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Rear Window

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Image credit: Rear Window, 1954

There’s nothing like a hot, humid night to make you want to cool off with an effortlessly chic film and icy cocktail. Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (Disc/Download) may take place during the dog days of summer, but it never fails to chill me to the bone.

With a main character loosely based on real-life celebrity/lifestyle photographer Slim Aarons, this movie seems tailor made to fit my mid-century sensibilities. But throw in a tense murder mystery, voyeurism, and Hitchcockian suspense, and this Edith Head-flavored eye candy becomes a masterpiece. I’ve always loved Jimmy Stewart in a Hitchcock film because it’s an opportunity for cinema’s favorite everyman to dig a little deeper. As we see him lock eyes with a killer across the courtyard, it becomes apparent—this Jimmy has a dark side. One that compels him to watch his neighbors with the lights off, studying their movements, becoming involved in their dramas from afar. He can joke with Thelma Ritter and flirt with his socialite girlfriend, but there’s no denying the slight element of criminality to his behavior. Watching isn’t murder, but it’s still a violation.

Speaking of Thelma Ritter, I’d like to toast this 20th Century Queen of “Telling it Like it Is”. As the nurse who tends to Jimmy’s  L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries and his broken leg, she admonishes his semi-creepy voyeur habits while simultaneously musing about body disposal and blood spatter. Murderinos unite! When the action heats up, cool down with this Peeping Tom Collins.

Peeping Tom Collins

2 oz London Dry Gin

1 oz Lemon Juice

1 oz Ginger Liqueur

1/2 oz Simple Syrup

Club Soda to top

Lemon Wheel for garnish

Build drink over ice, stirring to combine. Garnish with a lemon wheel.

With just a hint of a spicy kick from the ginger liqueur, this drink will make you aware of how hot it is outside, but grateful you have air conditioning (unlike the poor folks in this Greenwich Village apartment complex). And be sure to watch out for a scene in which three people swirl brandy for about ten minutes straight, literally hypnotizing the viewer. If this was Hitch’s brand of misdirection, consider me duped. I have no idea what happened in that scene, other than the fact that Grace Kelly likes to aerate her alcohol and wear chunky charm bracelets. Cheers!

The Revolt of Mamie Stover

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Image credit: The Revolt of Mamie Stover, 1956

It took all of ten seconds to get me hooked on The Revolt of Mamie Stover (Disc), a campy 1950s melodrama directed by Roaul Walsh. As we watch Jane Russell step out of a police car to noirish music, the camera zooms in just as she turns to face the screen with a scowl of defiance. Talk about an entrance!!!!

Set in Hawaii on the cusp of the Pearl Harbor attack, this DeLuxe Color soap opera features strong female characters, romance, tiki drinks, and vinyl records. In other words, just a typical Sunday night in my living room. As sex-worker Mamie Stover, Jane Russell is smart, acerbic, and focused on one thing and one thing only—money. Although tempted into the straight life by writer Jim Blair (Richard Egan), Mamie understands sex is her ultimate weapon. If a guy can’t handle that, then aloha, buddy. Don’t let the bamboo door hit you on the way out. Sure, she makes a legit fortune buying up cheap properties in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack (shot in an incredibly moving, realistic way), but she still can’t relinquish the power that comes with her regular dance hall gig. Mamie is the star attraction, and club owner Agnes Moorehead (!!!) will stop at nothing to prevent her meal ticket from leaving.

If there was ever a movie that begs for a tiki cocktail, it’s this one. I’m taking inspiration from our red-headed star seductress for this drink, which goes up in flames just like Mamie’s love life. While watching The Revolt of Mamie Stover, I recommend drinking a Flaming Mamie.

Flaming Mamie

3 oz Jamaican Rum

1 oz Brandy

1 oz Lime Juice

1 oz Orange Juice

1 oz Cinnamon Syrup

½ oz Velvet Falernum

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

½ Fresh Lime

1 oz 151-proof Demerara Rum

Combine first seven ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Set aside. Fill a scorpion bowl with crushed ice, then strain cocktail into it. Place a hollowed-out 1/2 lime in the center reservoir, fill with 151-proof rum, and light on fire. Serve with two straws.

This spicy cocktail is a lot like Mamie herself- complex, hot-headed, and dangerous if you get too close. As much as I love to think of Mamie in a tropical paradise, cashing those rental checks forever, a part of me is glad she eventually decides to head back to her small, judgmental hometown. It means this revolt isn’t over yet. Cheers!

