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The Darjeeling Limited

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the darjeeling limited

Image credit: The Darjeeling Limited, 2007

Trains are pretty fascinating if you stop to think about it. Depending on which seat you choose, you have the ability to look forward or backward in time, contemplating how the past will influence the future, and how your present is just a brief stopping point on the journey to somewhere else. In this week’s film The Darjeeling Limited (Disc/Download), three brothers do just that on a sleeper car through India. Grab your savoury snacks and teapot- it’s time to dig deep.

Perfectly placed within the Wes Anderson film canon, The Darjeeling Limited features familiar elements like vintage luggage, perfectly tailored suits in various states of dishevelment, a place for everything/everything in its place, and a lot of paterfamilias drama. As three brothers (Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, and Adrien Brody) grapple with their father’s death and their mother’s abandonment, they reexamine their relationships with one another to figure out where they went off the rails (pun intended). The Darjeeling Limited train is pretty much the only way I would ever travel through India, and only if it was designed by Wes Anderson. I thought I was partial to the 20th Century Limited in North by Northwest, but the Darjeeling Limited has a quirky exoticism to it I can’t resist. Plus- SAVOURY SNACKS!

During the summer, I would definitely watch this film with a sweet lime gimlet (recipe here).  But during the winter, a toddy feels more appropriate.  With exotic spices and flavors, this drink will make you feel transported to the sunny, hot climate of India.  While watching The Darjeeling Limited, I recommend drinking a Darjeeling Toddy.

Darjeeling Toddy

1 bag Darjeeling tea

1 cup boiling water

1 oz dark spiced rum

1 oz cognac

1 Tbsp honey

1 small piece dried ginger

2 tsp lemon juice

1 lemon wedge

Combine water, rum, and cognac in a saucepan, and drop in tea bag and ginger to steep. After about 5 minutes, discard tea bag and ginger, then stir in honey. Strain mixture into a mug, and add the lemon juice. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

darjeeling toddy

There’s such a romance to trains that it’s easy to see why they’re still featured in cinema, even when they’re no longer a part of most people’s itineraries.  In an era of depressing air travel and trying to get somewhere as fast as possible, it’s nice to watch people slowing down to experience the journey itself. Cheers!

Splash

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splash

Image credit: Splash, 1984.

I know I’m supposed to care about modern underwater extravaganzas like Aquaman, but the truth is I’ve never gotten over my first deep-sea movie love:  Splash (Disc/Download).  Even The Little Mermaid pales in comparison to this delightful Tom Hanks/Daryl Hannah rom-com about a man who falls in love with a mermaid.  Funny and charming, with some pretty impressive fishtail effects, this film is a sea fantasy come to life.

When I was young, I totally wanted to be Daryl Hannah.  Alas, all the Morton’s salt in the world couldn’t turn my legs to scales and my hair into a soft, flowing nest of crimped perfection.  As mermaid Madison, she learns English in a single afternoon by watching daytime TV, goes on a Bloomingdale’s shopping spree, and somehow learns how to ice skate despite the fact that she’s never seen ice before.  Plus, she makes the wise decision early on to fall for Tom Hanks.  He’s the kind of guy who offers to get her a hotel room, even after she’s slept with him, because he knows their afternoon delight DOESN’T AUTOMATICALLY OBLIGATE HER TO DO MORE.  He’s the kind of guy who keeps fish tanks in every room because he’s never gotten over the mermaid who saved him as a little boy.  And he’s the kind of guy who will give up a lifetime of John Candy’s jokes for his one true love.  This man is a keeper.

