Saturday, May 6, 2017

ZPZ Productions Jeremiah Tower The Last Magnificent
Tinsel & Tine Highlight & Review of Foodie Doc


By Le Anne Lindsay, Editor

The artwork for the poster is what first drew me to this documentary, as most regular readers know, the "Tine" in Tinsel & Tine stands for the tines of a fork, so when I saw the "Jeremiah Tower" poster of the fork giving the middle tine, like a middle finger, it made me laugh!

But when I got to the theater, I saw trailers for the new Richard Gere movie The Dinner and the rare glimpse of Debra Winger in The Lovers, and suddenly I really wanted to see a narrative film, not a doc on a temperamental chef. Surprisingly, I got what I was craving in the very first scene of Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent, which is a compelling narrative within a documentary. Director Lydia Tenaglia (executive producer of Zero Point Zero Production) does a fantastic job of recreating Tower's lonely, but privileged upbringing in a way that hooked me immediately.  The film seamlessly cuts back and forth between present day Tower to a little boy representing Tower as a youth, giving the impression you're simply inside his memories.  Memories of Jeremiah as a young boy of 9 or 10, living for months on a luxury ocean liner, describing his first taste of consommé, brought to him on deck under a cozy blanket, by a steward; sampling gourmet fare of every imaginable delight, making friends with the kitchen staff and memorizing menus.

I'm so drawn to this kind of old world opulence, indulgence, elegance and fantasy. This was the world Jeremiah's parents lived, and thus, albeit from a very non-parental distance, it's the world they instilled in their son. But understand, it's not a snotty, entitled, playboy world, it's about style, taste, understanding how to properly entertain and enjoy life! It's the champagne world my soul craves every day. Which is what his restaurant, STARS, in San Francisco became, not only the template for the modern American restaurant, but it was a fabulous party every night - hosting the best celebrities, royalty, drag queens and politicos, all mixing it up with a few lucky regular joes.
Upon preliminary research I thought that the project, at best, would be an interesting biopic of a successful restaurateur – one who had left a great legacy on the American culinary landscape. What I found instead was a rich and complex story of an artist, one who continuously endeavored to reconcile his artistic dreams and visions with the “vulgar reality of life…” - Lydia Tenaglia
The idea for the film came from Chef, author, and raconteur Anthony Bourdain, who is best known for traveling the globe on his stomach, on his television show Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (CNN), a travel docu-series for CNN.

Bourdain had read Jeremiah Towers’ memoir, "California Dish: What I Saw (and Cooked) at the American Culinary Revolution" (2004) (currently in reprint and titled "Start the Fire"), and thought Tower would make an interesting subject for a documentary as he was instrumental in revolutionizing the way Americans eat and dine from the mid ‘70’s to late ‘90’s:
He was, for a golden time, before and after the revolution, the most important chef in America. He was easily the most influential. Everyone cooked like Jeremiah Tower. Everyone wanted to BE Jeremiah Tower – or at least bask in his presence. His restaurant, STARS, became the template for the modern American restaurant. He was, arguably the first celebrity chef. He was most definitely the first chef anyone wanted to sleep with. And yet, one minute he was there – then he was everywhere – and then he was gone. Why did the man who nearly everyone agrees was absolutely instrumental in how and what we eat in restaurants today disappear? And why was he written out of history – his accomplishments dismissed, attributed elsewhere, the whole subject suddenly uncomfortable?

The Last Magnificent investigates the life, times, accomplishments and mysteries of a brilliant, immensely talented, mercurial and inconvenient man who changed the world.
The other surprise is that Towers seems likable, not likeable in a gregarious or sexy way, or likable in a he's so brilliant way, but reasonable in his thinking and dealings with others. Private, yes, but not a hermit. He's a perfectionist, but doesn't appear to be a hot head. And he had a right to feel betrayed by Alice Waters creating a cookbook from his revolutionary menus and just giving him general credit along with others in her kitchen.  Sure, she gave him his chance at Chez Panisse, but he put the Berkley bistro on the map!

