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Blast From the Past

blast-from-the-past

Image credit: Blast From the Past, 1999

Seeing puffy, let-himself-go Brendan Fraser on the most recent season of The Affair has reminded me how much I missed this 90’s beefcake. One of my favorite films in the Fraser canon is this week’s Cinema Sips pick, Blast From the Past (DVD/Download). As a man who’s been raised in an atomic fallout shelter, Fraser pulls off the ludicrous script with so much charm, you almost forget the fact that he has virtually no chemistry with Alicia Silverstone, the Eve to his Adam. It’s just fun to watch him get excited about color TV.

In reality, I’ve always liked the idea of bomb shelters and panic rooms- a place where you can go when the world gets too scary and dangerous. I’d fill mine with romance novels and gin, and maybe some of those big tubs of cheesy puffs from Costco. And certainly, Blast From the Past puts a relatively great spin on the underground shelter concept. I mean, Christopher Walken and Sissy Spacek raising their young son in a 1960’s-era bunker modeled after their own home? Complete with vintage modern furniture and cocktails? Sounds like heaven.

One of the best things about this movie is all the cocktails and classic barware. 1962 was a fine time to be alive, style and booze-wise, and this movie brings the nostalgia back in a big way. While watching Blast From the Past, I recommend drinking a Rob Roy.

Rob Roy

1 ½ oz Scotch

1 oz Sweet Vermouth

Dash of Angostura Bitters

Maraschino cherries

Add ingredients into a cocktail shaker and stir vigorously over ice. Strain into a chilled glass, and garnish with 2 maraschino cherries.

rob-roy

In my opinion, the present is very overrated. These days, reruns of I Love Lucy and vacuuming in a house dress and pearls doesn’t look too bad. Just leave the liquor down there and I’ll be all set  (I always was an “indoor girl”). Cheers!

 

Crazy, Stupid, Love

Crazy, Stupid, Love.

Image credit: Crazy, Stupid, Love,  2011

Now that the world has officially fallen in love with Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone in La La Land, I think it’s high time to revisit their first onscreen meet cute in Crazy, Stupid, Love (DVD/Download).  This was a fantastic ensemble film written by This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman, and fans of the TV show will see a lot of similarities. Humor, family dynamics, and soaring speeches about love abound, with a cast that just exudes greatness. Sound familiar?

Like Cher Horowitz, my main thrill in life is a makeover.  Thus I swoon when Ryan Gosling, playing a stylish, smooth talking womanizer, decides to treat Steve Carell’s dumpy divorcee dad to an image rehab. Eventually, they both realize that better clothes, manly cocktails, and bar hook-ups don’t result in a happier life. Without the women they love, they’re nothing. While Steve Carell goes through the biggest transition, it’s even more fun to watch Ryan Gosling meet his match in Emma Stone. Finally, a woman who doesn’t fall for his pick-up lines and fancy moves. Well, except for his big Dirty Dancing move. Can we blame her??

This is a perfect film to watch with a cocktail because so much of the dating action takes place in a bar.  As part of the bachelor-in-training process, Ryan Gosling impresses upon his student the importance of a manly cocktail, NOT drunk through a straw. And I’m happy to report that not only is Gosling funny, charming, and gorgeous in this, but he also makes a mean Old Fashioned. Be still my heart! While watching Crazy, Stupid, Love, I recommend drinking an Old Fashioned.

Old Fashioned

1 ½ oz Bourbon

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

1 sugar cube

Dash of plain water

Orange twist

Maraschino cherry

Place sugar cube in an old fashioned glass and saturate with bitters, adding a dash of plain water. Muddle until sugar is dissolved. Fill the glass with a large ice cube, and add bourbon. Garnish with an orange twist and maraschino cherry (optional).

old-fashioned

If you’re a sucker for romantic comedies like I am, this movie will remind you of why being in love is so great. It’s messy, and yeah at times crazy and stupid, but when a someone has the courage to go big or go home, it’s a pretty incredible thing to behold. Cheers!

 

Rebel Without a Cause

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Image credit: Rebel Without a Cause, 1955

Every five years or so, I pull out Rebel Without a Cause and take a deep breath. I know what’s coming- a film with so much tension that I feel wrecked afterward. Why do I watch? Because I like to be reminded of the power of cinema, and the actor’s ability to make emotions resonate with a viewer. James Dean was one such prolific actor, and Rebel Without a Cause (DVD/Download) is his enduring masterpiece.

Before the teen films of John Hughes or Amy Heckerling, even before Splendor in the Grass, there was Rebel. This film is important to our cinematic history because it’s one of the first widely viewed films that gives an honest portrayal of teen angst. That restless feeling of being scared even when you’re not sure what you’re scared of, like you’re crawling out of your own skin (what Holly Golightly categorized as “the mean reds”)- that’s the emotion that this film captures so perfectly. By watching a day in the life of these Los Angeles teens, we start to empathize with the hopeless feelings of being misunderstood and judged for reasons beyond one’s control. Rebel may have been made in 1955, but it will never feel dated because those emotions will never stop being real.

