24 Feb


“Now, where was I?”

– Leonard


The Set Up

Most of the time on Munch we have a clear lead-in to why we are watching a movie. Often it’s because a sequel or re-make is coming out, the movie is part of a series, or maybe it is that time of year when we are celebrating one of our birthdays. This time, we picked a movie purely because we all collectively love it and we had a really creative idea for how we would approach the menu. If you haven’t seen Memento, feel free to read on because, while we will spoil some elements, the movie stands on its own. That being said, you should absolutely watch Memento (unless you are sensitive to violence). It has unconventional way of storytelling that make for a very memorable first watch.

The Meal

To understand how we approached the meal, first you have to understand Leonard. The main character of Memento, Leonard, is plagued by a condition that doesn’t allow him to form new memories. He tells us that he knows his name, where he’s from, and the parts of him that were established before the injury that caused this condition, but his short term memory is non-existent. If he’s caught up in a conversation that’s gone on too long, he’ll forget how it started and have to start over.

To deal with this, Leonard has a few methods to keep himself on track. First, he takes polaroid photos of the people he interacts with and writes their name, contact info, or notes about how he knows them and whether he can trust them on the photo. Because the time and space is limited for him to make these notes, they are often vague and can be misinterpreted.

The second thing Leonard does is cover his body in tattoos. He’s a bit more discerning when it comes to actually applying ink to his body, and he sticks to things he deems facts or guiding principles related to his mission.

So, our idea stems from what we thought it would be like if Leonard had to cook a meal. The three of us each took a polaroid photo for another person and wrote a note about the subject inspired by Leonard’s writing style. Ben took a photo for André to make the appetizer, Leanna took a photo for Ben to make the main course, and André took a photo for Leanna to make a dessert.

Once we exchanged photos, we allotted ourselves ten minutes to find a recipe related to the photo, so we couldn’t be too prepared. We all got to pick one detail (an ingredient, part of the instructions, etc.) to “tattoo” on our arms. Walking into the grocery store we were “armed” (sorry) with our vague photo to prompt the dish and tattoo to remind us of the guiding principle of that dish.

The Appetizer, by André

All I had to go off of was a photo of clusters of nuts and a cryptic message saying “don’t go anywhere without nuts.” When I think of nuts-on-the-go, I think of trail mix, so I decided to make some trail mix for us all. I found an interesting combination of ingredients to make trail mix online, and turned the ingredient list into a mnemonic device: “All cherries are sinfully dark,” meant to remind me to include almonds, cherries, cinnamon, and dark chocolate. My fatal mistake was not waiting long enough after roasting the almonds before adding the chocolate. The chocolate melted all over everything and I was left clusters of almonds and cherries stuck together with chocolate. It wasn’t what I intended on making but it actually tasted pretty great.

The Main, by Ben

Upon hearing André and Leanna’s surprise, during a recent episode of our podcast, that I did not like raw tomatoes, I knew that this would rear its ugly head at some point, I just didn’t think it would be this soon. Leanna provided me with a photo of pasta and a mysterious red sauce on top and the words “Tomatoes are Disgusting,” and I couldn’t agree more. I set out to create a delicious pasta dish that would wow everyone that would not include tomatoes, but found myself settling on a recipe with 2 minutes left into our 10 minute allotted “memorize” time. I was not making this easy on myself.

While I am confident enough that I could create a simple pasta dish on my own, my tattoo (Wine follows Beans) was a reminder of order in which to add the wine, a key ingredient that I often don’t think about adding when make a pasta dish. Thankfully, I knocked that step out of the park. As for the dish itself I made a Rigatoni dish with Cannellini Beans, Kale, and some Italian sausage from our favorite meat place: Rain Shadow Meats. The result was a delicious pasta dish that had a certain richness in flavor that we couldn’t get enough of. Even though I correctly followed what I had “tattooed” on myself, the dish was supposed to have a sauce-like consistency on top. Ours was a little dryer than that and I will be upfront in saying that I probably forgot an ingredient or two. Still, overall the dish was still a success, and now I am left contemplating if “Wine follows Beans” would be unique and dare I say “cool” tattoo to get.