My only minor criticism of the film is when we get to Tower's reemergence into the food scene as executive chef of the re-opened Tavern on the Green (by Philly's own Jim Caiola and David Salama of Beau Monde and L’Etage - although they seem like a coupla muddlers in the film and very disrespectful to Tower) anyway, at this point, I wanna stay in the present, however, the film then delves back into some behind the scenes reasons Tower's Starz restaurant suddenly closed, which is not relevant to his current issues and should have been part of the Stars portion of the movie, since for the most part, it's a linear documentary.  Otherwise, CNN Films "Jeremiah Tower: The Last Magnificent" is a delicious foodie film and embraceable biopic.


After the film, Diane and I wanted to keep the elegant foodie mood going, so we stopped into Olde Bar (block and a half from Ritz 5 Theater) for some cocktails and bar fare. This Jose Garces restaurant resides in the building of the Original Bookbinders, so it retains that rich, clubby, martini lunch appeal.


#TheLastMagnificent Features: Tony Angiotti, Stars former manager ~ Sharon Bacon, former waitress Chez Panisse ~ Mario Batali, chef, television host ~ Anthony Bourdain, chef, producer, writer, television personality ~ Jim Caiola, Tavern on the Green ~ Seamus Coyle, Stars former bartender ~ Steve Ells, restauranteur ~ Florence Fabricant, The New York Times food critic ~ Mark Franz, chef/restauranteur ~ Andrew Friedman, food journalist ~ Ken Friedman, restauranteur ~ Mike Greensill, jazz pianist ~ Alexandra Tower Ewers, Jeremiah Tower’s niece ~ Gregg Lowery, friend of Jeremiah Tower ~ Jerry Matters, long-time patron of Stars ~ Jean-Pierre Moullé, long-time executive chef, Chez Panisse ~ Michael Palmer, Jeremiah Tower’s roommate at Harvard College ~ Wolfgang Puck, chef/restauranteur ~ Ruth Reichl, Gourmet magazine former editor-in-chief ~ John Sanger, Harvard College schoolmate of Jeremiah Tower ~ Regina Schrambling, The New York Times former food writer ~ Cathy Simon, Harvard College schoolmate of Jeremiah Tower ~ Martha Stewart, author, television personality ~ Stephen Torres, culinarian, director, Roots of American Food Festival~ Peter Tower, Jeremiah Tower’s nephew ~ James Villas, former food and wine editor of Town & Country and close friend ~ Steve Vranian, former Stars cook ~ Alice Waters, chef (in file footage)~ Jonathan Waxman,chef/restauranteur ~ Clark Wolf, restaurant consultant

Twitter: @LastMagnificent | @ZPZProduction | @CNNFilms |
Instagram: @lastmagnificent | #TheLastMagnificent

T & T's LAMB (movie bloggers association) Score: 4.5 outta 5
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About This Blog

is about discovering what I find pleasing in screening & eating - in case you missed it, the name is a play on Tinseltown using the Tines of a Fork.

Feel free to send me info on a film or new restaurant you'd like me to highlight.

Will there ever be a cap on movie prices?

Will we one day pay $20 a pop?

Why don't we pay on a scale?

A crap movie like everything Adam Sandler has ever done should cost about $4.50.
Big action movies like"Lord of the Rings", "Iron Man," "Transformers" are worth $10.
Woody Allen movie or something like "Silver Linings Playbook" $6-$7.
A chick flick or light comedy $5.75 and most Indie Films $5.25.

You could even do it by seasons - all summer block busters from May to August - $10
Sept - November 15th $3.50 - $4
Back to $10 for Thanksgiving and Christmas etc...

Or you can do it by A Actors ($9 - $10), B Actors ($6 - $7) TV actors on the big screen ($3.50 - $4)

Surely I'm not the first person to realize this makes sense. Has it been voted on in the Motion Picture Industry and then vetoed? If so, why?

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