Alison Gillmor

  • Hannibal's food styling scenes will be missed

    Last week NBC announced that Hannibal would not be renewed for a fourth season, although fervid Fannibals are holding out hope for renewal on premium cable or a streaming service. This is not a surprising turn, given that this ambitiously surreal serial-killer series has always looked like nothing else on network TV.

    Nowhere is this more clear than in its hilariously baroque food styling.

  • If the shoe fits, run from dinosaurs in it

    In an early scene in Jurassic World -- which opened last weekend, 22 years after Jurassic Park, the ground-shaking original -- one of the characters talks about dinosaur fatigue. This is partly a complaint -- I mean, what is wrong with you people that you could get tired of dinosaurs? -- and partly a strategic admission that any Jurassic movie sequel will need more dinosaurs, more spectacle, more action and more yummy, yummy park visitors to grab and keep our attention. We do get more dinos in this fourth outing, and those dinos are meaner, faster, smarter and bigger. Especially bigger.
  • Review: Primates of Park Avenue, a look at the habits and habitats of stay-at-home moms in NY

    Primates of Park Avenue, the controversial “pop anthropology” memoir from New York-based writer Wednesday Martin, is shamefully fascinating. Even more fascinating might be the responses to this book, which studies the habitats and habits of so-called “glam SAHMs” — the glamorous stay-at-home moms of New York’s Upper East Side. Whether commentators are hyping Martin’s work or tearing it down, they’re trading on the fact that our culture is transfixed by images of vain, vacuous, wealthy women.
  • Director's vision of the future isn't 20/20

    Tomorrowland, the new live-action family adventure from filmmaker Brad Bird, centres on an optimistic vision of a shiny, happy future. A deeply sincere Disney counter-argument to our culture's craze for post-apocalyptic disaster, the film suggests that belief in a better tomorrow isn't just a nice idea. It's actually necessary to the survival of humankind. Bird's message-heavy movie has been dividing audiences and critics, who consider it either wondrous and inventive or naØve and preachy. Basically, it comes down to this: Where you stand on Tomorrowland might depend on how you feel about jetpacks.
  • The marvellous, mysterious Ross Macdonald

    I’VE always wanted an excuse to write about Ross Macdonald, a man who crossed the modern crime story with the sorrow and pity of classical tragedy and the dark, deadpan humour of noir fiction. He’s one of my favourite novelists. This year marks his 100th birthday, but really, the whole birthday thing is kind of arbitrary. More compelling is the Winnipeg hook.
  • Android's A.I. offers lessons on humanity

    Ex Machina, a film that explores the ethics of artificial intelligence, has been snagging sensational reviews. But there's another response running under all that acclaim, with some critics suggesting the sci-fi flick has "a woman problem." Well, the movie does feature men who have "woman problems." But representing something is not the same as endorsing it. If you take the film as a whole, this strange, unsettling robot fable offers a complex and -- at the very least -- intriguingly conflicted take on gender politics. Ex Machina could be viewed as a film that uses men and women to say something about A.I. But it might be even better viewed as a film that uses A.I. to say something about men and women.
  • Technophiles love to hate new CSI's cyberphobia

    CSI: Cyber, the newest entry in the 15-year-old TV franchise, is bad. Really bad. Still, to talk about "hate-watching" this televisual mess feels unnecessarily snarky. The series, which follows Patricia Arquette as Special Agent Avery Ryan of the FBI's cybercrime unit, has inspired a bemused affection among some viewers. And the more tech-savvy they are, the more tenderly protective they seem to be.
  • A coupla bites with your cuppa?