Speaking of John Candy, he plays Hanks’ off-color, sleazy brother with a schlubby, good-hearted charm.  Sure he’s a walking sexual harassment lawsuit, but he also dispenses wisdom like, “Drinking is a matter of algebraic ratio.  It’s not that you had too much to drink; it’s that you’re too skinny.”  SO TRUE.  While watching Splash, capture the flavor of the ocean with some Himalayan Salt shot glasses, and this tasty cocktail:

SALTWATER SHOT

2 oz Citron Vodka

1 oz Orange Liqueur

1 oz Lime Juice

Lime Wedge

Combine vodka, orange liqueur, and lime juice in a shaker with ice.  Shake until chilled, then pour into Himalayan Salt glasses.  Garnish with a lime wedge.

saltwater shots

Rumor has it this film is being remade with a gender swap, but I’ll always love the original because it celebrates a mermaid who doesn’t have to change herself to fit into a man’s world.  Her world is pretty awesome already, and if a guy wants to be with her, he’s just going to have to hang out underwater and kiss her constantly for the rest of his life.  Now THAT’S a happily ever after.  Cheers!

Top Five Films of 2018

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Here’s the thing:  I’m in love with love.  Lucky for me, 2018 was a banner year for romance at the multiplex.  From rom-coms to dramas to YA adaptations, this was the first year in a long time where it felt like movies were being made for a 35-year old woman raised on John Hughes and Meg Ryan, and not teenage boys raised on video games and comic books.  Sure, those movies were there, but for once it felt like women had been given a seat at the table.  Most of my favorite movies will probably not make it onto any other critic’s best-of list.  And that’s okay with me.  But if you’re really into romance, great storytelling, and cool set design, you’ll be happy with these picks.  Let’s raise a glass to my Top Five Films of 2018!

1.  A Star is Born

A Star is Born

Image credit: A Star is Born, 2018.

Never in a million years did I think this movie needed to be remade.  Judy and James did it perfectly, Barbra and Kris stunk the place up, and….I’ll admit to never seeing the very first one.  But Bradley and Gaga-  WOW.  So much romance, so much great music, so much tragedy- even the large man behind me in the audience let out a heaving sob.  My favorite movie this year (perhaps in several years).

2.  Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Image credit: Can You Ever Forgive Me?, 2018

This picture says it all.  Literary forgeries, Melissa McCarthy in her bravest role to date, and a sad, touching friendship with the most charismatic man in New York City.  Perfection from the very first word.

3.  Crazy Rich Asians

Crazy Rich Asians

Image credit: Crazy Rich Asians, 2018.

Kevin Kwan’s book trilogy was one of my favorite literary joys of the past decade, so let’s just say my expectations for this film were high.  I’m happy to report that I loved every second of this frothy cocktail of a film, and can’t wait for the sequel.  More Kitty Pong!!

4.  Bad Times at the El Royale

Bad Times at the El Royale

Image credit: Bad Times at the El Royale, 2018.

Not much romance here, but the mid-century sets more than made up for it.  I want to check into the El Royale and stay awhile.  Particularly if shirtless Chris Hemsworth is there trying to sign me up for his cult. I’m in!

5.  To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

to all the boys i've loved before

Image Credit: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, 2018.

This YA adaptation gave me all the feels, proving to Netflix that the market for romance is alive and well.  Plus, Noah Centineo pretty much made my year when he saved that bowl of popcorn.  Swoon!

 

Boogie Nights

boogie nights

Image credit: Boogie Nights, 1997.

It finally happened- my weekly Cinema Sips post is dropping on the booziest night of the year!  New Year’s Eve deserves a movie featuring disco dancing, kung fu fighting, alcohol and drug-fueled parties in the San Fernando Valley, and a main character with a name so cool it cuts glass. It’s time to watch Boogie Nights (Disc/Download).

This is a great movie for New Year’s Eve because the holiday acts as a touchstone within this meandering tale of the 1970’s pornography industry. Things are rosy for a while– newcomer Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg, in a star-making role) joins a dysfunctional “family” of porn stars, makes a lot of money from his greatest, er… asset, and buys a lot of kooky stuff. As you do. But then the ball drops on 1980 and things spiral out of control. The drugs get harder, certain other things get softer (ahem), and the misfit family splinters. Writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson manages to transport his audience to a time and place that’s so specific, it’s as though the characters are trapped in amber.  Even sin looks beautiful under his filter.