La Piscine

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Image credit: La Piscine, 1969

There’s a film I’ve wanted to feature on this blog for many years, but resisted because it’s never been widely available. In fact, for a long time La Piscine (Disc) was my white whale, missing from every streaming platform and physical media source out there. Eventually, my dad took pity and purchased an expensive Alain Delon box set for me, and I was finally able to watch and fall in love with this gorgeous film. Several years later, thanks to the fine folks at Criterion, it’s officially coming to a Blu-ray player near you. This calls for a toast!

Although I’ve previously covered Luca Guadagnino’s remake A Bigger Splash on Cinema Sips, La Piscine is the quieter, sexier, deadlier version of this psychological thriller. Impossibly chic, it features Alain Delon and Romy Schneider as wealthy vacationers in the south of France who spend their days lounging by the pool, drinking wine, and making out like teenagers. Talk about a dream summer! Things seem idyllic, until Maurice Ronet and model Jane Birkin arrive to throw chaos into the calm. Although the plot mirrors that of A Bigger Splash quite closely, the difference is in the visuals. The 1969 version is like a step back to a world where style reigned supreme, and tension lived in silences instead of shouts. There was never a world so beautiful, or so anxiety-inducing, as that of La Piscine.

Whether you’re watching this film or relaxing next to your own gorgeous pool (hey, I still think my inflatable version is quite attractive), you’ll want a cool beverage to take the edge off. Easy to make and perfect for the hottest days of summer, I recommend pouring a chilled Lillet Spritz.

Lillet Spritz

2 oz Lillet Blanc

3 oz Prosecco

1 oz Club Soda

Strawberry and mint for garnish

Fill a wine glass with ice, and layer in the Lillet, Prosecco, and Club Soda, stirring gently to combine. Drop in a few strawberry slices and sprig of mint for garnish.

Having seen several stunning screenshots from this film cross my feed over the years, I knew the aesthetic of La Piscine would be one that would appeal to me. However, I didn’t fully realize just how much this movie would be like a Slim Aarons photo come to life. It’s a world I want to dive into (pun intended), and now, we all finally can. Don’t forget your bathing suit*, or the wine. Cheers!

COCOSHIP Retro One-Piece suit, $29.99 on Amazon.com

*If you’re in search of your own sexy suit for pool-time this summer, I highly recommend this one! Unbelievably flattering, you’ll be ready to hit the beaches of the Côte d’Azur (or, more realistically, the backyard).

Steel Magnolias

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Image credit: Steel Magnolias, 1989

This week, I’d like to take the opportunity to pay tribute to one of America’s greatest treasures, Miss Dolly Parton. A ray of sunshine in nearly every movie she’s strutted into, this sassy comedienne even manages to bring humor and wisdom to the tearjerker to end all tearjerkers, Steel Magnolias (Disc/Download).

Despite telling myself I’m not going to cry this time, I inevitably lose that battle and end up reaching for the tissues. But before that switch gets flipped and the onscreen heart monitor flatlines, there’s a lot of laughter. Dolly is the glue holding this small Louisiana town together, and she does it with hairspray, curlers, and a smile that just doesn’t quit. As owner of the local beauty parlor, Truvy knows everybody’s story and is always there to lend a friendly ear along with a hot wax treatment. There are other funny characters in this movie, such as Shirley MacLaine’s “Ouiser” and her mangy St. Bernard, but Dolly just brings so much positivity to the role of Truvy that even when we see her go through marital troubles (helloooooo sexy Sam Shepard) and the death of a close friend, we know she’s going to be okay. Dolly is the true Steel Magnolia of this world.

Although iced tea is considered the “house wine of the South,” these ladies deserve something a little more complex than a cold glass of Lipton. Take some inspiration from Shelby’s wedding colors “blush” and “bashful” while you watch Steel Magnolias, with a Tickled Pink cocktail.

Tickled Pink

1 ½ oz Malfy Rosa Gin

¾ oz Lillet Rosé

¼ oz Aperol

3 oz Prosecco

3 oz Sparkling Water

Grapefruit twist

Build drink in a glass over large ice cubes, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with a twist of grapefruit.

Steel Magnolias is the kind of movie that brings to mind the trite saying, “They just don’t make ‘em like this anymore.” Movies with such rich character development that you feel like you personally know all these women, experiencing their joys and sorrows right along with them. There may not be such a thing as natural beauty, but from where I’m sitting, these Southern gals sure are gorgeous. Cheers!

The Four Seasons

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Image credit: The Four Seasons, 1981

Anyone who knows me know I love vacations. Talking about them, going on them, planning them—I live for escapism. So imagine my delight to discover a 1980s Alan Alda film The Four Seasons (Disc/Download), in which three couples do nothing but take vacations. Sign me up!