    Continuing with the tea theme, we have two more tea sandwiches this week. Thanks to Linda Snider from Glenboro for her recipe for vegetable tea sandwiches. As well, I tried out a variation on chicken salad. I'd still love some more tried-and-true party sandwich recipes, especially for pinwheels. This week, we're looking for a recipe for quiche, that 1970s favourite. If you can help with a recipe request, have your own request, or a favourite recipe you'd like to share, send an email to, fax it to 204-697-7412, or write to Recipe Swap, c/o Alison Gillmor, Winnipeg Free Press, 1355 Mountain Ave., Winnipeg, MB, R2X 3B6. Please include your first and last name, address and telephone number.
  • Alison: Her aim is true

    Anyone who’s watched Orphan Black, the subversively smart Canadian sci-fi series about a group of female clones, will be familiar with their “love me, love my sisters” attitude. You’re not supposed to single out one of these genetically identical but drastically divergent women (all played by the talented Saskatchewan-born Tatiana Maslany). You’re supposed to take the whole Clone Club.
  • What's with Roger's moustache?

    With only five Mad Men episodes left, this should be a time for profound reflection, for the weighty summing up of the series' serious themes. Will this influential show end in hope or despair, in sudden death or new beginnings? What has Mad Men revealed about men and women, family and work, the promises of materialism and the disappointments of the postwar American Dream? And finally, what will become of our iconic antihero, Don Draper? Will he rise to his better nature, or fall from a tall building?
  • Classic compotes

    A few weeks ago, we put out the call for rhubarb compote. It's not quite fresh rhubarb season yet -- I had to rely on frozen for these recipes -- but I can't help myself. I'm dreaming about rhubarb and all its spring-like possibilities, the same way I'm staring longingly at the open-toed shoes in my closet. Barb Wazny sent in a recipe for a classic rhubarb-vanilla compote, while Sue Nicholson sent in a version that uses strawberries and orange flavours. Both are good, so your choice might depend on how you plan to use them. Thanks also to Janet Martin, who sent in some recipes for rhubarb desserts, which I hope to get to in the coming weeks.
  • The mystifying Teletubbies are back

    Get ready to say "eh-oh" to Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-laa and Po. The Teletubbies are back. The bright-hued, bottom-heavy, mostly incomprehensible foursome is all over the place right now.
  • The Spectre of a gloomy James Bond

    The first trailer for Spectre, the 24th Bond film, dropped last week. I have mixed feelings. Daniel Craig is my favourite Bond, and Daniel Craig in a form-fitting charcoal turtleneck is my favourite anything. That man really puts the tease in "teaser trailer."
  • Passover seder a culinary challenge

    I came to Jewish cooking late in life, when I met my husband. Put it this way: Until I was about 30, this Scottish Presbyterian girl thought that gefilte fish was a species. (In fact, it's a way of preparing fish, being a traditional Jewish dish made of ground fish and often served cold.)
  • Take party sandwiches up a notch

    We've been on a tea-related kick recently at Recipe Swap, and this week we look at tea sandwiches, a beloved tradition in Winnipeg, where they are often called party sandwiches. A key ingredient in many party sandwiches is good mayonnaise. Thanks to Courtney Worden, who kindly sent in a recipe for homemade mayonnaise from a 1951 Winnipeg Free Press clipping that was recently found in an attic. I've put in the recipe as is, adding some modern advice in the notes.
  • Murder revelations in The Jinx leave us fascinated, queasy

    "What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course." Even for cynical, seen-it-all audiences, the now notorious bathroom soliloquy in The Jinx made for electrifying television. It couldn't have been more grotesque, more sickeningly right if it had been scripted, and yet there it was, a freak accident of found footage. It was the capper to a six-part documentary series that provoked equal parts horrified fascination and queasy complicity.
  • Cooking up coffee

    A few weeks ago, I raised my morning cup of joe to a study published in the journal Heart. The study suggested that, with healthy individuals, moderate amounts of coffee -- defined as three to five cups a day -- might be linked to improved cardiovascular health. The Heart report joins other recent papers linking coffee consumption to reduced levels of disease and increased longevity -- though, as with almost all these kinds of studies, there are cautious caveats that exact connections aren't clear and more study is needed.
  • Hollywood busted over Ghostbusters gender squabble