The Dessert, by Leanna

André provided me with a blurry photo of a Reese’s peanut butter cup with a cryptic caption around whether or not there was a right way to eat a Reese’s. If there’s one thing I know about André, it’s that he loves chocolate and peanut butter but rarely eats the a Reese’s. Maybe the best way to eat a Reese’s isn’t to eat a Reese’s at all.

With that in mind, I used a recipe for Reese’s-inspired chocolate peanut butter bars. I tattooed the amount of powdered sugar required to serve as a ratio for remembering the amounts of the other ingredients.

The end result was almost spot on – the one part of the recipe I missed was it very specifically saying to “not grease the pan.” For some reason, the bars really stuck to the pan, making removal and serving a bit of a feat. Why adding grease made it more difficult to move something is beyond me. The math just doesn’t add up.

The Drink

We knew the drink would be easy. Drink too much and you’ll start forgetting stuff left and right, but that felt like too easy of a concept. We played with memory for the food, so with the drink, what we really wanted to do was take on a different part of Leonard. Leonard is a character who has a difficult life (how much of that is forced upon him, or created by him is up for debate), but one thing for sure is that Leonard is a Suffering Bastard. And thankfully for us, there just so happens to being a drink by that name. The Suffering Bastard combines Bourbon, Gin, fresh lime juice, a dash of Angostura Bitters, and hearty pour of Ginger Ale to top it all of. Contrary to it’s name, we didn’t suffer at all while enjoying this one; in fact, it was delicious, and put us in the right mood to watch the film.

The Rules

👰Drink when Leonard mentions his wife.

🎬Drink whenever the film changes to black and white.

🖊Drink when Leonard writes something down on a photo or himself.

The Movie

Memento is a really fascinating movie. It plays with your perception of time and memory throughout the movie, introducing enough time jumps and plot twists to keep you lost, confused, or on edge for most of the movie. While this might sound like a criticism, it actually aids the viewing experience, because it puts the viewer in the same state of mind as Leonard. Of course, as much as Nolan wants to keep you guessing in Memento, he also wants you to feel like you can figure out the mystery on your own, and he somehow strikes a perfect balance between keeping the viewer in the dark, like the protagonist, but still shedding enough light that we can recognize the dramatic irony present in many scenes.

Another element of Memento that really stands out is how Nolan uses color to convey the passage of time. Part way through the movie, you realize that all scenes in color were being shown in reverse, and all scenes in black and white were chronological. In the climax of the movie, a scene transitions from black and white to color without a cut, and you realize the both the color and black and white scenes were all leading to that moment. That scene, and the realization you come to as the transition happens, is one of the most powerful moments in any Nolan film, which is really saying something. And all of this is made possible by the intense care and focus of the creators.

The Reviews

André: better than a sudoku. Memento is a bit of a trip. I felt very engaged the whole time I watched the movie. It puzzled me and frustrated me as I tried to piece it all together, but in a satisfying way. It’s rare that I watch a movie where essential information is doled out, out of order, in bits and pieces, and I’m left to figure out how it all works together, so that made for a really unique viewing experience. This is definitely not a movie where you can just turn your brain off and watch. The feeling I had watching the movie was closer to how I feel solving puzzles than watching movies, and that’s a good thing.

Leanna: My memory served me well. The second time I saw this movie, I knew I had seen it before but didn’t remember the ending. I had the rare experience of being able to enjoy a twist reveal twice. This time I remembered the twist, which allowed me to focus on other aspects of the movie and notice even more details surrounding Leonard and his predicament. Knowing the twist definitely doesn’t detract from your viewing experience, it just allows you to have a different one. I’d probably even watch it again. I can’t think of a single other movie out there like this one with the way it switches between timelines (and what sometimes feels like realities).

Ben: 85%. This movie is still impressive in how it presents its non-linear narrative and I am surprised no one has tried to take influence from it and incorporate aspects of it into a major motion picture (I could be totally wrong in this, memory is faulty after all). Given the revere this film has in the Movie World, there is hardly anything I can say here that will be new or exciting, but I can confirm that it is a solid film, and you can tell that its creators spent a lot of time working through every detail to make sure there was solid narrative flow. Now, I do wish they had provided a different character motivation than the “fridging” of the main character’s wife, and the movie’s focus on, and at times its glorification, of violence definitely makes me uneasy. All in all, Memento is an impressive film that even all these years later feels unique and fresh.