Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Cheez-Its Jump the Shark

I am well aware that patience is not my strong suit, but when it comes to my favorite things, I can usually exercise some restraint, but no more. I can no longer sit idly by as Cheez-It rolls out insipid flavor after flavor and dilutes their whole brand. I have loved Cheez-Its above all other cheese-centric snacks, but after trying their newest "Mozzarella" incarnation, I took their experiments as a cry for help, and decided to stage this intervention. After putting all varieties into my flavor algorithm, I have devised a clear/concise list of winning products, and those that should be cut entirely, salvaging the Cheez-it name and saving considerable supermarket shelf space.


Original Cheez-Its - The OG Cheez-its are perfect in every way, although there can be severe shifts in quality on a bag to bag basis (trust me on this). Aerodynamic hole, crimped ends for grip, generous salt sprinkle. These are the elements of a well-thought out snack, and the reason why Cheez-It has towered over  pale imitators like the apocryphal Cheese Nips.

Pepper Jack  - This recent introduction to the family was a fiery breath of fresh air, and proof that the folks at Cheez-It are not completely devoid of innovation after all. Improving upon the bizarre "Tabasco" flavored Cheez-Its, this creative venture offered a more nuanced heat, with a unique, irresistible flavor profile. They gave me hope that Cheez-It may still have something left in the tank.

White Cheddar  - When it comes to the "dusted" genus of Cheez-Its, I have serious apprehensions. While the powdered cheese adheres to the cracker admirably, I have a sneaking suspicion that Cheez-It uses this cheap flavor powder to eschew making a quality cracker beneath the pandemonium on the surface. It all feels a bit gimmicky, and to top it off, after eating a few of these, your fingers become completely lacquered in the dust, forcing you to excuse yourself to wash your hands, or lick them like a psychopath. White Cheddar are the exception. The cracker beneath the explosive dance party on the outside has a tang and a sharpness to it that other varieties lack, and the cheese powder they use has addictive properties rivaled only by crystal meth.


'Hot and Spicy' AKA 'Tabasco' - These have always been the black sheep of the Cheez-It line, and with the emergence of Pepper Jack, their surfaces are no longer needed. Please exit stage left, and never come back.

Party Mix! - GTFO. Chex Mix has done it better, and will continue to do it better. Cut your losses, and stop barking up the Party Mix tree. People that eat Chex Mix are NOT your target demo. I AM YOUR TARGET DEMO.

Reduced Fat - Listen ladies. You eat far worse things than Cheez-Its on a daily basis. I've seen it. Practice moderation and you'll be fine. Do NOT buy these cardboard frauds to save 20 calories a serving. You will lose your Cheez-It privileges. I will make sure of it.

BIG Cheez-Its - The biggest head scratcher of the lot. Perhaps they were intimidated by larger snacks and this was their attempt to branch into the chip game. Whatever the inspiration, the recipe did not scale up well. Someone in their QC department needs a stern talking to.

FLAVOR BLASTED! (Baby Swiss, Cheddar Jack, Colby, Four Cheese, Parmesan, Nacho Cheese, Mozzarella) - As I alluded to earlier, this is the new trend in cheese snacks, and it has to stop. If I want to be covered in cheese particles, I'll buy some Jax. Don't come up with new flavors by extruding dried cheese matter and slathering it on a sad square of dough. These cheeses are terrible, and the reason you have resorted to "blasting" it on crackers is because they aren't good enough to carry a cracker flavor on their own. You can't cover weakness with a flavor blast. If you can't do it right Cheez-It, don't do it at all.

With all this being said, I remain hopeful that Cheez-it can get their groove back. In fact, I'm going to extend an olive branch right here and now by giving them a head start on an amazing new flavor they have forsaken all these years:


Get to work.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Best Films of 2011

I know this list is a bit tardy, but believe me when I say I've spent much of 2012 scrambling to see 2011 films that are just now getting a wider release. As a result, my Top 10 list has undergone some serious reshuffling in the past week, but I can finally say I've seen almost everything I intended to see, and can begin to shape them into some sort of order. First, here's a list of well-reviewed movies that I haven't had a chance to see yet, in case you feel their omission is a tragedy:

Take Shelter
The Skin I Live In
Uncle Bonmee
A Separation
The Guard
Attack the Block
War Horse
A Dangerous Method

Not too many, even though it looks like a lot on the page. I'm sure some of them are top-notch, but like I said, I had to play movie triage recently, and sadly, these didn't make the cut. Next, I have my most overrated film of the year. This film has been fawned over by critics much of the year, and pops up on a number "Best Of" lists, but didn't manage to stir up anything substantial for me:

With that out of the way, I'd like to move on to my honorable mentions. As I've whittled my list down to 10 movies, several fantastic films had to be snubbed, and I wanted to take a minute to give these second 10 their due. If you have a couple hours free, you could do a lot worse than choosing any of these.

Phew. So there's that. Now it's time for the Top 10. I'm going to spare you any commentary on the choices, as most of them have been analyzed to death, and I would scarcely have anything to add to the conversation. With that disclaimer, here goes:

10. Midnight In Paris

9. The Interrupters 

8. X-Men: First Class

7. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo

6. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

5. Drive

4. Buck

3. Margin Call

2. Warrior

1. The Tree of Life

And there you have it. My Top 10 (er, 20), of 2011. A good mix of genres represented, a good year for movies overall. It's no 2007, but I'll take it. If you haven't had a chance to see some of these, do your darndest to make time in your schedule. You'll be glad you did.