Babies (and Fusion Restaurants) Couldn't Care Less About Poverty and Gender Discrimination

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The Dinner: A Coconut Shrimp Tempura Roll; Chinese Five Spice Salmon with Seasonal Greens, Passionfruit Vinaigrette and Ginger-Scallion Rice Cakes; two glasses of Dragonfish Lager and a Sake Drop cocktail at Dragonfish Asian Cafe.

The Movie: Babies at Meridian 16 (1501 7th Ave).

The Screenplate: Two weeks ago, if you would've asked me what my favorite documentary about screaming, staring into space and pissing on yourself was, I would've directed you to Hated: GG Allin and the Murder Junkies (done by a young Todd Phillips, whom you may know now as the director of new frat house staples Old School and The Hangover). I can now say, without a singular doubt, that Babies has taken that honor.

Babies is a French production that follows four infants from the United States, Mongolia, Namibia and Japan from birth to their first steps. Baby Hattie bounces around the New Age daycares and sprawling playgrounds of San Francisco. The adorably pudgy Bayar is whisked around the dry Byanchandmandi steppes by his motorcycle-riding father, spending most of his time alone with the family livestock. Ponijao gleefully socializes with the many women and children of his mother's tribe in the Southwest African bush. Mari giggles through the bright lights of Tokyo with her young professional parents.

If you were worried about a schmaltzy, overdone greeting card of a film espousing the universality of child-bearing, then don't. This movie isn't called Adults for a reason. There are no head-on interviews that now have more in common with tired sitcoms (sorry Parks and Recreation, you know I love you) than actual documentary films. There is no boringly omniscient narrator to speak of. There are no hidden political statements. There is no plea for action sloppily tacked on to the end credits.

Babies is, quite simply, about babies. Babies couldn't care less about poverty, gender discrimination or disenfranchisement. Babies don't know much outside of gurgling and playing with kitty cats. Here the movie sets an extremely narrow, even disciplined focus and sticks to it until the very end, ironically making it more mature and competent than the vast majority of documentaries being released today.

It would be a shame that it took so long for such a simple idea to crack the overabundant cliches of the modern documentary film if Babies weren't so damn enjoyable. This is the rare kind of documentary that doesn't use the fact that it's trying to say something as an excuse to talk at its audience for ninety minutes. It is the most powerful kind of documentary film; Babies is a unique visual phenomenon with an impact that couldn't possibly translate over any other medium.

It is that same lack of need for explanation that makes a good fusion restaurant. In a style of cuisine that has so few real guidelines, one key detail lies in the innate understanding of why certain foods go together. If a page-long essay is necessary to explain the coupling of two culinary styles, one has to assume the restaurant is more focused in abstractions and ideals than delicious food that speaks for itself. That's why I'm happy to say Dragonfish Asian Cafe is not run by "talky" chefs.

Boasting an all-day Happy Hour every Monday and generous late night Happy Hours throughout the rest of the week, Dragonfish's discount sheet might actually see more action than the leather-bound full menu. The substantial, yet succinct HH menu offers transnational delicacies that don't need supplementary reading to titillate. Chinese spices on fresh Northwest salmon, grilled chicken breast with chili sambal, and tempura halibut are just a few affordable entrees whose yummy synergy is almost common sense.

Dragonfish's sushi portions are tiny but delicious, especially considering the price of a delicious Coconut Tempura Shrimp roll is almost the same as what most hole-in-the-wall places charge for a goopy California.

In stark contrast to Babies, alcohol also plays an important role in the making of a good fusion restaurant. Although the Dragonfish Lager was a little too wheaty for my tastes, an assortment of cheap and delicious cocktails and one of the largest selections of sake I've seen in Seattle picked up plenty of slack.

Side note: Proving once more that the MPAA may just be the most illogical collection of idiots in the country, Babies has received a rating of PG. I guess some people just think that babies are just too bad of an influence on general audiences.

 
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