In addition to this fantastic premise, the cast is what really sold me. Alan Alda, Carol Burnett, Sandy Dennis, Rita Moreno—a who’s who of interesting, intelligent, funny people. We see these actors bicker and laugh as they travel from rustic New England cabins to St. Thomas yachts, and back to an ivy-covered college campus. But even in the most gorgeous, unbelievable surroundings, the characters feel so down-to-earth and real. There’s a particular scene where Alan Alda and Carol Burnett are lying in bed on the boat, listening to their friend and his new girlfriend make love in the adjacent stateroom, and they just can’t stop giggling. It makes you feel like you’re right there with them, on this ridiculous trip, with these ridiculous people. Their life is your life, for the length of this trip.

Speaking of boats, I think it’s straight-up #goals to see Jack Weston chilled out on the top deck, relaxing with a drink while everyone else argues about naked Bess Armstrong crashing the party (for all you My So-Called Life fans- yes, I’ve now seen Patty Chase’s butt).  While watching The Four Seasons, make believe you’re cruising the Virgin Islands with this Painkiller cocktail.

Painkiller

2 oz Dark Rum

4 oz Pineapple Juice

1 oz Cream of Coconut

1 oz Orange Juice

Nutmeg (for garnish)

Combine liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass or tiki mug filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a pinch of nutmeg and a tiny umbrella.

I’ve always loved movies and television shows about the complexities of marriage and adulthood because they’re an opportunity for relatable conflict. Throwing people into the chaos of vacation brings existing tensions to the surface, in a way that’s believable. We’ve all been there, on this trip where not everything goes to plan, and maybe your travel companions are getting on your nerves. But knowing you can go back to your room and just laugh with your favorite person on the planet—that’s what makes it all worth it. Cheers!

A Single Man

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Image credit: A Single Man, 2009

I don’t know what type of movie Tom Ford might have up his tailored sleeve in the future, but consider this my official RSVP. It’s rare to find a filmmaker who can so expertly merge style with substance, but with this fashion designer-turned-director at the helm, I find myself connecting with the the visuals just as much as the drama. He may have shocked and terrified me (in a good way) with Nocturnal Animals, but he truly made me feel with A Single Man (Disc/Download).

Set in my favorite era (the 1960s), this adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s fantastic novel follows Stanford English professor George Falconer (Colin Firth) over the course of a single day as he grieves his deceased lover Jim (Matthew Goode) and contemplates his own suicide. Through flashbacks, we witness George and Jim’s love story, from meeting in a crowded bar, to buying a beautiful mid-century modern home together, to adopting dogs, and all the way to that horrible call with the news that Jim has been in an automobile accident. Deprived of even the smallest dignity of attending the funeral, George’s life has suddenly lost all meaning, and even a sarcastic, gin-swilling Julianne Moore can’t pull him out of his despair. It takes a brazen student (played by Nicholas Hoult in a fuzzy mohair sweater), a midnight skinny dip in the ocean, and several important revelations to make him realize there may be more in store for him than a lifetime of sadness.

Something I particularly love about this film is its use of color. George’s life looks normal at first, until the first time he feels a strong emotion. Suddenly, it’s as if the celluloid gets dunked in a warm Instagram filter, and the hues burst from the screen. As soon as the memory, or sexual desire, or happiness fades, we go back to the original muted tones, and George’s grief is all the more obvious. I thought about joining Julianne Moore in a few Tanqueray & Tonic’s, but that just doesn’t seem bright enough. Let’s bring this drink into full color with the addition of Blood Orange. While watching A Single Man, I recommend drinking a Sunset Tonic.

Sunset Tonic

2 oz Malfy Con Arancia Gin

1 bottle Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic

Slice of blood orange

Build drink over ice, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with a slice of blood orange.

A Single Man is the kind of movie that stays with you for days after you watch it. Not only does it make you think about the ones you’ve lost, but it makes you contemplate what kind of future you’ll have now that they’re gone. Is it to be one of sadness and longing, or one of moonlight swims and dancing? What would they have wanted for you? It’s a question a lot of us will ask ourselves one day, and maybe Tom Ford just got me a little closer toward the answer. Cheers!

Bridesmaids

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Image credit: Bridesmaids, 2011

Are you reaaadyyy to paaaaaartyyy? I know I am, and I can’t think of two better hosts than Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig. Add in a Melissa McCarthy chaser, and you’ve got yourself a ridiculously fun time with this week’s pick Bridesmaids (Disc/Download).

