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BUtterfield 8

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Liz Taylor Butterfield 8

Image credit: BUtterfield 8, 1960.

The 1960s were an interesting time for the subject of sex workers in cinema.  The words ‘party girl’, ‘call girl’, and sometimes even ‘model wink-wink’, got thrown around, leaving modern audiences to decipher what was really going on when Holly Golightly received $50 for the powder room, or when Liz Taylor had that mysterious answering service in this week’s film BUtterfield 8 (Disc/Download).  Was there a grey area when it came to sex work vs. relationships?  According to the tragically wild Gloria Wandrous, the answer is yes.

Earning Elizabeth Taylor her first academy award, BUtterfield 8 is the story of a promiscuous Manhattan “party girl” who falls in love with a feckless married man. The story opens with Gloria waking in his apartment to find $250 on the nightstand, but instead of taking the money, she scrawls “no sale” on his mirror in pink lipstick, steals his wife’s mink coat, and walks out with a bottle of scotch.  I love her instantly.  Taylor brings such depth to the role, forcing the audience to empathize with this woman who seems strong and confident on the outside, but inside is struggling with the trauma of childhood sexual abuse and the fear that she’ll never be loved.  She has some chaste scenes with  real life husband-of-the-moment Eddie Fisher, but ultimately can’t move on from rich lover Weston (played by Ewan McGregor look-a-like Laurence Harvey). There are moments where you think maybe, just maybe, this will turn into a Pretty Woman situation, where he’ll rescue Gloria and she’ll rescue him right back, but fair warning:  BUtterfield 8 is no fairy tale.

There’s a lot of booze in this movie, but one of my favorite lines is when Elizabeth Taylor claims she was “soaked through with gin.”  Been there, doll.  While watching BUtterfield 8, pour yourself this gin-based Honey Trap cocktail.

Honey Trap

2 oz Gin

1 oz Lime Juice

¾ oz Honey syrup (3tbsp honey + 1 tbsp water)

Lime twist

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine honey and water. Once it’s just barely boiling, remove from heat and let cool.  In a shaker with ice, combine gin, lime juice, and honey syrup.  Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a twist of lime.

In a weird way, this film feels almost Hitchcockian.  Like Gloria is a mystery we’re trying to unravel within this world of dim lighting, stylish sets, and lush orchestral scores.  Is she a prostitute, or just a girl who got her heart broken one too many times?  And does it even matter?  You be the judge.  Cheers!

Pretty Woman

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Pretty Woman

Image Credit: Pretty Woman, 1990.

Let’s be clear on one thing- Pretty Woman (Disc/Download) is a FAIRY TALE.  Lest we forget, the characters in this film shout it from balconies, fire escapes, and pool patios.  I fully understand that sex workers cannot expect shopping sprees on Rodeo Drive, private jets to the opera, or men who look like Richard Gere.  But knowing this still doesn’t stop me from squealing with glee when Julia Roberts steps into the lobby of the RegeBevWilsh looking like a million bucks.  Sue me- I’m into fairy tales.

In this classic rom-com, lonely businessman Edward (Richard Gere) picks up plucky sex worker Vivian (Julia Roberts) on a rough stretch of Hollywood Blvd.  He needs someone to drive his Lotus, but can’t resist those long legs and winning smile.  They strike a business arrangement, $3,000 for one week together, but things get messy when feelings develop.   For me, the romance is secondary to the joy I feel watching Vivian transform from an insecure girl in cheap clothing to a woman in a tasteful blazer who finally believes in herself.  Romy and Michele said it best:  “I just get really happy when they finally let her shop.”

No offense to the Regent Beverly Wilshire, which I’m sure is a lovely establishment, but daaaaaamn those hotel sets leave a lot to be desired.  The fussy draperies, the magenta bedroom with steps leading up to the bed- yikes. Edward needs alcohol to charm Vivian, because the “plush digs” sure aren’t doing it.  He orders up some champagne and strawberries, which, depending on the quality of the champagne, would totally work on me.   While watching Pretty Woman, I recommend drinking a Sparkling Strawberry Limoncello cocktail.

Sparkling Strawberry Limoncello

1 1/2 oz Frankly Strawberry Vodka

1/2 oz Limoncello

1/2 oz Simple Syrup

1 oz Lemon Juice

3 oz Champagne

Fresh Strawberry for garnish

Combine Vodka, Limoncello, Simple Syrup, and Lemon juice in a shaker with ice.  Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe.  Top with champagne, and garnish with a strawberry slice.