One of my favorite scenes involves John C. Reilly’s character Reed Rothchild displaying his bartender skills at a pool party. I have no idea how much tequila he pours in that blender, but it really doesn’t matter; the man is my mixologist hero. Let’s toast this Shakespearean tragedy of a film with a New Year’s twist on an old favorite. While watching Boogie Nights, I recommend drinking a Frozen Amber Margarita.

Frozen Amber Margarita

4 oz silver tequila

2 oz Triple Sec

2 oz fresh lime juice

2 oz blood orange cocktail mix (I use Stirrings)

1 oz Aperol

1 cup Ice

Sparkling Wine

Combine tequila, triple sec, lime juice, Aperol, and cocktail mix in a blender with ice. Blend until frothy, then pour into a champagne flute. Top with Sparkling Wine.

Frozen Amber margarita

New Year’s Eve is always such a strange night. It’s full of hope and reflection, maybe sadness and joy. Wherever you’re at with this holiday, just know that whatever happens in the coming year, you’re gonna be okay. There are movies to watch, there are cocktails to drink, and I’m excited that we get to do it together through Cinema Sips. Cheers!

Meet Me in St. Louis

Meet Me In St. Louis

Image credit: Meet Me in St. Louis, 1944.

After three weeks of black-and-white Christmas films, the technicolor explosion of Meet Me in St. Louis (Disc/Download) is quite a shock for the eyes. Visually stunning, this Judy Garland classic screams Hollywood Studio System, while signaling a modern auteur-driven type of storytelling still to come. With a creepy Victorian snow family, a night of trick-or-treating straight out of Stranger Things, and a horrifying platter of corned beef and cabbage, this movie is one crazy trolley ride.

Set in St. Louis at the turn of the century, the film is about the mundane lives of a large middle-class family, the Smiths (lord, even their name is boring).  The daughters are chasing after boys, the dad is rolling his eyes, and everyone’s all atwitter about the upcoming World’s Fair. Though the plot of Meet Me in St. Louis holds little interest for me,  the visual pop of Vincente Minnelli’s directorial style is what truly makes this film a classic. The vibrant costumes, unusual lighting, and ahead-of-its-time Halloween horror sequence—these are the elements I keep coming back to.

This film tends to get lumped into holiday movies due to Judy Garland’s heartbreakingly lovely rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, and the red velvet dress she wears. This was the moment the world sat up and took note of Garland, child actress no more. She’s beautiful and sexy, like something out of a John Singer Sargent painting. While watching Meet Me in St. Louis, celebrate Judy with this Red Velvet Martini.

Red Velvet Martini

2 oz Cake vodka

1 oz White Crème de Cacao

3/4 oz Grenadine

1/4 oz Simple syrup

2-3 dashes Aztec bitters

Chocolate drop for garnish

Mix liquid ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake vigoriously, then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a chocolate drop.

Red Velvet Martini

Because this film is full of iconic costumes, it makes me eager to learn more about the stories behind them. Until the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures opens in Los Angeles, whet your appetite with the book Hollywood Costume. And for anyone interested in the scary underbelly of a World’s Fair, I highly recommend Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City. Chronicling the true story of a serial killer targeting visitors to the Chicago World’s Fair, this book will have you wondering if the Smith family home is really as boring as it seems. Cheers, and happy reading!

Holiday Affair

Holiday Affair

Image credit: Holiday Affair, 1949.

Poor Carl. All he wants for Christmas is for Janet Leigh to accept his proposal of marriage. He’s been waiting TWO YEARS, for god sakes. Two years of putting up with her bratty kid, watching her walk around in pointy brassieres, and being treated like the family Labrador. And now, at Christmas, he’s forced to watch his lady fall for the bedroom eyes of Robert Mitchum, an unemployed bum who hangs out in the park and gets arrested for stealing salt and pepper shakers. Holiday Affair (Disc/Download) may be billed as a charming holiday romance, but make no mistake- this film is a sad reminder that nice guys finish last.