A rite of passage for many of us, this film perfectly captures the expense, the hassle, the camaraderie, and the sentimentality of being a bridesmaid. Kristen Wiig’s character Annie is truly every woman who has ever balanced the happiness of her friend’s engagement with the dread of knowing you’re going to have to buy a dress that (despite reassurances to the contrary), you will never wear again. Then there’s the inevitable bachelorette weekend, plus the shower, which are all enjoyable, but still… it can be a lot. That’s why we rely on alcohol to get through all these rituals. I don’t care how nice your fellow bridesmaids are, or how much you love your friend who’s getting married, there’s going to come a time when you’ll want to pound that third glass of rosé because you just cannot deal with One. More. Posed. Picture. 

Speaking of rosé, this movie is a great excuse to bust out your favorite bottle and pretend you’re at Lillian’s French-themed shower. Unfortunately, at the time of this movie’s production, Frosé was not yet a staple among the brunch crowd. But you KNOW if it had been, Helen would have had that wine slushy machine cranking non-stop. While watching Bridesmaids, I recommend drinking Frosé.

Frosé

1 bottle Rosé Wine

1 cup Frozen Strawberries

1 cup Frozen Peaches

2 oz Simple Syrup

Luxardo Maraschino cherry

Measure out 2 cups of Rosé, and pour it into ice cube trays. Freeze 2 hours (or overnight). When ready to make your drink, pour remaining wine and simple syrup into a blender, then add frozen rosé cubes, strawberries, and peaches. Blend until smooth and slushy. Pour into glasses, and top with a Luxardo Maraschino cherry. (Serves 4).

Although this film features a heartwarming romance between Kristen Wiig and Chris O’Dowd’s characters, it’s really the female friendships that make this an instant-classic to me. In a lot of ways, I root for Annie and Lillian more than I root for Annie and Officer Rhodes. Men may come and go, but hilarious brunch companions are forever. Cheers!

Emma.

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Image credit: Emma. 2020

As any frequent moviegoer will tell you, 2020 was pretty much our worst nightmare. While theaters began to shut their doors last March, we saw our hopes for carefree, popcorn-scented afternoons dashed as quickly as that animated roller coaster flings itself around a cartoon soda in the opening pre-show. Perhaps you spent some time thinking about the last movie you saw before lockdowns, wondering if you made the right call. In my case, I could rest easy knowing I went out on a high note with Emma. (Disc/Download).

Though any Jane Austen scholar will likely critique this film’s deviation from its source material, to me it captures the spirit, whimsy, and fun of the book. Plus, in contrast to Clueless (my other favorite Emma adaptation), we get to enjoy the sumptuous costumes and polite society of the Regency era. I’ll always have a fondness for “Rollin’ With the Homies,” but there’s something about a choreographed quadrille that just makes me grin from ear-to-ear. Autumn de Wilde’s directorial style shows similarities to that of Wes Anderson or Sofia Coppola- heavy on style and symmetry, light on melodrama and manic performances. Anya Taylor-Joy is perfection as our meddlesome title character, and of course I adore Bill Nighy as her lovable, hypochondriac father whose greatest foe is a chill draft. It’s a pastel world of manners and manipulation, and in a year when literally everything seemed beyond our control, it was comforting to think of another character who had to abandon her controlling ways to find happiness. I was not alone in the struggle.

In the dark days of the pandemic, I often thought about the candy-coated costumes and production design of this film. Even down to the tiniest stitch or ribbon of paint, every element was an important piece of the visual tableau. In my beverage choice, I wanted to celebrate Emma’s love of flowers and bold pastel colors. While watching Emma., I recommend drinking this Night Bloom cocktail.

Night Bloom

1 1/2 oz Gin

1/2 oz Creme de Violette

1 Egg White

1/2 oz Lemon Juice

1/2 oz Simple Syrup

2 dashes Orange Bitters

Flower Garnish

Combine Gin, creme de violette, egg white, lemon juice, bitters, and simple syrup in a shaker. Shake vigorously for ten seconds, then add ice. Continue shaking until chilled and frothy, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a flower.

As I write this, I’m about to head back to the movie theater after sixteen months away. The flick: To Catch a Thief. Hollywood still has a long way to go before it lures me back with new material, so until then I’ll be enjoying some old favorites and savoring the memory of watching Emma Woodhouse dance with Mr. Knightley for the very first time (*sigh*). Cheers!

