Yep. Yep. Yep. After much anticipation, Liz & Dick finally landed on Lifetime.
And it didn’t disappoint.
Because it was horrendous.
These are a few reasons why:
- Lindsay Lohan.
- The script. It was worse than anything I wrote in college (including a vignette that ended with the line “Good night, sweet ninja!”). This thing was all over the place. I had no idea who certain characters were. I was clueless as to what year anything happened (I could almost gauge it by the length of La Lohan’s wigs).
- The composer apparently didn’t know what a musical sting is, so commercials just magically appeared out of nowhere. Or a middle-aged lady would be enjoying a book after Swiffering just to be interrupted by a hurled vodka bottle.
- Lindsay Lohan’s accent–or lack thereof.
- All the references to Liz as fat (Cleo-fat-ra, anyone?) yet the filmmakers did absolutely nothing to make Lindsay look bloated. In fact, in her “fat scenes” Lindsay looked particularly svelte.
- The weird scenes where Liz and Dick, on stage, dressed like beatniks, smoking like chimneys and drinking (vodka, I presume), reminisce about their rocky relationship. But the entire relationship. As in, until-the-end-of-their-lives relationship. Were they in limbo? Some parallel universe that is one, big black box theater?
Oh, yes. The letters. There is a book called Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger that uses Burton’s epic and prolific love letters as the framework of the story. In theory, those letters were also the quasi-inspiration for the movie. See?
Although that was the first and last letter and we never know what’s in it. Good job, screenwriters.
But speaking about letters, I believe that the best letter to come out of that relationship may have been this note sent from Elizabeth Taylor to Dave Chasen, the owner of Chasen’s Restaurant in Los Angeles, while she was filming Cleopatra in Rome:
“The chili is so good. All gone now. Please send me ten quarts of your wonderful chili in dry ice to 448 Via Appia pignatelli. – Love and kisses, Elizabeth Taylor.”
With an endorsement like that, it seemed that it was the perfect dish to make in honor of this epic television event. Here is the recipe from Chasen’s – Where Hollywood Dined, by Betty Goodwin
Chasen’s Famous Chili Recipe
1/2 pound dry pinto beans
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice
1 large green bell pepper chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cups coarsely-chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 cup butter
2 pounds beef chuck, coarsely chopped
1 pound pork shoulder, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup chili powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin Preparation: Rinse the beans, picking out debris. Place beans in a Dutch oven with water to cover. Boil for two minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand one hour. Drain off liquid. Rinse beans again. Add enough fresh water to cover beans. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered, for one hour or until tender. Stir in tomatoes and their juice. Simmer five minutes. In a large skillet, sauté bell pepper in oil for five minutes. Add onion and cook until tender, stirring frequently. Stir in the garlic and parsley. Add mixture to bean mixture. Using the same skillet, melt the butter and sauté beef and pork chuck until browned. Drain. Add to bean mixture along with the chili powder, salt, pepper and cumin. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for one hour. Uncover and cook 30 minutes more or to desired consistency. Chili shouldn’t be too thick – it should be somewhat liquid but not runny like soup. Skim of excess fat and serve.
Truth: this chili was a bit labor-intensive. The dried beans had to be soaked. And trimming and cutting 3 pounds (total) of meat into tiny bits was tedious. I got bored. So bored! But was it worth it?
It was totally worth it.
I admit that the first day I was a bit “meh” about the chili. It basically just tasted like chili powder. But by the 3rd day when I reheated it, holy shit was this good! The beef, the pork, the tomatoes, the pepper, the chili powder–all of the ingredients were discernible yet they melded together beautifully. I also think that the pinto beans were a good choice–standard kidney beans are so big. They’re kind of a bully and knock down the other flavors. And the meat! The beef and pork were so tender, I almost didn’t have to chew it. It just melted.
There is something about using cubed beef instead of ground beef that really takes your chili up a notch. It’s not just the consistency–I feel as though the flavor is much richer. A smaller portion of this will fill you up better than any big, honkin’ bowl of regular chili.
This is a delicious dish.
As delicious as these choice moments from Liz & Dick:
That hat again:
This tantrum (and caftan):
Holy crap was this movie bad. Not as awesomely bad as Drew Peterson: Untouchable (but what is?), but I know that every time this is on Lifetime I will completely stop whatever it is I am doing and watch the whole damn thing. Liz & Dick was a great way to kick off the holiday season–it is a gift that will just keep on giving. And giving and giving and giving.
And speaking of the holidays: just like the Budweiser Clydesdales sleighing through the snow and the Hershey Kisses bells, Christmas isn’t Christmas without this commercial.