Sure, there are some problematic moments in Pretty Woman (I’m actually slightly amazed Jason Alexander had any kind of career in comedy after this movie), but something I love about it is the idea that a woman is more than what she does for a living.  Whether she’s a sex worker or a department store clerk, she has hidden depths that might include a deep love of opera, a talent for understanding human needs and emotions, or a knack for driving race cars. You just never know until you take the time to find out.  Cheers!

Klute

Klute

Image credit: Klute, 1971

Cinema Sips is exploring a set of films over the coming weeks which feature some incredible female performances.  The subject of sex workers is a complex one, but for the purposes of this blog, we’ll just be talking about the movie portrayals (while enjoying copious cocktails of course).  Kicking things off is Klute (Disc/Download), a 1970s thriller starring Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland.

Something I’ll never understand is the popularity of Fonda’s 70s haircut.  It’s almost as though her character Bree thinks this unflattering shag can protect her from even further mistreatment by the men in her life.  There’s the pimp, played by Roy Scheider, plying her with drugs and lies.  There’s the cop, played by Sutherland, who could maybe be a love interest, if he had any kind of personality or charm whatsoever. There’s the stalker, who likes to play tape recordings of their “session” and creep on her throughout the film. Honestly the only decent guy in this is the little old man who wants her to dress in a sparkly evening gown and drink wine.  Klute is an interesting time capsule of Manhattan in the 1970s, and you really feel Bree’s struggle as an actress and model, professions where success seems largely arbitrary.  At least with her other job, she has some control.

But let’s go back for a second to that scene with the sparkly evening gown.  In sequins poured over her body like a second glove, Jane Fonda looks fierce, formidable, and sexy as hell.  This is a woman of power.  Let’s celebrate her with this Ruby Manhattan.

Ruby Manhattan

2 oz Bourbon

3/4 oz Ruby Port

1 bar spoon Maple Syrup

Dash of Angostura Bitters

Luxardo Maraschino cherry

Combine first four ingredients in a mixing shaker with ice.  Stir until chilled and combined, then strain into a glass. Garnish with Luxardo Maraschino cherry.

Ruby Manhattan

Jane Fonda’s research with actual sex workers comes through in this Academy Award-winning performance, one full of both vulnerability and strength.  I’m still not sure why the film was called Klute; clearly it should have been Bree.  After all, it’s her world– the rest of us are just lucky to visit. Cheers!

Top Five ’90s Throwbacks in ‘Swingers’

1.  Answering Machines

Swingers answering machine

Hands up if you ever felt that wave of disappointment when the blinking light yielded just one “Hi, it’s Grandma” message.

2.  Wallet Chains

Just… why??

3.  Swing Music

big bad voodoo daddy

Admit it, you had a Big Bad Voodoo Daddy CD in your collection.  But just one.

4.  Grainy Video Games

hockey

How did we even see what was happening??  A Sixth-Sega Sense?

5.  The Club

 

Honestly, this thing did a pretty good job of protecting our crappy Toyota Corolla on the mean streets of Washington DC.  However it did nothing to prevent my Bill Withers CD from being stolen.

Swingers

swingers

Image credit: Swingers, 1996

As a teenager, I must have watched Swingers (Disc/Download) at least a hundred times.  The poster graced the walls of dorm rooms and crappy apartments, and I even made my dad take swing dance lessons with me.  Ordering my first drink in a bar went something like this, “One of the Glen’s, please.  Any Glen.” I’ll admit, the phrase ‘beautiful babies’ makes me cringe in a way it didn’t used to, but dang if the rest of this movie doesn’t still hold up.

Written by and starring Jon Favreau, this was the indie film darling of the 1990s.  Made on a shoestring budget, Swingers launched the careers of Favreau, Vince Vaughn, Ron Livingston, and director Doug Liman, and made big-band music and speakeasy bars cool again.  As an adolescent girl, I viewed the film as valuable insight into the male psyche.  But how to meet a Michael in a world full of Trents?  How to make sure the guy who just asked for your number doesn’t tear it up on the way out the door?  These are still questions I’m not sure I have the answer to, other than to say relationships are a crap shoot, and sometimes, even when it might feel like you’re just the guy behind the guy behind the guy, you can get lucky and the right person will come along and see you.

There is so much alcohol in this film, from martini’s to Budweiser and back again, but the best way to celebrate a “money” guy like Michael is by drinking my preferred Glen, Glenlivet.  Simple, on the rocks, with a pancake chaser after midnight.

Scotch

A quote I always come back to when I’m feeling blue about not being where I thought I’d be by now in my career is Ron Livingston’s classic line, “You don’t look at the things you have, you only look at the stuff that you don’t have.”  I may not have that lucrative book deal or the master bathroom of my dreams, but I’ve got a guy who’ll always call me back, and a blog that brings me joy.  And that’s pretty money if you ask me. Cheers!

500 Days of Summer

500 days of summer

Image credit: 500 Days of Summer, 2009.

I write to you today from the 136th day of summer.  The calendar may say September, the flannel pumpkins may have hit Target shelves, but here in good ole’ Austin we’re still baking in the heat.  You see, summer and I have a bad relationship. Kind of like the bad relationship in this week’s film, 500 Days of Summer (Disc/Download).  Eventually, you just hope someone will put us all out of our misery.

Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tom, and Zooey Deschanel as Summer, the movie relies heavily on colorful visuals, choreographed dance numbers, and omniscient narration to tell the story of a couple’s failed relationship.  She says she’s not looking for anything serious, he doesn’t believe her, they date anyway, and he’s shocked when she dumps him.  Then they kinda-sorta flirt again, before she’s suddenly married to another guy.  Truthfully, Summer is…. awful.  The woman likes Ringo Starr, for god’s sake.  And with her high-waisted trousers, a-line dresses, and cute hair bows, her style is annoyingly perfect.  So why do I watch this movie?  A) because it’s an Anthropologie catalog come to life, and B) Tom.  The man wears sweater vests without irony, he can turn an IKEA trip into the cutest date ever, and don’t even get me started on his drunken karaoke skills.  He can do so much better than Summer.

You must understand– this is a very basic girl masquerading as someone unique. I imagine Summer would take a summer cocktail like the Aperol Spritz and make it in a new way, just because she could.  Is it better? No.  But using Campari instead of Aperol would make her seem cool and different.  While watching this bitter take on modern love, I recommend drinking a Campari Spritz.

Campari Spritz

2 oz Campari

3 oz Champagne

Club Soda

Orange Wedge

Fill a glass with ice.  Top with Campari and champagne, then fill glass the rest of the way with club soda.  Stir gently to combine, and garnish with an orange wedge.

campari spritz

I come down hard on Summer (and summer), but it’s only because I don’t like being told how to feel about a character, or a season.  I don’t want to be forced to like a girl just because she’s a snappy dresser, and I don’t want to be forced to like summer just because the rest of the country has a pleasant climate for 4-5 months.  Let me have grey, rainy days, and strong, authentic female characters; summer is meant for someone else.  Cheers!

The Last of Sheila

The Last of Sheila

Image credit: The Last of Sheila, 1973.

This week heralded a lot of firsts for me.  It was the first time I saw James Coburn in drag.  The first time I had impure thoughts about Ian McShane.  And the first time I saw this many pairs of white pants in one movie.  The Last of Sheila (Disc/Download) is a forgotten gem of the 1970s, and as a connoisseur of mid-century weird, I am here for it.

Equal parts Clue and The Cat’s Meow, The Last of Sheila is a Hollywood murder mystery set aboard a yacht in the south of France.  Based on the real-life parlor games staged by the film’s screenwriters Anthony Perkins and Stephen Sondheim (yes, THAT Anthony Perkins, and THAT Stephen Sondheim), the plot follows a group of Hollywood players who have all agreed to spend a week on James Coburn’s yacht one year after the mysterious death of his wife Sheila Green.  Once aboard, they’re told they’ll be playing the Sheila Green Gossip Game, competing to discover one another’s secrets.  Alas, the game turns deadly, and it’s a booze-filled struggle to make it out alive.  With a cast that includes Richard Benjamin, Dyan Cannon, James Mason, Raquel Welch, and a sexxxxxy young Ian McShane, this film combines my three main interests in life: big hair, alcohol, and murder.  It’s weird, it’s wild, and it should absolutely be watched with a cocktail.

Leave it to James Mason—this man epitomizes classy drunk.  With the amount of bourbon he throws back, you’d think he’d be dead or passed out halfway through the movie.  But (spoiler) James hangs on till the bitter end, glass in hand, ready to solve this thing once and for all.  Let’s toast James with the boat’s signature alcohol brand in a Jim Beam® Smash.

Jim Beam® Smash

2 oz Jim Beam® Bourbon

2 lemon wedges

1 oz mint simple syrup (or muddled mint and simple syrup)

Club Soda

Fill a glass with ice and lemon wedges.  Pour bourbon and mint simple syrup into a shaker, and gently shake to combine. Pour into prepared glass, and top with club soda.  Stir gently.

Jim Beam Smash

Having fallen in love with Richard Benjamin in Goodbye, Columbus, it’s odd to see him in this creepier role.  His Freddie Mercury-mustache, tight white pants, and turtleneck are…. not a good look.  And don’t even get me started on the puppets.  Luckily there are a lot of other charming, beautiful people to balance out the sinister elements on this boat.  After all, you gotta have friends.  Cheers!