Magic Mike

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Image credit: Magic Mike, 2012

Living in Austin, it’s hard to escape the name Matthew McConaughey. Our local celebrity keeps popping up everywhere from University of Texas classrooms to the New York Times Bestseller list, and now there’s even talk about seeing him on the ballot one day. This former Dazed & Confused burnout has come a long way, but there is one particular stop along his long and winding journey that was truly unforgettable: the role of Dallas in Magic Mike (Disc/Download).

Say what you want about this crazy Texan, but it takes guts to strut around onstage in nothing but a g-string and cowboy hat. This Steven Soderbergh film about a Tampa male revue club could have easily been swallowed up by campy dance numbers and too many penis jokes (See: Magic Mike XXL). Don’t get me wrong, it still has those. But it also shows us the gritty underbelly of this sex and drug-fueled world. The odd thing about Magic Mike is that for a movie about sexual desire, there’s very little about it that’s sexy to me. So what are we left with? Raw performances, surprisingly beautiful cinematography, and the magnetic screen presence of McConaughey. Like a greasier version of Cabaret‘s Joel Grey, the Master of Ceremonies keeps us engaged, even when we think we’ve reached our limit of screaming women and wet one-dollar bills. Sure, there’s a lot to make fun of in this movie (Channing Tatum’s “furniture line” comes to mind), but this flashy scene-stealer is not one of them.

Now, I have a theory that Dallas is the original “Florida Man”, giving rise to a whole subgenre of trashy urban legends. Can’t you just see him pulling a gun on a McDonald’s employee because the McFlurry machine was broken? Let’s channel some of that Florida energy with a cocktail fit for your girlfriend’s bachelorette party at Xquisite, the Strawberry Mojito.

Strawberry Mojito

3 Fresh Strawberries

1 oz Simple Syrup

2-3 sprigs Fresh Mint

1 oz Lime juice

2 oz Light Rum

3-4 oz Club Soda

Muddle strawberries and mint with simple syrup and lime juice. Add Rum and ice to the shaker, and shake until chilled. Double strain into a glass filled with ice, and top with club soda. Stir gently to combine, and garnish with mint and lime twist.

As someone who has been to an all-male revue exactly one time (shout out to Thunder From Down Under!!!), I can say that the real thing is every bit as cringe-inducing as it looks in this movie. If your friends try and convince you it’ll be fun, just politely sit them down and suggest watching Magic Mike instead. You’ll save your eardrums, and your dignity. Cheers!

The Great Escape

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Image credit: The Great Escape, 1963

This might make me a traitor to the 1960s, but I’ve never totally understood the lure of Steve McQueen. After watching several of his films recently… I still don’t. (side note: am I the only one who realizes this man had a terribly unflattering haircut???). However, this week’s film The Great Escape (Disc/Download) is so much more than just a McQueen vehicle (pun-intended). Rather, it’s a well-choreographed ensemble piece that surprised me at every turn.

First, I assumed that a movie about military prisoners in World War II-era Germany would feature scene after scene of torture and random killings at the hands of the Nazis. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. The film opens with a jaunty Elmer Bernstein score, where we catch our first glimpse of a POW camp that encourages gardening and crafts instead of starvation and forced labor. It’s all so… civilized? I was slightly amazed by how frequently the prisoners are left to their own devices, allowing them time to dig three tunnels, sew new clothes, forge documents, and manufacture gadgets to aid in their escape. My second surprise was that although McQueen gets top billing, he doesn’t necessarily get the most screen time. I actually thought Charles Bronson and James Coburn were the true MVPs of the cast. Watching Bronson crawl through those tunnels with his RIPPED arm muscles was a sight to behold, and I can’t help but be reminded of my late father, who served as a tunnel rat in Vietnam. Now it makes sense to me why he owned this movie (and why I’ve now inherited it)- it wasn’t about McQueen. It was always about The Tunnel King.

You’d think alcohol would have no place in a POW camp, but remember this is a civilized camp. Prisoners make their own hooch with the potatoes they’ve grown, which serves two purposes—getting rid of the excavated tunnel dirt, plus letting off a little steam. This week, pay tribute to those Allied prisoners of The Great Escape with this Dirty Martini!

Dirty Martini

2 ½ oz Potato Vodka

½ oz Dry Vermouth

½ oz Olive Brine

Olives for garnish

Combine vodka, vermouth, and olive brine in a shaker with ice. Stir until well chilled and combined, then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with olives.

It’s so interesting that the escapees didn’t just want their freedom—rather, they wanted to force the Nazis into devoting valuable resources to recover the prisoners. In that sense, the escape was successful. Yes, it has an unsatisfying ending for some of the characters, but nevertheless, this remains a fantastic cinematic example of what it means to be brave, selfless, and strong. Cheers!