It's not an entirely illogical response. Get ready for a patented style extended metaphor. This one will involve the 1991 movie, Samurai Cop. Freeze that thought for a moment whilst we consider the limits of freezing food.
Go Phillies. We have a question about freezing meat. So we like to go to the store, and we often see meat that's on clearance because it's near its expiration date. I'll be honest. I'm cheap, so I buy some of that. I bring it home, and we stick it in the freezer for thawing later on. We set it in the refrigerator to thaw properly, of course, and then hopefully use it that next day. But there's almost no information on how long meat that's been frozen and then thawed is good for.
The FDA has all kinds of information on how long meat is safe when you freeze it, but what about that thawing process? Adam: I will answer your question, Chris. But first, let's talk about why frozen foods have any expiration date at all on them. I mean shouldn't food that's in the deep freeze last effectively forever? A domestic freezer is supposed to be at or below zero degrees Fahrenheit, which is -18 Celsius. There is no bacterial activity at such a temperature. Any microbes that don't die at those temperatures will be rendered inactive because they won't be able to move. That kind of cold slows matter to a near halt at the molecular level, to say nothing of the microbiological level. No bacteria or fungus can move in a frozen steak in order to reach nutrients to ingest. If it can't do that, then it can't generate toxins.
It can't reproduce. Nothing happens. It may have been killed by the freezing process anyway. There are physical and chemical causes of death in those situations, the most obvious just being that water expands when it freezes, and that could easily cause a single-celled organism to just burst out its cell walls. But there's also more complicated things that can happen, including apparently, according to one pretty cool paper that I found, there's some cold-induced genetic changes that can cause an organism to die in the freezer. Freezing probably does not kill all the pathogens in the food or even most of them. The food safety authorities will tell you never, ever use freezing to sterilize food. But they'll also tell you, especially if you buy them a few drinks, that freezing may explain why sushi does not seem to get people sick at the rate at which scientists would have expected raw fish to make people sick on a population level.
Fish declines in quality particularly rapidly once harvested, and it tends to be harvested out in the middle of the ocean, which is very far away from your customers who are going to eat it. So fish is increasingly flash frozen on the boat when caught. This is generally done at cryogenic temperatures.
Are talking -196 degrees celsius, -321 fahrenheit.
That rapidity of freezing does not allow much time for ice crystals to form, and that is good because it's big ice crystals that puncture cell walls and cause food to leak and get all gummy when thawed. Anyway, freezing probably kills at least some bacteria, and it definitely kills parasites, which are a particularly big category of hazards when it comes to fish. It has been documented in controlled experiments that freezing kills parasites in meat, and most fish is frozen these days at some point in the supply chain. In fact, the US government Food Code says that fish to be served raw must be frozen at some point.
It's an open question as to how exactly freezing enhances the safety of the fish. Does the freezing process kill the pathogens and the parasites or does it merely slow their reproduction? Obviously, the answer is both, especially in the case of parasites. It does a lot of killing, but it's an open question as to how much it's one or the other. Nobody knows for sure. What we do know for sure is that properly frozen meat does not go bad due to bacterial or fungal or parasitic activity while it is frozen. There is no microbiological activity, at least no bacterial or fungal or parasitic activity in the freezer. There may be after you thaw the food back out again because lots of bugs might snap back to life upon thawing, particularly bacteria and fungi, but not while the food is still frozen. So why does frozen food have an expiration date at all? Oh, it is enzymes, my friends, enzymes.
Enzymes are specialized proteins made by living organisms to do jobs that are other than being a tissue of some kind, like muscle tissue, which is made out of protein. Enzymes are proteins that do other kinds of jobs, like breaking molecular bonds. That's a big part of digestion. Enzymes also serve as signaling molecules. They effectively carry messages. Freezing significantly slows enzymatic activity, but it does not stop it entirely. Enzymatic activity is responsible for a lot of the kind of food spoilage that doesn't make food dangerous. It just makes it kind of gross.
