RSS Feed

Grey Gardens

GREY GARDENS

Image credit: Grey Gardens, 1975

I’m ending Documentary Month on a high note, with the film that made wacky headscarves and cat food dinners tres chic. Grey Gardens (DVD/Download) is a story too weird to be true, and yet it is. Think of this as Hoarders O.G.

In telling the saga of Big and Little Edie, the black-sheep relatives of Jacqueline Bouvier-Kennedy-Onassis, filmmakers Albert and David Maysles let the ladies speak for themselves. We see their crumbling mansion on Long Island in all its cat and raccoon-infested glory, their strange, pieced-together clothing, and a co-dependent bond between mother and daughter that’s a little sweet, but mostly disturbing. Like a slow-moving trainwreck, I cannot look away. But despite the horror and revulsion I feel about the  unhygienic living conditions, there’s something freeing in watching these women live their lives without giving a damn what society thinks. It may seem arbitrary to care about fashion and ballet when you’re sharing a bed with a raccoon, but hey- you do you.

It seems appropriate to drink a Long Island Iced Tea while watching this film, but like Little Edie, I’m giving it my own weird twist. Double the rum, splash of cranberry, and of course, a little lemon to make it all right. While watching Grey Gardens, I recommend drinking an East Hamptons Iced Tea.

East Hamptons Iced Tea

1 ½ oz Rum

½ oz Vodka

½ oz Gin

½ oz Silver Tequila

½ oz Cointreau

3 oz Cranberry Soda

1 oz Lemon Juice

½ oz Simple Syrup

Mix all ingredients together in a shaker filled with ice and shake until chilled. Pour entire contents in a Collins glass, and garnish with a twist of lemon.

Maybe we’ve all got a little bit of the Ediths in us, and maybe we all struggle at some point to avoid the temptation of staying in bed, of hiding when the world seems too changed and too scary. But then, along comes another voice that says nope- today you’re gonna put on a new leotard and dance around like no one’s watching.  Today you’re gonna be weird, wonderful, and truly original.  And maybe eventually, the whole world will be watching.  Cheers!

Advertisements

Tim’s Vermeer

timsvermeer

Image credit: Tim’s Vermeer, 2013

Documentary Month continues with a film that forever changed the way I view art history and painting. Produced by magicians Penn & Teller, Tim’s Vermeer (DVD/Download) sets out to prove that Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer could have used a system of mirrors in order to paint photo-realistic masterworks. Simply put, it’s a 90-minute explanation of a magic trick. But even more than that, it’s a fascinating look at how technology and art can work together to create something beautiful.

When the film begins, my immediate impression of Tim is that he’s the insufferable party guest who wants to make sure everyone knows he’s the smartest one in the room. And when this non-artist starts the quest to reproduce Vermeer’s The Music Lesson using a camera obscura technique, he doubles down by trying to make the actual things in the painting before he paints it.  That’s great, but you know Vermeer wasn’t off in a corner grinding glass and sanding down chair legs. Tim seems a little showy. But then, once he gets into the painting, all the nonsense falls away. It’s just him, and the tiny details in the window fretwork, or the way the light is hitting a ceramic jug, and that’s when the real magic happens. He starts to see things the way an artist would, and this idea of ability becomes totally irrelevant.  It’s the vision that matters.

By the time Tim is finished painting every little knot in a woven rug, he’s pretty much had it with this painting. I couldn’t help but think that maybe he needed a cocktail to calm his jangled nerves. Let’s celebrate Dutch ingenuity with this simple Genever cocktail. If you’re like Tim, you’ll make your own Genever. I am not like Tim; the liquor store is my friend. While watching Tim’s Vermeer, I recommend drinking a Dutch Mule.

Dutch Mule

1.5 oz Genever

Ginger Beer

3-4 dashes Angostura Bitters

Slice of Lime

Build drink in a glass over ice, stirring gently to combine. Top with a few dashes of bitters, and garnish with a slice of lime.

Dutch mule

Sure, Vermeer was incredibly talented, and his compositions and colors were astounding. If he used a camera obscura, it doesn’t make me think less of him as a painter. If anything, I applaud him for using every tool at his disposal to create a magnificent work of art.  Think about that the next time you use an Instagram filter- aren’t we all just trying to communicate an idea in the truest or most interesting way possible?  I admit, my photo of a happy hour cocktail is no Girl With the Pearl Earring, but still-  that Juno filter makes it look pretty amazing.  Cheers!