The film opens with a scene of James Dean rolling around drunk on the sidewalk. Eventually his public display of disorderly behavior lands him in a jail cell where he meets fellow delinquents played by Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo. I’m not saying you should drink enough to find yourself in the same boat, but if there was ever a movie that needed to be chased with a cocktail, it’s this one. While watching Rebel Without a Cause, I recommend drinking a Toreador.

Toreador

1 part Spanish red wine (such as Tempranillo)

1 part lemon-lime soda

Slice of lemon

Build drink in a glass over ice, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with the lemon slice.

toreador

This cocktail reminds me of that iconic jacket James Dean wears- a fire-engine red number that’s slightly geeky by today’s standards, but on him, with that popped collar, looks effortlessly cool.  The color symbolizes the fire and passion churning under his skin, and as bullies and thugs taunt him, he actually becomes that toreador, wielding his switchblade like a spear.  Rebel Without a Cause gained notoriety due to Dean’s untimely death just before the picture’s release, but even without the backstory, the film itself is Shakespearean in its tragedy.  You might need that full bottle of wine tonight.  Cheers!

Hail, Caesar!

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hail-caesar

Image credit: Hail, Caesar! 2016

It was with a heavy heart that I had to exclude this week’s film from my Top 5 Films of 2016 list last month. If it had been the Top 6 films, Hail,Caesar! (DVD/Download) would have certainly been included. My only hesitation? That I might be among a small minority of people who think this film was hilarious and brilliant. Thankfully, the Coen Bros. are doing their part to keep classic film buffs like me happy. Trendiness be damned.

Hail, Caesar! is a screwball satire of the 1950’s Hollywood studio system, where genre films were churned out at an alarming rate, and the scandals of the stars got handled by the studio’s “fixer”.  Eddie Mannix (that name!!!) has his work cut out for him as he deals with blockhead matinee idols, kidnapping plots, pregnant mermaids, communist musical stars, not to mention threats from competing gossip columnists (both played splendidly by Tilda Swinton). And you thought Hollywood in the 50’s was idyllic? Would that it were so simple.

I knew I loved this picture when the Frank Lloyd Wright house from A Summer Place came on the screen. Situated on the beach in Carmel-by-the-Sea, it has a classy, retro, Bond-villain appeal to it. Perfect for a bunch of intellectual communist sympathizers, and the kind of house that begs you to sit back and relax with a cocktail. While watching Hail, Caesar! , I recommend drinking a Red Scare Martini.

Red Scare Martini

1.5 oz Russian Vodka

1.5 oz Pomegranate Juice

.5 oz Cointreau

.5 oz Sweet Vermouth

.5 oz Lemon Juice

Lemon Twist

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice, and shake until chilled. Strain into a chilled martini glass, then garnish with a twist of lemon.

red-scare-martini

One of the true delights of watching this film is seeing Channing Tatum channel Gene Kelly in his musical dance number. I haven’t seen such joyous, athletic grace in a musical since, well, Kelly himself. Maybe Hail, Caesar! wasn’t the biggest box office success, but it felt like a special gift to fans like me. My message to Joel & Ethan Coen: you keep making your films, and I’ll keep championing them. Cheers!

Tammy and the Bachelor

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tammyandthebachelor

Image credit: Tammy and the Bachelor, 1957

The world lost one of its brightest stars last month when Debbie Reynolds passed away, following the tragic death of daughter Carrie Fisher. Although best known for Singin’ in the Rain, I’ll always have a fondness for her 1950’s rom-coms. One of my favorites is this week’s film Tammy and the Bachelor (DVD), a film equally famous for Reynolds’ rendition of the theme song. Sweet, dreamy, Tammy’s in love. And so am I.

When country cutie Tammy rescues wealthy farmer Peter Brent from the wreckage of a plane crash, I couldn’t help but be shocked when the lifeless face pulled out of the swamp is that of 80’s comedy star Leslie Nielsen. I’m of the generation who only knew him as the deadpan comedy star from Airplane! and the Naked Gun film series. Seeing him as a sexy leading man with brown (not stark white!) hair is certainly a trip. Add to that an aged Fay Wray as the wacky spinster aunt at his Antebellum mansion, and you’ve got a cast that has to be seen to be believed.

Tammy’s journey is set in motion when her grandfather gets arrested for making moonshine, forcing her to turn to Peter and his family for sanctuary. This makes me appreciate what a wonderful time we live in, where homebrew is as easy and legal as ordering the kit from a catalog. Back on a bayou river in the 1950’s, things were tougher. If you’re watching Tammy and the Bachelor and you care to wet your whistle, I recommend drinking Riverwater*.

