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The Virgin Suicides

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Virgin Suicides

Image Credit: The Virgin Suicides, 1999.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, I watch an adaptation of a work of literary fiction and think, “The book was better.” But The Virgin Suicides (Disc/Download) is one film where this phrase does not apply. Though I loved Jeffrey Eugenides’ novel, Sofia Coppola made me see things within the pages that I missed the first time around. The angst of adolescence, the impulsivity, the dreaminess—I definitely need a cocktail if I’m going to put myself back in the mind of a thirteen-year-old girl.

Starring Kirsten Dunst as the rebel within a family of five beautiful sisters, the film’s narration uses Eugenides’ words as a roadmap, treating us to his gorgeous prose. Set in 1970’s suburban Detroit, we get to know the Lisbon sisters through the eyes of their admirers, a group of hopelessly besotted neighborhood boys. When one of the sisters commits suicide, their overbearing parents (James Woods and Kathleen Turner) place the remaining girls under house arrest, and their only contact with the outside world is through their vinyl collection and a vintage phone. The boys try to rescue them, but that’s the thing about being a teenage girl—nobody can really save you from it.

One of my favorite parts of the film is when the Lisbon sisters attend a homecoming dance. They laugh and drink peach schnapps and make out with inappropriate boys, and it’s such a microcosm of what we expect adolescence to be, but rarely is. For these characters, it was like a dream that couldn’t last. While watching The Virgin Suicides, celebrate the hope of being a teenage girl with a First Blush.

First Blush

1 oz peach schnapps

1 oz grenadine

5 oz champagne

Pour chilled peach schnapps and grenadine into a flute, and top with champagne.

First Blush

What Sofia Coppola does so well as a director is capture a specific time and place with her unique artistic flair. ‘70s suburbia looks like a Formica fantasy filled with patterned wallpaper, female grooming detritus, and records strewn across the floor. It looks like a place where nothing bad could ever happen, until of course, it does. It always does. Cheers!

 

She’s All That

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She's All That

Image credit: She’s All That, 1999.

Although 1999 was the golden year of teen rom-coms, She’s All That (Disc/Download) was considered THE prom movie. It seemingly had it all—the Cinderella story, reality TV references, teenage coffee addicts, even DJ Usher! This was a movie that popular kids and artsy brains alike could enjoy because there was something for everyone.  Well, everyone except me, that is.  I never quite got on the Freddie Prinz Jr. bandwagon.  I was saving myself for Heath Ledger ;-).

I’m unclear on the actual ages of the actors in this film (and I can’t care enough to do the math), but l’m pretty sure they all had mortgages at the time. As the wife of a high school teacher, I can confidently say, teenagers do not look like the “teenagers” in this movie. Even Rachel Leigh Cook, who might have been under 18 at the time, has a world-wise Audrey Hepburn aura. Maybe that’s why big-man-on-campus Freddie Prinz Jr. falls so hard for the tragic nerd. It’s obvious that underneath all those hair extensions and glasses, this is a girl who will soon be studying abroad in Italy and having an affair with her art history professor. He’s gotta make this happen while she’s still naïve enough to think he’s cool. Even still, by the time prom rolls around and she’s got a sleek hairdo and stylish black prom dress, I sit there thinking, “meh, you could do better, sweetie.”

One of the most misunderstood characters in the history of cinema is Taylor Vaughn, aka. The Popular Villain. She’s obviously overcompensating for some serious insecurities, and we need to cut her some slack. The only goal she seems to have is that of Prom Queen, so really—shouldn’t we just let her have it already? She works hard, giving out lattes to the other students in exchange for their vote (I think the only thing prom nominees handed out at my high school were snide comments behind your back). While watching She’s All That, I recommend drinking a Vote for Taylor! Latte.

Vote for Taylor! Latte

2 oz Rumchata

1 oz Vanilla Vodka

1.5 oz Cold Brew Coffee

1.5 oz Vanilla Soy Milk

Coffee Ice Cubes

Freeze coffee concentrate into ice cubes. Once they are frozen, put in a glass and set aside. Pour Rumchata, Vanilla vodka, cold brew, and soy milk into a cocktail shaker with ice, and shake until well mixed and chilled. Strain over prepared glass.

