wrong, but by giving us a look at these passionate youth as they hang out in an expensive mall, waiting out the evening so they can make their escape. There’s no answers given, little motivation, but slowly layers are peeled back, and we see the desperate passion, regret, and immaturity at work in each of them. This is a masterclass in editing, pulling together plot strands while providing equal measures and clarity and ambiguity.

9. Logan Lucky 

logan lucky

Steven Soderbergh’s return to directing is a heist movie as far removed from the white collar bank robbing of Ocean’s 11 as one can get. Set in the deep south and lead by a fantastic cast of Channing Tatum, Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, and Riley Keough, Soderbergh again has crafted a charming, hilarious, and thrilling film. It’s littered with jokes, some obvious, some subtle, and the robbery, this time of a Nascar race, legitimately pays off. It didn’t get the hype of most of his other movies, but I loved it.

8. Blade Runner: 2049

Blade-Runner-Still-03

This is what I wanted out of a Rian Johnson Star Wars a fully realized and unique point of view brought into an existing franchise. There are those who have argued that’s what Johnson does and certainly the situation was quite different, but what Denis Villeneuve brings here is on masterpiece level. Each scene is designed with an artist’s touch and there was perhaps no better cinematographic moment than the arrival into Las Vegas. It’s slow-paced and contemplative, everything I would want in a modern day sic-fi mystery.

7. Call Me By Your Name 

cmbyn-1

A sensual and sultry coming of age story, set during an 80s Italian summer Call Me By Your Name follows Elio, a 17 year old boy, as he discovers who he is. To call it a “coming out” story is too shallow, the film explores every confused tendency of a 17 year old, allowing room for Elio to try things exuberantly, experimenting, and failing confusedly, until he finds what makes him alive. The film more subtly allows his amour, Oliver, one who seems to have confidently already come of age, to stumble over his insecurities and what he has previously been allowed to be or not be.

The film ends with something near a pep talk in which we get a hint of where Elio’s life will go, his, a life met with acceptance and understanding by those around him, will turn out much different than Oliver’s. We only get a small taste of it, but the final shot, a minutes long close up of Elio as he stares at the fire, contemplating his first romance, shows the disparate paths they will take. It’s sorrowful, yet hopeful, Elio will take the piece of this summer with him, building his life off of it in the ways we should move forward, not letting the past take away from the present, but using it to build something better and more beautiful.

6. Dunkirk

dunkirk

A gorgeous exploration of the heroics of survival. Nolan takes a step back from his characters, letting their looks and silences and gasps for air fill in for a traditional plot. It’s a breathtaking piece of cinema, one that captures the chaos of war, not just in battle, but in the confusing way it flips our morals, how we justify our actions, and who we consider to be heroic. Here the warrior flees and cowers, while the civilians march into battle and each is somehow justified for their actions. War can never be just for it causes a spectrum of human experience to arise in a muddled and grey ethical playground.

5. Get Out

Get-Out-(2017)-3-News

Jordan Peele crafted a horror flick that uses racism, stereotyping, and white guilt to creepily subvert our society and the conventions of the genre. It subtly captures how horrifying it is to live within an unaccommodating white space before building to full on scary movie. All the horror tropes work well here, Peele invites you to think about larger social themes while slowly terrifying you. Peele was always excellent at creatively crafting comedy around the inequalities in our world while Key & Peele was on and here he’s found a way to amplify it across a feature length film, showing a keen ability behind the camera. It’s one that will be talked about for years to come.

4. The Florida Project

22-the-florida-project.w710.h473

There’s perhaps no more of an empathetic filmmaker out there than Sean Baker. Both of his films tackle complex and often frowned upon areas of the world, from Tangerine, his story of two trans-prostitutes in inner city Los Angeles to his latest work, The Florida Project, a look at daily life in a Disney World adjacent hotel that illegally houses poor families. This is a heartbreaking story, but one that’s filled with so much life, carried by the mischievous and troublemaking Moonee, a young girl who spends unsupervised time running throughout the Florida swamps creating real trouble for those around her. Her situation and the situation of those she spends her time with is awful and Baker makes her mother’s actions almost forgivable even as she leads her daughter down an awful path. This is a movie that celebrates the lives of those who are forgotten, even as they make mistakes and hurt those around them, Baker is there to tell their story and he does it beautifully. (Oh and Willem Dafoe is as good as advertised, the movie is beautiful, and it might have the best ending of any film from 2017).

3. A Ghost Story 

a ghost story

Nothing about David Lowery’s latest is conventional, despite this it constantly moves in a new direction, from its initial reflections on losing a loved one to its grander ambitions of meditating on all of life and what we leave behind. It’s gorgeous, mostly silent, and plays with the ghost convention, asking questions of what we contribute to the world and if it ends up being nothing more than ourselves are we okay with that?

2. Lady Bird 

lady-bird-design-lede

Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut is a heartwarming, heartfelt, and often funny coming of age story, telling of the battle for the teenage soul between the sincerity and carefree youth and the insecurity that comes with self-awareness in growing up. It’s completely lived-in, likely drawing from Gerwig’s own teenage experiences. Gerwig, who was already a proven talent in acting (Greenberg, 20th Century Women) and writing (Frances HaMistress America), has now again shown an immense ability to direct, guiding along a pitch perfect picture that encapsulates growing up. She and Saiorse Ronan guide us along this journey across the highlights and pitfalls of youth. It also serves as a loving tribute to one’s hometown (in this case Sacramento), the place you’re forever inextricably attached to, but anxiously await to escape. Did I mention that I grew up in the greater Sacramento region? Yeah, this movie hits home.

1. The Big Sick

the-big-sick-still-2

An almost perfect rom-com that justifies the existence of the oft-maligned genre. The Big Sick tells the true tale of comedian Kumail Nunjiani meeting and falling in love with his wife Emily (they co-wrote the script and he stars in it). To do so, he has to overcome the delicate balancing act of immigrant parental expectations against society’s, as well as a devastating sickness that puts Emily in a coma. Equal measures of laughing and sobbing fill this one and it’s remained my favorite all year even against more ambitious pictures. It’s strength rides on how charming it is and how it uses this charm to pull off the full gamut of emotions. Every single character’s story line produced an emotional reaction from me. When I look years down the road, I imagine this will be the movie I have returned to the most, throwing it on in almost every scenario, and having it fulfill whatever emotional void I’m feeling.