in China(The Walt Disney Co., 2017) –
Director: Chuan Lu. Writers: David Fowler, Brian Leith, Phil Chapman
& Chuan Lu. Narrators: John Krasinski & Xun Zhou. Color,
Rated G, 76 minutes.
It’s not often I
see a documentary with as many contrasts as this one.
The scenery is as
breath-taking as it is austere and dangerous; the photography equally
stunning and in-your-face jarring, with the wildlife coming across as
much loving and nurturing as predatory and cruel. The narration,
excellent most of the time, lapses at times into the silly
occasionally, but not inappropriately.
A satellite image
shows the entirety of China at night with all the glare from the
major cities ringing a large, dark area in north central China.
That’s where the camera takes us at the beginning of Born in
China. With narrator John Krasinski, we begin with a flock
of cranes and the Chinese belief that, when a crane takes flight, it
carries the soul of a deceased creature to the next realm.
Next we follow Dawa,
a snow leopard on the Quinghai/Tibetan Plateau, the highest in the
world, bordering Xinjiang Province, as she raises her two cubs. Her
ordeal against rivals and the fight for survival itself is
remarkable. The yaks are too big and dangerous for her, the Chiru
antelope are too fast, but the blue sheep, or bharal, are her natural
The Chiru antelope
lead us to their calving grounds and John takes us to the bamboo
forest where we meet YaYa the giant panda and her adorable cub
MeiMei. YaYa is described as a “helicopter mom,” constantly
hovering over her baby and cuddling with it every chance she gets –
even when MeiMei wants to explore and eventually, climb her first
From there we soar
to a forest in west-central China to visit a troop of golden
sub-nosed monkeys and meet TaoTao, a young male, who has been ousted
from his family group by the birth of his little sister. After trying
several times to be the center of attention once again, he leaves to
join a group of other young males, some his own age, whom the
narrator calls “The Lost Boys” (a la Peter Pan)
supervised by an adult male named Rooster.
China starts in spring and goes season by season, switching
from family to family and how they are coping with the situations
they face. There are stand-offs and posturing (leopards), comic rolls
downhill (pandas) and violent fights over territory (monkeys). Disney
has definitely learned that not all stories have happy endings and we
see that graphically, but with minimal bloodshed. With all the
relentless pressure nature inflicts on these creatures, they survive,
even flourish, or die. The camera angle of a goshawk flying head-on
in its swoop to capture a baby monkey is impressively daunting.
When one thinks that
wild animals do not pose for the camera we marvel at how many hours
it took to just make a 76-minute documentary. Be sure to stay through
the credits and meet some of the photographers who briefly describe
their experiences, such as the unpredictable weather. “Right now,
it’s hailing. But wait a few minutes and it could be sunny, or
foggy, or snowing,” says one bundled-up cameraman. Born in
China is a true family film and is just “Disney” enough
for small children. As an additional incentive, Disney Corporation
promised to donate some of the proceeds from each ticket sold to
environmental causes. I enjoyed it.
Bob’s is the first
restaurant in New York of a popular Texas chain of steakhouses. As
the dining spot of the Omni Berkshire Place Hotel, it effectively
debunks the myth that a hotel restaurant must be second rate.
polished brass-framed glass doors set into a solid granite wall under
a heavy-looking metal marquee, setting a serious tone. Inside,
though, all is friendly and family, from the hostess Jolie to my
server Thomas. The dining room is typical steakhouse décor: dark
wood, touches of brass, white tablecloths and huge globe lights
overhead. Bits of Americana adorn the walls and there’s even a
painting of the old Polo Grounds.
In the center of my
table sat a large apothecary jar filled with dill pickles and pickled
red peppers. Thomas immediately uncapped it, offered me a pair of
claspers, and encouraged me to partake. I chose a large green garlic
dill and was transported back to Delancey Street and the kosher
pickle barrels that used to line the sidewalks. After learning from
Thomas that they had Beefeaters gin, I ordered my favorite martini
and Thomas brought a Texas-sized cocktail to my table, perfectly
made. A large pickle jar and an immense martini. What would the food
portions be like?
As Thomas cited the
daily specials I stopped him at the lobster bisque. I know a good
lobster bisque when it’s hot and yet forms a thin skin on the
surface if undisturbed and has bits of lobster in it. Thomas brought
over the pepper mill to make it even more inviting. It’s been a
while since I had a soup as rich as this one. I could taste the cream
in it. And, strangely enough, it was of a normal size.
I always enjoy a
salad in a steakhouse setting and the bleu cheese salad with romaine,
crumbled bleu cheese dressing, chopped egg and pecans was begging me
to try it. The four-inch high mound on a dinner-sized plate almost
stopped me in my tracks, but then I thought, “Pace yourself, it’s
all good.” It was indeed, with tangy bleu cheese in every bite. The
Romaine was fresh and crisp and the pecans were always a surprise
It was time to order
wine. I chose the 2013 Six Sigma Diamond Mine Cuvee red blend of
cabernet sauvignon, tempranillo and syrah from Lake County,
California. It’s a satisfying dark red, medium-bodied wine with
deep fruits and a lightly spicy aftertaste. An excellent wine without
being pretentious or overpriced.
The filet mignon was
listed on the menu in three weights and I chose the 16-ounce with
glazed carrot and skillet-fried potatoes topped with sautéed onions
and peppercorn gravy. The steak was exactly as I like it, crispy
black on the outside, red and juicy in the center. The glazed carrot
was quite large and imposing in the center of the platter, and yet
tender enough to cut and crunchy enough to not be over-cooked. It
also served the purpose of keeping the spicy peppercorn gravy on the
potato side of the dish. The potatoes were thin-sliced and crisp
fried, but the gravy soon took that feature away with the onions
appearing now and then to break up the rich gravy. I finished the
steak and most of the potatoes, and it was now time for dessert.
decadence, the banana nut bread pudding served with dark rum custard
has no competition – crisp and nicely browned on the outside, soft,
hot, fruity and wicked on the inside. With a double espresso, it
finished a proud moment in my dining career. Bob’s not only gave
Jack’s a good run as far as quality, service and value goes, it
took its place proudly as my 100th steakhouse. For the Dinner and a Movie archive, clickhere.