Vote for Taylor Latte

This movie still has a lot of fans, and I think it’s because we like to dream big. We want to believe in unpredictable love and those great movie moments lit by twinkle lights and sequins. And that’s what prom is right? For one night, you get to pretend that you’re the sort of person who goes to balls and kisses the handsome Prinz at the stroke of midnight. Even if you wake up the next day with the same old glasses and paint splatter on your overalls, at least you had the fairy tale. Cheers!

10 Things I Hate About You

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10 Things I Hate About You

Image Credit: 10 Things I Hate About You, 1999.

Picture this: young (but not so young that it’s creepy) Heath Ledger in a bulky jumpsuit that somehow manages to show off his broad shoulders and narrow waist. Long hair pulled back into a rakish ponytail. Beside him, on a bed of hay, lies Julia Stiles, covered in paint. He cups her face with his strong hands, smearing the colors, preparing her for his kiss. Let’s just say, this scene in 10 Things I Hate About You (Disc/Download) DID THINGS to a teenage Liz Locke. Heck, it does things to Adult Liz too. I need a cocktail to cool off.

Adapted from Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, this delightful rom-com is a fun mix of cheesy acting and sparkling dialogue. In his American film debut, Heath Ledger plays the bad boy with a heart of gold. His Patrick Verona smolders with a cocky can’t-give-a-fuck attitude until he meets the girl who matches him eyeroll for eyeroll. Although initially paid to take out the prickly Kat Stratford (Julia Stiles), he makes the mistake of falling for her in the process. We all know how this is going to end (the joy, the heartbreak, the reconciliation), but watching it unfold is so darn fun. There are other charming actors and subplots in this, but let’s be clear—I’m here for Heath, his accent, and his incredible smile (and, okay, his tight black tanktops).

Opposites attract is one of my favorite tropes, especially when there’s some great banter involved.  What I love about Patrick is that he can dish it out just as well as the feisty Kat, thus creating oodles of tension.  These two either have to kill each other or kiss.  While watching 10 Things I Hate About You, I recommend drinking a “Prickly Pair” Margarita.

“Prickly Pair” Margarita

1.5 oz Blanco Tequila

1/2 oz Cointreau

1 oz Lime Juice

1 barspoon Prickly Pear Preserves

1/2 oz Simple Syrup

Orange Twist (garnish)

Add ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice.  Shake until chilled.  Strain into a glass filled with ice.  Garnish with an orange twist.

Prickly Pear Margarita

Although Heath is delicious and wonderful, let’s not forget about Allison Janney as the  guidance counselor who writes romance novels on the side.  Add to that epic proms, a seaside vista, and Letters to Cleo performing on the roof, and this is basically the greatest high school in the world.  Why would anyone ever want to graduate?  Cheers!

Never Been Kissed

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Never Been Kissed

Image credit: Never Been Kissed, 1999.

Somehow, my life has turned into a Drew Barrymore movie.  I’m a fully grown adult woman about to attend her first prom, 18 years late. Also, I’m really hoping to be kissed by a hot teacher (preferably, the one I’m married to). Am I nervous about the big night?  No- because Never Been Kissed (Disc/Download) is there to show me the way.

In high school, I was totally Josie Grossie. Bad skin, retainer, oily hair, hands permanently attached to a book. Prom was too terrifying a prospect for that girl to handle. But then I grew up, lost the retainer and the zits, got a stylish bob, started writing books in addition to reading them, and realized maybe a big school dance isn’t such a scary thing after all. Drew Barrymore certainly handles it well in this movie, as an adult posing as a high school student for her newspaper. She wears her Shakespearean prom gown with confidence, knowing she’s way past all the pettiness. The mean girls still exist, and they still try and torment her, but the great thing about growing up is that you realize how lame the bullies are. Plus, this lady can legally drink  and they can’t.  That privilege trumps flawless Jessica Alba skin any day.

The prom theme of Never Been Kissed is great literary pairs. This got me thinking about cocktail pairs—those two ingredient drinks that are a perfect combination. High school Elizabeth would have gone for beer, but adult Liz gravitates toward fancy liqueurs. So why not combine the two? While watching Never Been Kissed, I recommend drinking this Pink Satin cocktail.

