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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!

Rosemary’s Baby

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rosemarys baby

Image credit: Rosemary’s Baby, 1968.

Cute dresses, weird jewelry, and Ruth Gordon’s funky hats- THIS is how you get me to watch a horror film. Like a spoonful of sugar helping the medicine go down, the costume and production design of Rosemary’s Baby (DVD/Download) make it palatable (dare I say, enjoyable) to a scary-movie neophyte like me. If you haven’t seen this classic film yet, stop what you’re doing and go watch it right now.  You’ll thank me later.

More than a horror film, I consider this picture to be classic suspense. Rosemary, played brilliantly by vintage-pixie Mia Farrow, is married to a handsome, feckless actor when they move into a storied New York City apartment building. Their neighbors, played by Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer, are old, very creepy, and secret occultists. Rosemary is drugged and raped by the devil while a bunch of naked senior citizens (AND HER AWFUL HUSBAND) stand by and watch, then she’s unknowingly forced to carry the spawn of Satan for 9 months. There are not enough words in the English language to fully convey how much I hate Rosemary’s husband, who makes her think he violently raped and clawed her up, instead of the devil in her dream. Because that’s somehow okay??? I’d say Rosemary needs a divorce attorney.

How, you ask, do Rosemary and her husband get pulled into this coven’s orbit? By that great social icebreaker, a cocktail party. Their strange neighbors serve up cocktails and terrible cake made of god-knows-what. Devil’s food? (Sorry, I had to). While you watch Rosemary’s Baby, I recommend drinking this Vodka Blush cocktail, straight from the Castavet’s fabulous apartment.

Vodka Blush

2 1/2 oz Vodka

½ oz Lime juice

½ oz Grenadine

Sprig of Rosemary for garnish

Mix vodka and lime juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until cold, then strain into a chilled flute. Slowly top with grenadine, and garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

Vodka Blush

While I definitely had one tense night of sleep where I woke up expecting Ruth Gordon to be standing in a corner with too much lipstick and a lime green feather boa, this movie didn’t exactly scare the bejeezus out of me. I attribute this mainly to the relatable performance by Mia Farrow, Roman Polanski’s incredible direction, and an enviable 60’s wardrobe. I can only hope her maternity dresses will come back in style for the rest of us. Not that I’m planning on getting pregnant with the spawn of Satan, but they’re the perfect camouflage for a belly full of cocktails and queso. Cheers!

Crimson Peak

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Crimson Peak

Image credit: Crimson Peak, 2015.

I’ll admit, I definitely watched Crimson Peak (DVD/Download) expecting a spooky Jane Eyre. While it wasn’t that, I’m still not exactly sure what it hoped to be. Gothic romance? Grisly horror? A cinematic ode to velvet? While this film is certainly beautiful, in the end I was left with the old Gertrude Stein quote rattling around in my brain- there is no there, there.

While I normally eschew horror, I gave this a shot because the visuals promised to be absolutely incredible. And, they are. From a turn-of-the-century American industrialist’s mansion, to a rotting estate in the barren English countryside, Crimson Peak is all about the production design. For me, it was love-at-first-clawfoot tub sighting.  But then there’s all the velvet. SO. MUCH. VELVET. Pants, capes, dresses, and hats in the most beautiful jewel tones. These characters stand out against their decrepit surroundings, not because they’re saying anything interesting (they’re not), but because someone has taken the time to drape and tailor their clothes to perfection. I wish there were more substance to this story of a girl falling victim to a marriage-murder plot, but there’s just not. Will I keep watching for glimpses of her puffed sleeves? Of course. Do I wish I’d just turned the sound off halfway through? Kinda, yeah.

One sinister note Crimson Peak employs is the use of the color red. From a spray of blood to a river of blood, this color saturates everything.  Time to drink a color-coordinated cocktail that references all the poisoned tea being served at Allerdale Hall.  While watching Crimson Peak, I recommend drinking a Bloody Mar-tea-ni.

Bloody Mar-tea-ni

1.5 oz Sweet Tea vodka

1.5 oz Pomegranate juice

1.5 oz Blood Orange juice

½ oz Luxardo Maraschino syrup

To prepare glass, drizzle Luxardo maraschino syrup around the inside. Set aside. Combine vodka, pomegranate juice, and blood orange juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into prepared glass.

Bloody Mar-Tea-Ni

For fans of scary movies, you could do worse than Crimson Peak. There are some genuinely frightening moments when angry ghosts try to get their revenge, and a lot of suspense around the fate of the family papillon (at least for a dog-lover like me). But luckily, the acting and dialogue is so campy that I never really felt that nightmare-inducing grip of fear. Next to the dog, the only other thing I truly cared about in that house was the velvet. Please- no blood splatter on the velvet!!!!! Cheers!

Clue

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Clue Mrs Peacock

Image credit: Clue, 1985

For over twenty-five years, I’ve been terrorized by a film. It haunted me into adolescence and adulthood, through midnight screenings and drunken Halloween parties. Just the mere mention of it caused my body to shudder and shake. When I finally got brave enough to admit my fear of Clue (DVD/Download), I was met with confused stares. “Wait,” people would say, “Are we talking about the same movie? Clue?? That really wacky murder-mystery movie from the 80’s?” Yes, that would be the one.

You see, seven-year old Liz Locke could not handle Clue. The sight of a gloved hand raising a wrench over an unsuspecting victim’s head gave me such tremendous nightmares that I had to sleep with my parents for a week. Even when they made me suck it up and deal with it, I never turned that nightlight off. EVER. When I grew up, and people tried to tell me how funny, how absurd this film is, I still resisted watching it. Why revisit past trauma? But this week, I finally decided to take the plunge. I actually rented Clue, and with trembling fingers, hit play. And you know what? I LOVED IT! I’ve decided I want to be Mrs. Peacock when I grow up, with her weird hats and cat-eye glasses. I’d be BFFs with Mr. Green, but only if he’s played by the brilliant Michael McKean. I’d attend dinner parties in a fabulous old New England mansion and scurry through secret passageways. And I would NOT slurp my soup.

Perhaps I should credit alcohol for being the main reason I now love this movie. With a cocktail (or two), just about anything can be fun. Normally I’d consider Brandy to be a serious spirit for serious films, but mixed with some maraschino and pineapple, it’s a flirty, 1950’s inspired drink fit for Mrs. Peacock. While watching Clue, I recommend drinking a Club Cocktail.

Club Cocktail

2 oz Brandy

½ oz Maraschino Liqueur

½ oz pineapple juice

2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

Lemon Twist

Maraschino cherry

Mix Brandy, Marschino Liqueur, pineapple juice, and bitters in a shaker filled with ice. Shake well, then strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon and maraschino cherry.

As a nod to this film’s three separate endings, try switching out the brandy with rum, or silver tequila. If you’re throwing a Halloween party, this could be a great way to mix things up. Like a choose-your-own adventure for booze. Show this film, then give the guests one of the three cocktail variations, or perhaps all three! They won’t know what hit them. Cheers to no more nightmares!

Out of Sight

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out of sight

Image credit: Out of Sight, 1998

I tend to spend a lot of time explaining the romance genre to people.  The books I read (and attempt to write) usually feature intelligent, capable heroines who find love in unexpected places, and never compromise their own integrity for a roll in the hay.  Elmore Leonard and Steven Soderbergh tackled romantic suspense with this week’s film Out of Sight (DVD/Download).  And the weird thing is, they got it SO RIGHT.

I’m going to warn all you ladies who are still mourning the loss of bachelor George Clooney- he is at absolute peak sexiness in this film. As Jack Foley, the bank robber with a heart of gold, he’s charming, a little dangerous, and oh so chivalrous. When he meets-cute with Jennifer Lopez’s federal marshal Karen Sisco, sparks fly along with bullets. They’re trapped in the trunk of a car together, and instead of copping a feel, he banters with her about old movies. Be still my heart! Karen follows him from Miami to Detroit, Jack gets caught up in a burglary gone bad, and even when things get dark (as they always do in an Elmore Leonard novel), Lopez and Clooney still share a crackling chemistry.

One of my favorite scenes is when these two star-crossed lovers pretend to be strangers in a bar, just for one night. With the snow falling outside, they’ve got bourbon and a steamy attraction to keep them warm. Let’s keep this cocktail simple with just a dash of ginger liqueur.

Bourbon & Ginger

2 oz Bourbon

.75 oz Ginger Liqueur

Combine bourbon and ginger liqueur over a large ice cube. Stir to chill.

Out of Sight is smart, sexy, and everything I love about romance. As Jack says, you’d be surprised what you can get when you ask for it the right way. Hollywood- I’d like more films where love is inconvenient, yet unavoidable. I want an intelligent script, and I want the heroine to be a total badass. And if it’s not too much to ask, I would like more Don Cheadle. Is that clear enough?  Cheers!