So colors fade and tend to trend toward brown. Flavors can get dull and dingy. So that's why frozen food manufacturers put a best-by date on their product, so that if you end up eating something that's kind of gross due to enzymatic activity that occurs over a long time in the deep freeze, if that happens to you then, well, at least they can say that they told you so. You weren't supposed to eat it at the date at which you ate it. They also put the expiration date on there to cover their ass. We do not live in a perfect world. Not all freezers operate flawlessly all the time. Things can go wrong and, when they go wrong, opportunities arise for quality to be damaged and for safety to be compromised.
The freezer could turn off. Indeed, your freezer turns off all the time. It does not run continuously. It cycles. It runs the compressor for a while and gets the temperature well below that zero degrees fahrenheit target, and then it shuts off for a while.
To zero as heat from your kitchen kind of transfers into the box, that's when the compressor switches back on and the cycle repeats.
All the time, exposing food to the very warm air that's in your kitchen, potentially for long enough to thaw the very surface of the food at which point bacterial activity in that surface could resume at least for a time until you close the door and it freezes again.
Then, of course, there is the auto-defrost function that your freezer probably has.
The walls of your freezer heat up periodically to melt off any ice that's building up on the walls of the freezer. Without that function, every time you open the drawer to get something out of the freezer, what you're doing is you're letting moist air into the freezer. That moist air is going to freeze on the sides of the freezer. Eventually, the whole freezer just fills up with this white snowy ice that builds up super thick on the walls, and it happens surprisingly fast. Back in the day, you used to have to defrost the freezer every few months. You would use or throw away everything that you've got in the freezer. You would unplug the freezer, let everything melt overnight, clean it out, and start again. If you've never heard of defrosting the freezer, well, thank the auto-defrost function.
The problem with the auto-defrost function is that it could thaw any food that you have positioned right up against the wall of the freezer. The modern freezer design is all about kind of discouraging you from putting things right up against the walls. It's pretty clever if you look at it, but still possible that you could jam something right up against the wall. Anything really precious that you've got, make sure that it is not in direct contact with the freezer wall or else it will repeatedly thaw and freeze, at least the very surface of it. That will not be good for your quality or safety. Obviously, you got to keep things sealed up, otherwise, you get freezer burn, which is dehydration and oxidation of exposed food in the freezer, like food that's actually exposed to air in the freezer. It results in these leathery spots. It takes a long time to happen, but it happens generally through, I think, sublimation.
Sublimation is when matter skips a step on its normal transition from one phase to another. Normally, water goes from a solid, ice, at low temperature to a liquid at medium temperatures to a gas, steam, at very high temperatures. But in cold temperatures, water also slowly sublimates from a solid straight to a gas, skips the liquid phase. That's sublimation, and you can stop that from happening to your food by simply keeping the food sealed under plastic. The food company doesn't know if you're going to do the right thing and keep your food tightly sealed. They don't want to be blamed for your mistakes, so they put a best-by date on the frozen foods that even if it's uncovered, it probably doesn't have enough time to get freezer burn. Now, what Chris asked about specifically was how safe is frozen food after you thaw it? In reference to meat specifically, the United States Department of Agriculture says three to five days in the fridge, which is obviously a somewhat arbitrary number. It could last longer, but unlikely because food is damaged by the freezing and thawing process.
Cell walls do get punctured. The whole structure is going to break down a little faster, and that's going to make it gross to eat. It's also going to make the nutrients in the food more available to potentially dangerous microorganisms in there. So when you're thinking about how long thawed food can last in the fridge, it's certainly going to last no longer than comparable fresh food and potentially even shorter than that. Now, what about refreezing food? People generally tell you to not do that. Once you've thawed something, either use it or throw it away. Don't try to refreeze it, people say. Why not? Well, several reasons.
First, remember that your freezer absolutely sucks compared to the flash freezing technology used by modern processors.
Food at the proper temperature, but it is terrible at getting the food down to that proper temperature in the first place.
It simply will not do the job fast enough to maintain the quality of foods, especially foods with delicate tissues, like fruits and vegetables and meats. You're going to get giant ice crystals that will stab holes through those tissues and, when you thaw it back out again, the food will be a gummy mess. So that's the first reason to not refreeze food yourself. Your freezer is just not good at freezing things. It's good at holding things in a frozen state. Another reason is that every time you take the food through a freeze-and-thaw cycle, it is transiting through the danger zone, which is 41 to 135 degrees Fahrenheit, 5 to 57 degrees.