Pink Satin

1 oz Campari

6 oz IPA beer (I use Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin)

Grapefruit bitters

Fill a highball with ice, and pour in Campari and beer. Stir gently to combine.  Top with a few dashes of grapefruit bitters.

Forever Young

It’s pretty rare in life to get a do-over. Not that I regret my high school experience, but I don’t think there’s a single person out there who wouldn’t like to pass some of their adult knowledge onto their younger self. Personally, I wish seventeen-year-old me would have known the following things:

  • You will never be thinner than you are right now. Enjoy it.
  • Don’t stress about not having a boyfriend. You’ll find your prince charming, and he will make you laugh every single day.
  • It’s okay not to know what you want to be when you grow up.  You’ll figure it out eventually.
  • Turtleneck and a sweatshirt- not a good look.

Cheers!

Coal Miner’s Daughter

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Coal Miner's Daughter

Image credit: Coal Miner’s Daughter, 1980.

When I first thought about watching the Loretta Lynn biopic Coal Miner’s Daughter (Disc/Download), I’ll admit to being a little turned off. A teenager marries an abusive  older man, pops out a bunch of babies, then magically becomes a country music star ? This sounds like a movie-of-the-week that’s too depressing and bonkers even for me. But then I started looking at it as a great excuse to drink Moonshine and swiftly came around.

Deep in the coal mining counties of Kentucky, Loretta (Sissy Spacek) grows up in a tiny house with so many siblings I lose track. She marries Doolittle Lynn, played by the very charismatic Tommy Lee Jones, however it’s clear she doesn’t really know what marriage is. Because she’s, you know, A TEENAGER. This whole part is pretty gross, particularly when her husband rapes her on her wedding night, then slaps her around for good measure. Loretta and Doolittle eventually make it out of that Kentucky holler and move to Washington state, where she gets a guitar. She teaches herself to play, gets on the radio, hooks up with the lovely Patsy Cline, sells a ton of records, and becomes the first lady of Country Music. And somehow during all of this, her deadbeat husband is transformed into a supportive guy who expertly manages her burgeoning career, then stays at home with the kids while she goes on tour. The first and second halves of the film don’t quite match up, but it’s still a joy to watch Spacek and Jones spar in their charming hillbilly accents  while the hair gets higher and the sequins more plentiful.

Oliver “Doolittle” Lynn’s other nickname is Mooney, after the moonshine he sells.  Because when you’re living in coal country, you need to use every tool at your disposal to get through the day. Certainly, moonshine helps me get through the troubling first half of this film. While watching Coal Miner’s Daughter, I recommend drinking a Kentucky Holler.

Kentucky Holler

1.5 oz Moonshine

¾ oz Lemon Juice

¾ oz Blueberry Drink Syrup (I use IKEA brand—they’re more than just cheap couches and meatballs!)

1 Egg White

Lemon Twist

Combine moonshine, lemon juice, blueberry syrup, and egg white in a shaker. Do a dry shake to combine ingredients, then fill the shaker with ice. Shake vigorously until chilled and frothy. Strain into a mason jar filled with crushed ice, and garnish with a lemon twist.

Kentucky Holler

One of the standout characters in Coal Miner’s Daughter is Patsy Cline, played by a delightful Beverly D’Angelo. Honestly, I think I’d rather just watch a movie about Patsy. She’s the kind of friend we all wish we had, and the kind of friend we should all aspire to be. One of the great things I love about women in creative fields is that they tend to lift each other up, not compete and tear each other down. I see this with writing, and also music and filmmaking. So while this film may not show men in the best light, it sure does make me glad to be a woman. Cheers!

Love & Mercy

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Love & Mercy

Image credit: Love & Mercy, 2014.

The above photo says it all. I cannot resist 1960’s California modern architecture and will watch literally any movie that features it. Lucky for me, Brian Wilson apparently owned a seriously cool house, straight out of Blake Edward’s The Party. Wilson also wrote some great songs with The Beach Boys, but let’s be clear- I’m here for his swimming pool. Grab your sunblock and antidepressants—we’re watching Love & Mercy (Disc/Download).