Riverwater

1.5 oz white moonshine

4 oz sweet tea

1 oz lemon juice

Mix all ingredients together in a mason jar, and stir until combined. Fill jar with crushed ice, and garnish with a lemon twist.

riverwater

(*Good for your constitution!)

Reynolds’ star was formed in the golden age of the Hollywood studio system, and lucky for us it resulted in so many endearing performances. It’s hard to watch her and not smile. Her sweetness and joy were infectious, and Tammy was no exception. As she sings her signature song in the moonlight, we realize that nothing in that sky outside her window could ever shine as brightly as her. Cheers!

From Russia With Love

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Image credit: From Russia With Love, 1964

International intrigue! Fighting gypsy women! Venomous shoe daggers! Only in a Bond film, folks. While I appreciate the more recent James Bond films for their sincerity, I can’t help but love the original 60’s variety. The cheese-factor is just unparalleled. This week, I’ll be watching an absolute classic in the Bond oeuvre, From Russia With Love (DVD/Download).

Admittedly, I get a little lost with any Bond film. There are just too many sinister villains, subplots and gorgeous women to keep track of. I mainly watch for the charisma of Sean Connery, the Bond girl clothes, and the clever spy gadgets. And Miss Moneypenny, who is really the Girl Friday of these films, oozing smarts and unconventional sex appeal. As the opening titles appear, and we get to watch the producer’s names projected on the gyrating skin of a belly dancer, you pretty much know what you’re in for with this one. Sure there’s some Cold War-era intrigue that takes us from Istanbul to Venice on the Orient Express, but who are we kidding- we’re all here for the double entendres in James Bond’s bedroom.

Although the film is called From Russia With Love, we never really see Russia. We do however see Russian-accented Bond Girl Daniela Bianchi, who plays double agent Tatiana Romanova. She falls head over heels in love with Bond, because well, he’s Bond. While watching From Russia with Love, I recommend drinking a Moscow Mule.

Moscow Mule

1 ½ oz Russian Vodka

4 oz Ginger Beer

½ oz Lime Juice

Combine ingredients in a copper mug over ice and stir gently to combine. Garnish with a lime slice.

moscow-mule

Everyone has their favorite Bond, but for me it will always be Sean Connery. That furry chest, that light Scottish brogue, and the twinkle in his eye gets me every time. Even in a jaunty sailor cap, he still looks stylish, cool, and definitely a man of mystery. Cheers!

(*For anybody curious, I will absolutely be watching this movie and drinking this cocktail on January 20th, 2017).

The Poseidon Adventure

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poseidon-adventure-winters

Image credit: The Poseidon Adventure, 1972

I love a good disaster flick. The bad acting, women in impractical footwear, explosions, campy special effects- this is the stuff of some great cinematic cheese-fests. One of the best films in the disaster genre is this week’s The Poseidon Adventure (DVD/Download). Although it was remade about ten years ago, I’ll always have a fondness for the 1972 version. Shelley Winters and all those unfortunate 70’s hairstyles make this a classic of epic size.

Aboard the S.S. Poseidon, revelers are toasting the New Year in the ship’s ballroom. Suddenly the captain (Leslie Nielsen- who else?) hears of an underground earthquake that has created a giant wave heading straight for the luxury liner. Soon, the ship flips over, the tables are on the ceiling, bodies are crashing into the chandeliers, and a ragtag group of survivors begins hatching an escape plan through the ship’s hull. As the hip Reverend, Gene Hackman leads them through corridors full of twisted metal, rapidly flooding rooms, and way more fire than one would think possible with so much water around. Ernest Borgnine guides his saucy former prostitute/now wife Linda through the wreckage in her silver lame platform heels and men’s dress shirt, while Shelley Winters and Jack Albertson are the cute old couple you want to be someday. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the hit song “Theme from Poseidon Adventure (The Morning After)” as sung by a band that’s quite a relic from the 70’s. All those sideburns and grooves- yikes.

My cruising experience is limited to one ill-fated trip to Bermuda during hurricane season, but from what I recall the drinks were sugary and bright-hued. In homage to the 70’s vibe and underwater footage in murky green water, while watching The Poseidon Adventure I recommend drinking a Rogue Wave.

Rogue Wave

1 oz Midori

2 oz Vodka

5 oz Fresca

Maraschino Cherry

Build drink in a glass over crushed ice, stirring gently to combine.  Drop Maraschino cherry in and let it sink to the bottom.

rogue-wave

Despite the over-the-top acting and questionable costuming, this movie still pulls me in with its never-ending suspense and peril around every corner. Plus it provides some valuable lessons. Such as, no matter how much weight you gain at the buffet, you’re still light in water.  Also, never leave your stateroom without a bra.  Cheers!