C. That is the temperature range in which most pathogenic microorganisms will multiply rapidly. If you're freezing cooked food, that food was starting out at a temperature hot enough to kill everything, ideally. But on the trip down to freezer temperatures, it's going to spend a lot of time in the danger zone. It doesn't go from hot to cold immediately. It has to go through a phase, and that's the danger zone. Contaminants that got into your food after you cooked it could run wild during that time in the danger zone. Bacterial endospores that survived the cooking could reanimate and run wild during that time in the danger zone.
We talked about this several episodes ago when we talked about the so-called leftover rice syndrome. Some bacteria make endospores when they feel themselves starting to die. The endospore is basically genetic information that is not alive, per se, but it could spontaneously regenerate the living organism once favorable conditions return. That could happen in the danger zone. Of course, raw food is generally full of microorganisms. As we said, some of them will be killed by the freezing process. But probably most of them will survive, and they will snap back to life in the danger zone. The effects of time spent in the danger zone are cumulative.
More trips through the danger zone, freezing and thawing, thawing and freezing, that just means more time spent in said zone. The pathogen population just grows bigger and bigger with each second it spends in the danger zone. It only takes a few live cells of salmonella, for example, to make you sick. But the odds of just a few live cells making you sick are pretty low because you have a digestive system and an immune system, all of which evolved for the express purpose of neutralizing these threats. But odds get worse and worse and worse for you the more live bacteria make it down your gullet. So lots of freeze-thaw cycles, lots of time spent in the danger zone. It all just makes the odds worse for you. The thing to remember with fish and meat in particular is that even if you bought it, quote-unquote, "fresh" from the store, it probably came to the store frozen.
It's been frozen and thawed once already before you even bought it. So if you freeze it again, that's a second freeze-thaw cycle. If you do it a second time, that's a third cycle.
Issues could really accumulate.
I just bought a whole vacuum-sealed, packed whole beef tenderloin because I am finally going to cook a certain beef tenderloin dish on my YouTube channel that people have been asking me to do for many, many years. I have not done it yet because I don't especially like this dish, and I think it is unnecessarily difficult and unnecessarily layered. It is the epitome of Gordon Ramsay-style cooking as ordeal, cooking as feat of strength, which is basically everything that I am here to destroy.
But I accept that people want to see me cook this particular beef tenderloin dish, and I think that I've figured out a way to make it both easier and, to my taste, better. Anyway, I bought a whole beef tenderloin because that's going to give me lots of spare parts, lots of scraps that I can use to practice the recipe with. And then the core, trimmed tenderloin roast that I'll be left with at the end is what I can actually. But I probably won't use all of the scraps for practice. There's a lot of really good scraps on a whole beef tenderloin. There's the thin little tip at the end that's really too thin to roast. There's the chain, which is the psoas minor muscle, this very thin piece of meat running alongside the main muscle on a tenderloin. It's also too thin for roasting.
So when I trim those out, I will probably freeze them. Considering that the whole vacuum-packed tenderloin was probably already frozen when it arrived at the grocery store, I will, therefore, be refreezing that meat. It will still be suitable for human consumption. I just won't try to cook it medium-rare. I will probably chop it up into chunks and use it for beef stroganoff or some similar delightfully unfashionable, old classic dish. If I make a stroganoff, the beef will be cooked through. So any microorganisms that built up during those trips through the danger zone, they will be killed. Plus, if I do a stroganoff, all of those pieces will be small and coated in a super creamy sauce, so it won't matter if they have been rendered somewhat dry and/or gummy by giant ice crystals forming in the super low freezing action of my normal domestic freezer.
However, I also realize that I am not in the demographic that has the capacity to be offended by someone else misrepresenting my culture.
