Man, I wish I'd gotten this assignment two years ago.
The task of matching Oscar-nominated films to appropriate restaurants is challenge enough, but it's even harder these days, thanks to the Academy's esteem-building decision to expand the number of best picture nominees to 10, beginning last year.
And not a Ratatouille in the bunch.
So first, I had to view all 10 movies (on the plus side, this will be the first time I've ever watched the Academy Awards having seen all the nominated best picture films), then come up with restaurants corresponding to the various themes of wilderness survival, psychosexual paranoia, methamphetamine production, betrayal and revenge.
Like I said, not easy. But here they are, listed by film in the order I saw them.
"Inception": This movie, the product of creative minds, advanced science and perspective-challenging visuals, reminds me of no restaurant more than Moto (945 W. Fulton Market; executive chef Homaro Cantu, foreground, with pastry chef Ben Roche). And like "Inception," left, you don't really get Moto after just one visit.
Inception and Moto
"True Grit": To me, this movie was all about the character Mattie Ross, above right, the young girl who hunts down the man who killed her father. She's rustic with a bit of badass, which is exactly how Stephanie Izard describes her terrific restaurant, Girl & the Goat (809 W. Randolph St.), left.
True Grit and Girl & the Goat
"Winter's Bone": How's this for a perky little amuse-bouche of a flick? A murder mystery featuring illegal drugs and a violent, clannish-beyond-belief community, filmed against an oppressively gray background. Who can I stick this story with? Well, there's a little (spoiler alert) butcher work going on toward the end, and nobody does as much in-house slicing and dicing as The Publican (837 W. Fulton Market).
"The King's Speech": An inspiring tale of a man with the potential for greatness, who, with the help of loved ones and colleagues, overcomes a physical obstacle that threatens his ability to do that which he was born to do. Am I the only one who thinks this is Grant Achatz's story, set in Britain? The match to Alinea (1723 N. Halsted St.) is irresistible.
"The Black Swan": Gorgeous costumes, elaborate use of black-and-white images, a batty main character and a lot of not-what-it-seems misdirection. Well, not only does Kit Kat Lounge & Supper Club (3700 N. Halsted St.) embrace the crazy and revel in elaborate costuming, the restaurant is even throwing a "Black Swan"-themed Oscar-viewing party on Sunday.
"127 Hours": A movie in which a stranded-in-the-wilderness main character drinks his own urine to survive is a tough match, restaurant-wise, but there is that much-discussed severed-limb scene that not everyone wants to see or acknowledge. Butcher & Larder (1026 N. Milwaukee Ave.) is a butcher shop, not a restaurant, but it does offer sandwiches, and Rob Levitt does much of his cutting where his customers can watch. Or avert their eyes.
"The Fighter": It sounds like a seen-it-all-before boxing film, with its family conflicts and the themes of perseverance and redemption, but "The Fighter" manages a surprising freshness. So I'll match it to Keefer's (20 W. Kinzie St.), a more-complex-than-it-appears steakhouse, and chef John Hogan, who emerged as a winner after a few dining projects that didn't pan out.
"The Kids Are All Right": Finally, a character who owns a restaurant! The sperm-donor dad isn't close to being the central figure of this film, but he introduces that local, organic and sustainable food vibe, and though many Chicago restaurants follow the "local, organic, sustainable" dictum, none has done it as thoroughly, and for as long as North Pond (2610 N. Cannon Drive).
"The Social Network": Who'd want to be linked to Mark Zuckerberg, depicted as incredibly wealthy but utterly friendless? So I'll split the pain between Graham Elliot (217 W. Huron St.) and Frontera Grill (445 N. Clark St.), whose respective chef/owners, Graham Elliot and Rick Bayless, are two of the most socially networked, tweet-happy restaurant guys in town.
"Toy Story 3": The whole "Toy Story" franchise consists of kid-friendly films that entertain adults too. Which makes me think of Kitsch'n on Roscoe (2005 W. Roscoe St.), with its better-than-most kids menu and funky comfort food for adults. And there's that hangover brunch, for when grown-ups wake up feeling a little Mr. Potato Head-y.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun