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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!

The Bishop’s Wife

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The Bishop's Wife

Image credit: The Bishop’s Wife, 1947.

Who’s ready for an old-fashioned Christmas? This year, Cinema Sips will be highlighting  holiday films of the 1940’s, guaranteed to make you smile and long for the days when women wore hats and men dressed up to have breakfast. Kicking things off is the 1947 charmer, The Bishop’s Wife (Disc/Download).

Although it would later be remade with Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston, the original film stars Cary Grant as the winsome angel Dudley, sent down to Earth to give guidance to a conflicted bishop and his neglected wife (played by David Niven and Loretta Young, respectively). You’d think this would be a sermon-filled snooze-fest, but in reality it’s a delightful Mary Poppins-esque film about tolerance, empathy, and the magic of the holidays. Plus, there’s Cary on Ice, Cary decorating a Christmas Tree, and Cary in a polka dot scarf. This is all the incentive I need to watch.

So apparently, angels have no problem with our holiday indulgences.  When Dudley counsels a failing writer, he also keeps refilling his empty bottle of booze with a sneaky little finger trick. I’m pretty sure I could also use some spiritual guidance like that right about now (*looks skyward*).  While watching The Bishop’s Wife, I recommend drinking a Bishop cocktail.

Bishop

3 oz Rum

1 oz Red wine

1/4 oz Simple syrup

3/4 oz Lime juice

Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a wine glass.

Bishop

As part of my holiday posts this year, I’ll also be recommending some books that would make great gifts for the cinephile in your life. For fans of The Bishop’s Wife, be sure and check out Adriana Trigiani’s All the Stars in the Heavens, an engrossing novel about Loretta Young’s relationships with Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable, her rumored Hollywood scandals, and fun escapades with pal David Niven. You’ll see the bishop and his wife in a WHOOOOOLE new light. Cheers!

While You Were Sleeping

While you were sleeping

Image credit: While You Were Sleeping, 1995.

Before I dive into a month’s worth of classic Christmas films, I’m easing into the holiday spirit with the movie that probably inspired countless contemporary romance novels and Hallmark productions. (Let’s pause to write the producers a thank-you note).  While You Were Sleeping (DVD/Download) is the Christmas movie for lonely hearts, the siren call for every schlubby transit worker who dreams of the guy in the suit, only to realize the guy in the Carhartt jacket is way sexier. Trust me- you want the guy who can build you a chair, not the one who can buy it for you.

Starring Sandra Bullock as a single, cat-owning, Oreo-eating heroine, While You Were Sleeping is a film not just about romance, but about family connection. After she saves her crush from being hit by a train, his family mistakenly believes she’s their future daughter-in-law, and she goes along with it because it kinda sucks to be alone at the holidays. But then she meets her faux-fiance’s brother played by Bill Pullman (honestly I was always more of a Paxton girl myself, but Pullman makes it work), and realizes he’s maybe kinda sorta her soul mate.  Hijinks ensue, Christmas trees are bought, presents are unwrapped, and Chicago looks really f*cking cold. Pass the eggnog!

One fun thing I discovered on a recent re-watch of this film is that the grandma-with-a-heart-problem (because of course) is played by none other than Glynis Johns, aka. Mrs. Banks from Mary Poppins. Grandma Elsie mixes up a mean batch of eggnog, meant to be sipped slowly. So while watching While You Were Sleeping, let’s join in the fun by drinking Elsie’s Eggnog:

Elsie’s Eggnog

4 oz Store-bought eggnog

1 oz Rumchata

1 oz Southern Comfort

1 oz Bourbon

Whipped Cream and cinnamon for garnish

Stir together eggnog and other ingredients in a shaker with ice. Stir until chilled, then strain into a chilled glass. Top with whipped cream and cinnamon.

eggnog

This movie is especially endearing because it’s not just a film about a girl trying to get a guy at Christmas. It’s about a girl trying to connect with a family, one that comes with drunk relatives, ugly furniture, and the kind of mom who will put up a stocking for someone she barely knows. And that’s what makes the holidays so great, when you stop to think about it. Well, that and boozy eggnog. Cheers!