Tradition is not particularly important to me, Beatrice, Bea. Can I call you Bea? I'm going to call you Bea. Tradition is not particularly important to me, Bea, at least not your traditions or anyone else's traditions other than my own. My traditions are super important to me because I am far more interested in me than I am in you or anyone else. I have a tradition of always having frozen peas with my Thanksgiving dinner because it's not. Thanksgiving if I do not achieve the triple crown. The triple crown is mashed potatoes, turkey gravy, and peas all on the same fork. If I don't don the triple crown before Thanksgiving ends, then the calendar cannot proceed.
We are stuck in November forever. Ma'at becomes unbalanced, and the time/space fabric of the universe unravels. Same thing happens if I do not have a Carvel ice cream cake on my birthday, the kind with the little chocolate cookie crumbles on the inside. If I don't get that on my birthday, say goodbye to Ma'at, the ancient Egyptian concept of universal harmony. I am a creature of habit as much as any other human, Bea. Thus, I value my habits very much. When I cook other people's traditional foods on my YouTube channel, I try to acknowledge their traditions, their habits, not because those traditions are super important to me, but because they are super important to someone else. I mean other people's traditions are important to me inasmuch as they represent a body of inherited wisdom that I can mine for good ideas.
Lots of terrible ideas get enshrined in tradition, but I'm going to guess that there are more good ideas than bad ideas that are enshrined in tradition, purely due to the effect of natural selection.
Stick long-term than a bad idea.
Bad ones when you remove them from their original context, or at least certain ideas can become unnecessary when you remove them from their original context.
Consider the tagine dish of North Africa. Tagine is an earthenware cooking vessel consisting of two parts. There's a circular base that's really just a shallow pan. And then the second part is this kind of steep conical lid that looks like a wizard hat. The lid is shaped like that to function as a cooling tower.
Steam from the food rises up, and it transfers its heat to the surrounding environment across all of this extra space, all this extra material comprising that tall cone. The steam condenses on the interior surface of that cone. And then it drips. It rains back down onto the food, keeping the food wet as it cooks. This is a phenomenal cooking vessel, brilliant cooking vessel for a place like North. Africa where, historically at least, you have very little fresh water to cook with. You might not even have any water to cook with. All you have is the water that's inside the meat and the vegetables that you're cooking.
In that event, you can't afford to have any of that water evaporating away. You need to keep it locked inside the dish because you need that water to dissolve the collagen in those inedibly tough chunks of old sheep or camel or whatever you're trying to stew until soft. You need that water to be absorbed into the dried chickpeas that you're trying to cook or whatever. The tagine is brilliant for its original traditional context, and it's almost totally pointless when removed from that context. If you live in a place where nearly unlimited, cheap, fresh water can be had by simply opening up a tap, well, you can just start your stew with extra water, assuming that a bunch of it will evaporate away over the course of cooking, and that's just fine. That's what we generally do. You don't need a tagine to cook a tagine anymore, that is, to cook one of the stews traditionally prepared inside a tagine dish. The food itself is also called a tagine.
If and when I cook a tagine on my YouTube channel, I probably will not do so inside an actual tagine dish because there's just no reason to, other than the fact that they look cool, which they really do. If you've not seen, Google image search tagine dish. You will see all of these just beautifully glazed, sometimes they're embossed conical clay towers. They're just gorgeous. They look cool. But you don't really need one in order to cook a good tagine. You can do that in any pan with a lid.
"Tagines are traditional stewed dishes from North Africa and today we're making a classic one from Morocco. It's chicken with preserved lemons and a bunch of other yummy stuff. So let's get started." . I'll grab my Chrissy Teigen pan. I'll heat a film of olive oil and derp de derp de derp.
African cuisine is going to mentally tune out at that point because they will be screaming in their heads, "wait, what? you're making a tagine in something other than a tagine?"
They're done. I've lost them.
I could have kept them if I had only briefly, succinctly acknowledged the obvious. It would have taken half a line of script. "Traditionally, you do this in a conical earthenware tagine dish, but you can do it in any pan with a lid. So I've got my. Chrissy Teigen pan here, and I'll heat a film of olive of oil in there, derp de derp de derp.". Done. Cooking a tagine inside a tagine is not an important tradition to me, but it is important to several million Maghrebi people from North Africa. If I just see them, if I just acknowledge their tradition, then we can all move on from it.
Acknowledging that I'm deviating from tradition also empowers the audience to better scrutinize what I'm doing. I will say, "Hey, you don't need to do this in a vessel that retains moisture. You can just add more moisture up front to compensate for evaporation." And then you might say, "Hey, well, wait a minute. Is that actually true? Might the cooking environment be different in such a way that could meaningfully affect the food?" If I totally cover the chicken in water to account for evaporation later, the top of the meat is going to cook at a lower temperature than if it was only halfway submerged because, in that event, the top would be cooking in steam.
Steam is hotter than boiling water. The chicken might actually come out tasting a little different if you don't do this in the traditional tagine. If you thought that, you might be right, and I would have helped you come to that conclusion by disclosing the fact that I'm not cooking this dish inside the traditional vessel. This is another example of that core best practice of instructional communication, which is show your work.
Don't just tell people your conclusions. Tell them how you came to those conclusions so that they can learn from your process and/or find flaws in your process. But let's just say that there are no flaws in my process. Even then, things can still get hairy when you break from tradition. Tunisian guy pulls out his pan to start the gravy and instead of dropping in pork sausage crumbles flavored with sage and pepper like we would do, he drops in some ground beef instead. You're going to be thinking, "Wait a minute. Nobody makes sawmill gravy with ground beef. You make it with breakfast sausage or with bacon grease or some such. This is so frustrating. Why are they listening to a Tunisian guy talk about this instead of me, a guy in Tennessee? What right does he have to represent my traditional cuisine to the world? What right does he have to profit off of it? Not only is he stealing money and fame that rightly belongs to me.
He's also telling lies about me and my people and our beloved traditional foods." . All the Tunisian guy needed to do to diffuse this whole situation is say, "Now, in the southern US, they would start this gravy with some pork sausage or some bacon drippings. But because I'm Muslim and I don't eat pork, I'm going instead with this merguez, which is the spicy lamb sausage from my part of the world. But hey, you could do this basic concept with any fatty meat that you've got or even some soy-based imitation sausage crumbles. What's most important is that we've got a lot of rendered fat into the pan into which we can whisk our flour to make the roux for the milk gravy that traditionally they spoon over biscuits in places like Tennessee." That's all the Tunisian guy had to say, and he's able to keep you onboard. He has seen you. He's acknowledged your tradition and, in doing so, he has implicitly acknowledged his own outsider status. He's implicitly said, "This isn't my thing.
But I like the thing, and I'm adapting the thing to my own cultural context. Take what you will from watching me do that in my own little adaptation." . People like me, English-speaking white men from rich countries, people like me very rarely have to find ourselves in the position of seeing our culture misrepresented on any kind of large scale because, historically at least, we have been the ones holding the microphone.
Mass media for all kinds of reasons.
There's nobody knocking on the door of our culture. We are the ones who knock. So we very often have no intimate firsthand experience of cultural appropriation, thus, cultural appropriation can be hard for us to understand. By cultural appropriation, of course, I mean the bad kind of cultural appropriation.
But you knew that. You're not stupid. You can use context clues to figure out a speaker's basic intent like that. I've talked about this before on the pod, but I'm going to talk about it again. American man born in Lynwood, California, 1923, served as a cook in the Marine Corps in World War II, Glen Bell did. He came back and started a hotdog stand in San Bernardino. He noticed customers streaming in and out of a Mexican restaurant nearby called Mitla Café.
He went over there to see what the fuss was about, and he saw them selling these tacos where they took corn tortillas and they deep-fried them around a mold, thus setting a concave shape in the taco that you could then easily fill with beef and beans and vegetables and cheese and other yummy things. So after struggling to replicate this innovation himself, the Mitla Café cooks went to Glen Bell and said, "Here. Let's show you how it's done." . And then Glen Bell's new Taco-Tia stand grew into the Taco Bell chain that he sold in 1978 for $125 million in PepsiCo stock. Glen Bell never said publicly that he got his million-dollar idea from some nice Mexican cooks at Mitla Café who were just trying to help him out. That story had to be pieced together by historians and journalists. Well, I imagine Glen Bell was a person of unusual ability, a person with particular entrepreneurial talents, sure. But he was also set up for success in a way that none of the cooks at a place like Mitla Café were set up for success.
He was born a member of the dominant social caste in 20th century California, a territory that only 75 years previously had been seized by the United States from Mexico by force for really no reason other than because the US wanted it to fulfill its manifest destiny to occupy the North. American continent coast to coast. In order to maintain their control over this new wild land, well, white Americans instituted de facto and de jure discrimination to repress Mexicans and other kinds of people who weren't them. Glen Bell did not personally fight the. Mexican-American War, but he did inherit the winning half of that war's legacy. He took a good idea from the people who inherited the losing half of that legacy, and he used his exalted social status to make literally $100 million from that good idea. That's something different from a normal cultural exchange where two different peoples bump up against each other and they end up sharing ideas and influencing each other and blending with each other. That, what I just described, is was a two-sided arrangement.
What Glen Bell did was more one-sided. It was extractive. He took someone else's thing, and he didn't give anything back in return. He could have given something back in return. I'm certainly not saying that he shouldn't have started Taco Bell.
I love Taco.
Bell. I don't love Taco Bell. Why did I just say that? I have loved Taco Bell at times in my life. They've also made me pay for that love. Anyway, sure, start Taco Bell, Glen Bell. Do that. But you can also give something back. He could have told the world, "Hey, look, if you like my tacos, go check out the original at.
Mitla Café in San Bernardino, California. They showed me how to do it years ago, and they do it great. Go check out their restaurant." Mitla Café might have gotten so busy that they would have opened up dozens of other locations and had their own little empire that likely would not have taken any meaningful business away from Taco Bell. That's a pie that can grow. He could have done that, but he didn't, probably because he didn't want anyone to know where he got his million-dollar idea. This is a less healthy, less equitable, less good version of cultural exchange that we now call cultural appropriation. Or at least you could look at it that way. I look at it that way, but Gustavo Ariano does not quite look at it that way.
Dude said something to that effect.
Sake, shut up.
Words acquire new positive or negative connotations all the time." . This is one of the most common ways in which language evolves over the short term. Think of a word like great. Just a generation or two ago, the word, great, simply meant big or important or significant. So when they call him Tsar Peter the Great, they weren't necessarily calling him good. They were just calling him consequential, which he inarguably was.
Only in recent decades has great acquired a positive connotation. Cultural appropriation has acquired a negative connotation in recent decades because, in our post-colonial context, we have been talking about these particularly unjust, inequitable, extractive instances of cultural exchange and, to talk about them, we have used the term cultural appropriation, which has naturally acquired a negative connotation as a result.
You know from context that when I say cultural appropriation, I'm referring specifically to the, arguably, bad kind of appropriation. You use context clues to figure that out for yourself because you aren't stupid. In the same way, you know that if I were to say, "Hey, man, you smell," if I said that to you, "You smell," you would know that I'm talking about a bad smell even though there are both good and bad smells in this world. There are good and bad instances of cultural exchange in this world. When I talk about the good ones, I'll reach for some word other than appropriation, like perhaps sharing, cultural sharing. Anyway, people who are demographically similar to me often have trouble accepting that cultural appropriation can be a bad thing because we simply don't get the short end of that particular stick very often, or at least we haven't historically.
Young people alive right now might be having a very different experience, and they will tell you their own stories about that. But history matters, regardless, and I think I've come up with a new way of trying to understand what it feels like to have my culture appropriated in such a way that feels bad to me. I've got a new empathetic imagination strategy to deploy here. Imagine what it would be like if the most popular action movie set in the United States of all time was. Samurai Cop. Imagine if most of the rest of the world knew about the United. States from Samurai Cop and Samurai Cop alone. Please, if you already know how this story goes, let me tell it to you anyway.
Let me tell you the awesome tale, sing to you the ballad, the epic poem of 1991's Samurai Cop, the greatest bad movie of all time. Samurai Cop was directed by a man named Amir Shervan, not his real last name. He was born. Amir-Hossein Ghaffari. To avoid that whole thing, I'm just going to call him by his first name. I'm going to call him Amir. All right? Okay. Amir was born in Iran in 1929.
Not much about his life is in the public record, but he must have been somewhat upper class, I presume, because he was at least partially educated in the United States. Amir was a filmmaker in pre-revolutionary. Iran which, as we have recently discussed, was, for all its problems, a pretty happening place, pretty rich, pretty cosmopolitan.
Iranian audience, and he must have been at least somewhat successful at that.
Able to flee iran for america after the 1979 revolution, at which point movie makers like him probably fell out of favor with the regime in iran because amir made pulpy movies, action movies, romances, fun movies inspired by western cinema.
This is not what the Ayatollah wanted to see. So Amir fled to the US with enough money to start a little production company in Los Angeles. When I say little, I mean little.
If you watch any of Amir's American-made movies, all of the car chase scenes involved this one particular van. That was Amir's van. That was the production van that he used to haul around his equipment from shoot to shoot, and that equipment did not include any lights, by the way. All of Amir's American-made movies were shot purely in natural light. So everything happens in the daytime, mostly outside. Amir did not have the money to run sound on most of his field shoots because that would require hiring a guy to hold a boom mic over the actors' heads, and so almost all of the dialogue is dubbed after the fact, mostly by Amir himself doing all kinds of silly voices to try to sound like people other than himself.
Of course, he could not afford much film stock, the actual film that you shoot a film on back when films were shot on film. He could not afford much film stock, which is legit expensive.
It's very expensive to shoot just a minute of old-school films. So Amir did almost everything in one take, even if that one take contained obvious glaring errors. This is how Amir made his magnum opus, 1991's Samurai Cop. Imagine an Iranian guy watching Lethal Weapon and setting out to make a movie just like Lethal. Weapon under the conditions and constraints that I just described, and that's Samurai Cop. It is insane. It stars a very handsome young man named Matt Hannon. Matt Hannon is the titular Samurai Cop in the movie.
Matt Hannon was born in Portland, Oregon. That fact is relevant to this story because Samurai Cop in the movie is ostensibly a San. Diego, California-based police officer, and yet he is shown in the movie driving a car with Oregon plates on it because Matt Hannon had to drive his own car on camera in the movie. I mean Amir's van was already spoken for. Oregon boy, Matt Hannon, came down to LA with dreams of stardom. The real guy, the actor came from Oregon to LA hoping to make it big. He ended up working as a bodyguard for Sylvester Stallone right at the peak of Stallone's '80s popularity. Matt.
Hannon was perfect for a bodyguarding job because he was really big and fat. But inspired by his boss, Sly Stallone, who was totally shredded on steroids at this point in his life, Matt Hannon got himself totally shredded. Matt Hannon's physique in Samurai Cop is legit amazing, to be saluted, one might say. I don't know if Matt was on steroids. Steroids would explain why he is so unnaturally red in the movie because steroids make your body produce a lot of extra red blood cells, and so white guys on steroids just tend to look red all the time. See, for example, Liver King. Anyway, Matt Hannon knew how to get himself in shape.
Though, unfortunately, and i'm sure amir's direction was not any help.
It is one of the most unintentionally funny performances ever captured on film, not least because of Matt's wig. He had long hair when they started the filming, but eventually things fizzled out. He figured the job was all over, so he went and he got a haircut. But then Amir said, "Hey, I need you back to finish Samurai Cop. Oh, you cut your hair? Huh. Okay, here's this giant jet black lady's wig that you can wear for continuity purposes." . And then there's this hilarious fight scene where Samurai Cop is fighting with another guy, and the other guy accidentally pulls the wig right off of Samurai Cop's head. Other guy realizes what he has done, and he puts the wig back on and then continues to pretend fighting the man wearing the wig, Matt Hannon.
Yeah, that ended up in the final cut of the movie because Amir did everything in one take because that's all the film stock he could afford. As subsequent interviews and public appearances have revealed, Matt Hannon is a really lovely guy, very funny, great sense of humor about his status as kind of a campy cult movie hero. He's very kind and compassionate in how he talks about Amir. But Samurai Cop was not the ticket to stardom that Matt Hannon really needed. Not long after he shot the movie, Matt participated in a robbery of a Rembrandt painting owned by the televangelist, Gene Scott, and he ended up going to prison for some time as a result. Amir died in 2006, which was right before the internet rediscovered Samurai Cop and made it a cult classic. When that happened, the fans crowdfunded the production of a sequel, Samurai Cop 2, which you can also stream. But what we really need is a movie about the making of Samurai Cop and what became of all of the principals involved.
I mean I think there's been documentaries, but I mean a movie about the making of this movie, a farcical, odd couple, buddy comedy about Matt and Amir making this turkey of a movie and all of their misadventures. That's the movie that I want to see. But in the meantime, for God's sake, watch Samurai. Cop, lots of places you can stream it online. Watch it because it is a ton of fun to watch. But also watch it if you are a person, generally, like me and you want to imagine what it would be like to have your culture appropriated and misrepresented by an outsider, like an Iranian guy whose knowledge of American folk ways is pretty much limited to having watched Lethal Weapon. That guy makes a movie about a cop from San Diego who gets transferred up to LA to take out Japanese cocaine traffickers called the Katana Gang. Amir knew even less about Japanese culture than he knew about American culture.
Actually, here's the thing. It's not so much that Amir is misrepresenting American culture. It's more that he is misrepresenting American movie making. He thinks that he's making a Hollywood-style movie. He thinks he's qualified to make a. Hollywood-style movie because he has watched a bunch of them. But he really has no idea how to replicate that style of movie making because his understanding of Hollywood movies is only skin deep. He hasn't had the opportunity to learn what makes Hollywood movies tick from the inside.
For example, it seems like nobody ever taught Amir about the rule of thirds.
Photography and filmmaking and such, you almost never position your subject dead center in the frame.
I don't know if there's a, quote-unquote, "natural" reason for that or if it's just cultural conditioning. But if you're listening to my voice right now, it probably looks weird to you to see a person's head filmed in dead center of frame. If you don't believe me, watch Samurai Cop. Western-style photographers and filmmakers generally observe the rule of thirds where you divide the frame into an imaginary three by three grid, and you position your subject at any of the four intersections that are on that grid, which basically just means you position your subject a little off center.
Your phone camera probably has a grid overlay that you can turn on and off.
This is what that is for. You're supposed to position your subject on one of the intersections in that nine-square grid. When you're talking about a person's face, your true subject, the center of their face is the bottom half of their face. Our eyes, our noses, our mouths, the most important parts of our face are actually on the southern half of our faces. The top half, the northern half of the face, that's just forehead and hair, which is not that interesting or important. So when you're framing a close-up shot of a person's face, you don't worry about cutting off their forehead. What you want to get is the bottom half of their face in the frame because that's the part of the face that really matters, or at least this is the thinking behind standard Hollywood-style cinematography. Amir, apparently, did not know this.
So Samurai Cop is full of these close-ups where the person's whole face is dead center, not the part of their face that matters, but the whole face. In order to position a whole face dead center in a frame, you end up putting the part of the face that matters really low in the frame. The entire top half of the frame is just forehead and hair and negative space above the head. To me, and probably to you and anyone else accustomed to standard Hollywood shot framing, this makes the person on screen look super, super short. They look like they're kind of standing up on their tippy toes trying to get their face in the frame and just barely making it. They look like they're trying to photo bomb the movie. It looks ridiculous and hilarious, and you should watch Samurai Cop to see this. You're going to have a great time.
It's a movie made by an Iranian guy who thought that he understood Hollywood movies enough to make one himself, but he absolutely did not. Imagine if aliens came to Earth and said, "We have heard of your movies. We have come 10 million light years from planet Zakzor to see these movies of yours. Show us what is movie.". You walk up to the flying saucer with Lethal Weapon playing on your phone. Before you can hand it over to the alien, Amir cuts in line ahead of you holding a VHS of Samurai Cop. He says, "Here. Here is movie." That's how the entire intergalactic community came to know Samurai Cop as the archetypal example of Hollywood movies and, indeed, as the archetypal example of all Earth culture.