As far as music biopics go, this one doesn’t follow the standard formula. Switching back and forth between 1960’s and 1980’s Brian Wilson, the film stars Paul Dano and John Cusack as two versions of the same complicated man. In the heyday of The Beach Boys, he was the mad genius behind so many of their hits, crying out for help in his lyrics, with a family unwilling and/or unable to see that he needed serious medical attention. By the time the 1980’s hit, he’d lost a brother, spent a decade in bed, and hooked up with crooked doctor Eugene Landy (played by a villainous Paul Giamatti). Shuffling through life like a sad, lonely child, he’s trapped in a haze of pharmaceuticals until he meets Cadillac saleswoman Melinda Ledbetter (played by Elizabeth Banks), who helps him find a way out from under Landy’s control. While Paul Dano gets the splashier role of young Brian, mixing it up in the studio and harmonizing over Pet Sounds, John Cusack’s performance is so quiet and lovely you almost miss it. The romance he shares with Melinda makes you feel like this is what he’d been singing about all that time– he just didn’t know it yet. God only knows what he’d be without her.

Although I love the ‘60s aesthetic in half of the movie, I also adore Elizabeth Banks going full-on ‘80s with her hot-rolled hair and pastel sweaters. If this lady were a cocktail, she would be something light, refreshing, and sweet. She would be a Sea Breeze.

Sea Breeze

1 ½ oz Vodka

4 oz Cranberry Juice

1 oz grapefruit juice

Lime Wedge

Combine vodka, cranberry, and grapefruit juices in a shaker with ice.  Shake until well mixed, then dump entire contents of shaker into a glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.

The real Brian Wilson is still touring the country, packing venues full of middle-aged men in Hawaiian shirts and one very nostalgic Liz Locke. And good for him! Between this film, his records, and those concerts, I’m left with nothing but Good Vibrations, and a Smile. Cheers!

Selena

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Jennifer Lopez in "Selena"

Image credit: Selena, 1997

Upon moving to Texas, one learns very quickly- Selena is a big deal here.  Not even death can diminish this Latina legend, whose face still graces reusable grocery bags, t-shirts, candles, and air fresheners in cities and towns north and south of the Rio Grande. Her story will never be forgotten, thanks to the efforts of the HEB grocery chain, and this week’s film Selena (Disc).

It’s easy to watch Jennifer Lopez’s star-making movie and draw comparisons to my other favorite biopic about a domineering dad and his musical offspring, The Jacksons: An American Dream. However, the key difference between the two stories is that the Quintanillas seem fairly normal. There are no cinder block punishments, no pet mice (well, Selena does have that chicken….), and no tragic scenes of child abuse. This film simply tells the tale of a hardworking, talented family who realizes they have a chance to create something special.  Something that could cross borders and bring people together.  Selena forged her own path as a woman, as a Latina, and as a musician. And she did it with her family by her side, while wearing a sparkly bra. Sorry, bustier. Hats off to you, sister.

Something we celebrate widely in Texas, besides Selena, is the Michelada. Often served with brunch, it’s a refreshing alternative to the heavier Bloody Mary. While watching Selena, I recommend drinking a Michelada.

Michelada

Lime wedge

Chili salt

2 oz lime juice

2 tsp hot sauce

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 bottle light Mexican beer (I use Corona)

Run a lime wedge around the edge of a glass, and dip in the chili salt. Pour lime juice, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce into a glass. Add a couple pinches of the chile salt, then add ice. Top with beer, and stir gently to mix.

Michelada

While the debates rage on about gun control and immigration, it seems like a perfect time to revisit Selena.   This singer was the tragic victim of gun violence, but she was also a shining example of how communities can come together.  Her father struggled with being “not Mexican enough” in Mexico and “not American enough” in America, but somehow Selena charmed both countries.  As I watch Jennifer Lopez do the washing machine in a bedazzled jumpsuit, and drink my spicy beer, I have to wonder- if simple things like music and art and cinema can break down even the strongest borders, what’s the point in trying to build them back up?  Cheers!