The Godfather

The Godfather

Image credit: The Godfather, 1972

This week is Thanksgiving, and I don’t know about y’all, but I am ready to eat, drink, and watch movies. Sure, we’ll come together with loved ones and enjoy some mashed potatoes and stuffing, but post-meal is where the real magic happens. Because that’s when you settle in with a good film. If you’re smart, you’ll choose something that celebrates, eating, drinking, and above all, la famiglia. This Thanksgiving, I’ll be watching The Godfather (DVD/Download).

I’m not going to rehash the plot of The Godfather because really, it’s been almost 50 years, and if you don’t already know that this is a movie about a large mafia crime family, heaven help you. What I will say, however, is that as a fan of late 60’s/early 70’s cinema, this film encompasses so much of what I love about the era. You have the faded Hollywood icon in the form of Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone contrasting with the brash, exciting newcomer Al Pacino as Michael Corleone.  Then there are the 1940’s period sets that still feel a bit like 70’s gritty NYC, and Francis Ford Coppola’s blend of cinema verite mixed with grandiose storytelling. You see the wine and the red sauce and the piles of wedding cake that scream ITALIAN, but also the quiet, subtle moments that pull the viewer in and make you feel the story.  Hollywood was still figuring out what it wanted to be when this film was made, and The Godfather said it loud and clear- the old studio system was dead, long live the auteur.

If you find yourself cooking for a large crowd on T-Day, you may just want to keep things simple and enjoy a nice bottle of red wine with this film (Sicilian or Southern Italian-origin would be my choice for authenticity’s sake). But if you want to go a little further, pick up a bottle of Sambuca and digest your dinner like the Corleones. While watching The Godfather, I recommend drinking The Closer.

The Closer

1 oz White Sambuca

1 oz Coffee liqueur

1 oz half-and-half

Star Anise for garnish

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker, blend well, then strain into a glass with a large ice cube.  Garnish with star anise.  

I’ve set the ambitious goal of watching ALL THREE Godfather films in one day, breaking only for more drinks and dessert. We’ll see how far I get (feel free to check in with me on Twitter @cinemasips to see if I’ve started swearing in Italian yet). I will leave you with this quote from Mario Puzo’s The Godfather: “Time erodes gratitude more quickly than it does beauty.” So take that gratitude you feel on Thanksgiving, and let it stay with you for a while. Cheers!

Sweet November

Sweet November

Image credit: Sweet November, 2001.

Is there honestly a better month than November?  Finally, the heat of the summer has broken, the fire pit gets used again, and as Americans, we get several days off to do nothing but eat, drink, and watch movies. This week’s film Sweet November (DVD/Download) couldn’t take place at any other time because the rest of our months aren’t nearly as perfect. Sweet January? I don’t think so.

Sweet November is the Lifetime-movie-with-actual-celebrities that made a star of Charlize Theron and fueled my decades-long crush on Keanu Reeves. So, points for that.  However, what self-respecting woman takes in loser men as a 30-day pet project, sleeps with them, turns them into reasonably dateable human beings, then sends them on their way? I know Charlize’s character is supposed to be a “free spirit”, but….. it’s a little gross. However I’m prepared to ignore all the other randos she’s shacked up with in the past because the one currently occupying her love nest is Keanu. Brash ad exec (it’s a HOT. DOG.) turned dreamy boyfriend who rescues puppies and croons “Time After Time” (badly), Keanu is proof that the love of a good woman can fix anyone. Without it, he could end up like super-villain Frank Langella. Frank kinda makes me cry here, along with the waitress. Damn he’s good.

To celebrate November and the sweetness of Keanu, I’ll be mixing up a drink with all the fall flavors. While watching Sweet November, I recommend drinking an Autumn Leaf.

Autumn Leaf

6 oz Austin Eastciders Spiced Cider

1.5 oz Pumpkin liqueur

Cinnamon stick for garnish

Build drink over crushed ice, stirring well to combine. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Autumn Leaf

For those looking for a rom-com with a happy ending, you may be disappointed with Sweet November. But to me, a tragic ending seems appropriate for a film heavily scored by Enya and featuring a plethora of knit shawls. It just… works. Like November, perfection never lasts. My advice: drink it up while you can! Cheers!

Inglourious Basterds

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inglourious basterds

Image credit: Inglourious Basterds, 2009

Personally, with where I’m at with American current events, I really need to see a Jewish refugee and her Afro-French boyfriend burn a theater full of Nazis alive. Inglourious Basterds (DVD/Download), while not necessarily factually accurate, is incredibly satisfying to watch. I know Hitler didn’t die in a hail of gunfire and flames, but this film begs the question… what if he had?

Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds is by far my favorite of his films. Maybe it’s because I’ve always had a thing for charming villains, or maybe I just enjoy watching Brad Pitt go full-on character actor. This Nazi-scalper looks like he’s having the best time ever, and it’s contagious. His counterpoint is the witty Col. Hans Landa, played by Christoph Waltz in an Academy Award-winning performance that is both evil and intriguing.   His masterful handling of Tarantino’s script is particularly impressive, especially considering he does it in multiple languages. I adore Mélanie Laurent as the projectionist/rebel fighter Shosanna, and her scenes of fending off the advances of Daniel Brühl are sadly relatable. Sometimes, a girl just wants to be left alone with her book, not make small talk with a Nazi.

There’s a pivotal bar scene that’s straight-up Tarantino, down to the blood spatter, humor, and fast-moving dialogue. Since we’re dealing with a bunch of Germans (faux and otherwise), it seems appropriate to join in their party with a Schnapps cocktail. While watching Inglourious Basterds, I recommend drinking an SS Fireball.

SS Fireball

1 1/2 oz Fireball Whiskey

1 oz Butterscotch Schnapps

6 oz Apple Cider

1/2 oz Lemon Juice

Fireball candy

Build drink over ice, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with a Fireball candy.

Fireball

More than anything, Inglourious Basterds is a film about the disenfranchised fighting back against their oppressors. When that match is lit, and Shosanna’s face fills the movie screen like something from a 1930’s horror film, it’s a battle cry for all of us who have ever felt powerless against our leaders. It’s about time a woman comes out on top, even if only in our celluloid dreams. Cheers.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

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Rocky Horror

Image credit: The Rocky Horror Picture Show, 1975.

You know what time it is….. Time to do the Time Warp again!!! Truly, that’s what The Rocky Horror Picture Show (DVD/Download) has come to feel like. It takes me right back to being a weird teenager, the kind who hung out in the art room and read Nabokov, dreaming of a place to belong. But then this film came along and changed everything. Suddenly, it was cool to be a freak. It was cool to get excited about watching a movie with a theater full of other freaks, who threw rice and yelled “Say it!” It was cool to be different.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show isn’t just a musical, or a horror film, or even a spoof of a sci-fi/horror film. It’s all those things, and more. It’s a communal film experience that brings people together. It’s an excuse to be silly, to laugh and sing and ogle Dr. Frank N. Furter’s “monster” Rocky in his gold lamé hotpants. It’s a movie that makes you feel free to talk about sexuality, because seriously, everybody’s touching everybody. And even though it’s set in a spooky mansion on a rainy night, and even though Meat Loaf is eaten (the singer, not the beefy entree), there’s nothing scary about Rocky Horror. It’s campy, it’s funny, and it’s the perfect movie to celebrate Halloween.

Since this is such a party movie, I’m making a really fun punch perfect for all your Halloween shindigs. It takes its color from Dr. Frank N. Furter’s eye makeup, and the flavor is sweet, boozy, and effervescent. While watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show, I recommend making Transylvanian Punch.

Transylvanian Punch

3 cups Blueberry Juice

2 cups Dark Rum

1/3 cup lime juice

2 cups Topo Chico

Gummi Eye Ball Ice Cubes

1 Tbsp Activated Charcoal Powder

Combine all ingredients in a punch bowl, stirring gently until well mixed.

Transylvanian punch

I love the dress-up component of Halloween, and what’s great about this film is that it celebrates the art of costuming, and the idea that if you can dream it, you can be it. Rocky Horror meant a lot to this weird teenager, and it still means a lot to this weird adult. Nothing… will ever be the same. Cheers!