    Sony Pictures recently made headlines by announcing that the studio was releasing a new "male-driven" movie. Usually this wouldn't attract attention beyond the occasional sarcastic "No! Really?" After all, "male-driven" is Hollywood's default setting. This particular statement drew some fire, however, because it involved the announcement of a new dude-centred Ghostbusters sequel just weeks after Hollywood confirmed the casting of Paul Feig's all-woman take on the same 1984 comedy classic.
  • The president's lost his mojo

    Remember the debut season of House of Cards, the Netflix series about the slippery political climb of scheming sociopath Frank Underwood? The first time we meet Frank, he's killing a dog. The man kills a dog! As everybody knows, dog murder violates standard movie and television rules. (Put it this way: You can do anything you want to a woman onscreen, but God help you if you hurt man's best friend.)
  • Mad Men's delicate, potent nostalgia

    The last half of the final season of Mad Men doesn't begin airing until April 5, but the influential AMC series has already started its long goodbye. A characteristically cryptic promo trailer debuted on Feb. 19. Called "The Party's Over," it has some viewers feeling apprehensive about the show's approaching '70s grooviness. Megan looks cool in bell-bottoms, for example, but we suspect Pete is wearing bad white shoes. "If they give Don Draper a perm," tweeted one fan, "I am OUT."
  • The wonderful and the weird

    The 87th Academy Awards will be broadcast on Sunday. In the spirit of the Oscar season, I would like to submit for your consideration the work of Eddie Redmayne. No, not in the classy, brainy biopic The Theory of Everything. I want to single out his prize-worthy performance in the deranged space-opera flop Jupiter Ascending.
  • Eggs wrapped in sausage a match made in heaven

    Thanks to Karen Makowski, Irene Chomiak and Linda Snider for responding to a request for Scotch (or Scots) eggs. (And Linda, the cookie recipes you need are on their way.) Thanks also to Ina Drummond, who sent in a good Scottish recipe from The Scottish Kitchen by Sue McDougall. Ina also sent in a recipe for cheese potato cakes from that same cookbook. This week, Cathy McGimpsey has seen beef rib-eye hotpot rolls, both fresh and frozen, in the supermarket. She's intrigued, and wonders if anyone has recipes for how to use them.
  • I can stop watching Lost any time — really

    A recent study linking binge-watching with depression has been making some of us uneasy. I got quite antsy, maybe because the story began grabbing headlines just as I started watching Lost. The six-season TV series about a group of stranded plane-crash survivors is potentially the bingey-est viewing experience ever devised to entertain (and simultaneously torture) human beings. Originally airing on ABC from 2004 to 2010, Lost was known for creating obsessive, unbalanced viewers even before binge-watching was a thing. No wonder I had fears for my mental health.
  • Series renews the Kitchen Debate

    One of the oddest incidents in the Cold War was the so-called Kitchen Debate. This impromptu exchange between Richard Nixon, then American vice-president, and Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev took place in 1959 at the American National Exhibition in Moscow. As the two men stood in a model American kitchen, Nixon talked up the possibilities of consumer capitalism, pointing to the nifty labour-saving devices that surrounded them. Khrushchev, who was quite the comedian, countered by asking if there was a machine that "puts food into the mouth and pushes it down," a deadpan Russian dis of western softness.
  • Brief Encounter lingers on

    Noël Coward, the playwright, actor, songwriter, singer and star of Winnipeg's own CowardFest 2015, is the epitome of Jazz Age chic. Mere mention of his name calls up champagne cocktails and smoking jackets, dry wit and "Darling, how marvellous" dialogue. Trust me to be drawn instead to the sad Coward, the drab Coward, the wartime Coward. My favourite Coward work is Brief Encounter, a resolutely middle-aged, middle-class story where everybody drinks cups of weak tea on the way to muted suburban sorrow.


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