I thought I’d seen the pinnacle of annoying child actors in the 1953 western Shane. But then came Timmy. Timmy is the kind of kid who badgers his broke single mom for the most expensive Christmas present on the market, thus making her feel guilty for all of her life choices. Timmy also turns the “poor me” face on Robert Mitchum’s character Steve, convincing this guy who just lost his job to spend a bunch of money on a kid he barely knows. Meanwhile, Carl the Earnest Lawyer wants to give Timmy and his mom a stable home and a hefty joint bank account. Does Timmy want that? No, of course not. He kicks Carl in the leg, screams his head off, and tries his damnest to fix his mom up with the hot bum. I have two words for Timmy’s Mom: Birth. Control.

I’m of the opinion that pretty much every Robert Mitchum film should be watched with Bourbon. This is a man’s man if there ever was one. Because I spent this movie mostly wanting to smash Timmy’s face in, while watching Holiday Affair I recommend drinking a Holiday Bourbon Smash.

Holiday Bourbon Smash

2 oz Bourbon

1 oz Pear Liqueur

2 oz Apple Cider

1 oz Lemon Juice

2 tbsp Cinnamon Pear jam

Club Soda

Cinnamon Stick Garnish

Combine the bourbon, pear liqueur, apple cider, lemon juice, and jam in a shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously until well mixed, then strain into a glass filled with ice. Top with club soda, and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Holiday Bourbon Smash.jpeg

The thing about this film is, I should love it. A single-mom-finding-romance-again is one of my favorite tropes! That Holiday Affair fails to light my yule log might be because I’ve read so many wonderful novels that do a much better job with this story. An old favorite of mine is Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Dream a Little Dream, which features an adorably sweet kid, the feisty widow of a televangelist, and her romance with a hunky drive-in movie theater owner. There isn’t a Christmas tree, but did I mention he owns a movie theater??  Cheers!

Christmas in Connecticut

Christmas in Connecticut

Image credit: Christmas in Connecticut, 1945.

Take a saucy career-minded city gal, put her on a farm, hand her a baby and force her to flip flapjacks, and what do you get? This week’s delightful classic rom-com Christmas in Connecticut (Disc/Download). Though it would later be remade by esteemed director Arnold Schwartzenegger (no, I am not joking), the original Barbara Stanwyck version holds up remarkably well. This is Hallmark Christmas with better clothes, better looking men, and better acting. What are you waiting for?!

The parallels between my life and Elizabeth’s are uncanny.  When I started Cinema Sips over five years ago, I’ll be honest- I had no idea what I was doing. I trusted recipe books and expert advice to get me through, kind of like Elizabeth relies on her Hungarian chef uncle to convince readers she knows her way around a kitchen. Also, we both have no clue what to do with a baby. Literally, none. And most importantly, we strive to be the best-dressed person in any room, meager paychecks be-damned. Therefore, I can really empathize when Elizabeth is forced to pretend to be a domestic goddess for one zany weekend at Christmas, all to impress her publisher and a Navy war hero. Sometimes, a lady doesn’t want to flip flapjacks or give a baby a bath, so back the f*ck off, okay???

Another reason I’m convinced we’re sorta the same person is because this columnist loves a good martini.  The holidays are a great time to make festive martinis, so while you’re watching Christmas in Connecticut, I recommend drinking this Sleigh Ride Martini.

Sleigh Ride Martini

2 oz Peppermint Twist vodka

0.5 oz Vanilla vodka

0.5 oz White crème de cacao

Combine ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake until very cold, then strain into a chilled glass. 

Sleighride Martini

BTW, the Smirnoff Peppermint Twist bottle is scratch-and-sniff!!!!  What a time to be alive!

If I had to pick a modern Hollywood equivalent of Elizabeth Lane The Domestic Goddess, my mind goes immediately to Reese Witherspoon. From hot rolling your hair to whipping up a batch of fluffy biscuits, her new book Whiskey in a Teacup is Elizabeth Lane’s column for a new audience. It may be more Mint Juleps than Martinis, but hey- I applaud any lady who enjoys a good cocktail and also tells me how to make it. Cheers!