The Endless Summer

the endless summer

Image credit: The Endless Summer, 1966.

No, this week’s film is not about the Groundhog Day-esque hellscape that is Texas in August/September (although, LORD does this summer feel endless). Rather, it’s a documentary about two surfers in the 1960’s who chased the waves from California to Africa, Australia, and the South Pacific. The Endless Summer (Download) is both an explanation of surf culture, and a meditation on why it endures.

Featuring surf rock by The Sandals, a cheeky narration style, and painterly shots of beautiful beaches, The Endless Summer is instantly transporting. Watching this film, I feel like I’m experiencing the mid-60’s like never before. The hair, the cars, the music, the suits on airplanes—I love it all. For 90 minutes I’m mesmerized watching these men balance on boards that cut through the water like butter; waves rolling over them, pounding, punishing, and still they get up and do it again, all in search of that one perfect ride. When they find it, and the wave goes on forever, it’s a powerful moment. Surfing will never be the same for me.

Another thing I love about this film is that it speaks to the adventurer in all of us.  Who wouldn’t want to imagine themselves on a deserted South African beach, or sitting on Oahu watching death-defying surfers face off against the great waves of Waimea?  Obviously, when I picture myself in these scenarios, I’m enjoying a fabulous cocktail.  While watching The Endless Summer, I recommend drinking a Waimea Sunset.

Waimea Sunset

1 ½ oz Reposado Tequila

¼ oz Aperol

¼ oz Lime Juice

2 oz Grapefruit Juice

¼ oz Grenedine

2 oz club soda

Grapefruit twist

Combine Tequila, Aperol, Lime and Grapefruit juices, and Grenedine in a shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously until chilled. Add club soda, and gently shake back and forth once to combine. Strain into a glass filled with ice, and garnish with a twist of grapefruit.

Waimea Sunset

I’ll be honest, when I think of surfers, I tend to stereotype them all as Spicoli– a long-haired burnout who talks slowly and can’t get a real job. But after watching The Endless Summer, I see how much focus and dedication it takes to participate in this sport, almost to the point of obsession. I don’t know what these guys ended up doing in their lives later on, but I like to think that they’re still out there, searching for that one perfect wave. Cheers!

The Kid Stays in the Picture

Kid Stays in the Picture

Image credit: The Kid Stays in the Picture, 2002.

As the summer of ’18 comes to a close, I’m reflecting on what a fantastic few months it was for documentaries at the multiplex (well, maybe not the multiplex, but at least that little indie cinema you keep promising yourself you’ll go to). With films like Won’t You Be My Neighbor, RBG, Three Identical Strangers, and Whitney generating considerable buzz, it’s gotten me excited about the medium again. In a world of “Fake News”, gaslighting, and malicious lies, isn’t it refreshing to see a film that seeks to tell the truth? Or at least, the truth according to someone…  As Robert Evans says in this week’s film The Kid Stays in the Picture (DVD/Download), “There are three sides to every story: Your side, my side, and the truth. And no one is lying. Memories shared serve each differently.”

After watching the film, here are the things I do actually think are true:

  • Robert Evans was a so-so actor, a master salesman, and (for a time) a brilliant Hollywood producer. At age 34, he became the youngest studio head, taking over Paramount Pictures. That’s younger than I am now. The man knew how to hustle.
  • He shepherded some truly great films during his tenure, including Love Story, The Godfather, Goodbye Columbus, Harold and Maude, Rosemary’s Baby, and Chinatown. Just… wow.
  • He made a lot of mistakes in his personal life.
  • Hollywood would not be what it is today without him.

In adapting Evan’s memoir, The Kid Stays in the Picture pieces together still photography, film footage, and audio narration by Evans himself. If you love movies, you’ll love this movie. Although he personifies the “sleazy Hollywood producer” type, you can’t deny his talent. Plus, hearing him call his ex-wife Ali MacGraw “Snotnose MacGraw” is worth the rental price alone.

One thing that seemed to motivate Robert Evans was his own personal Eden, a Beverly Hills estate called Woodland. Surrounded by roses, trees, and a beautiful swimming pool, it’s the kind of fairy-tale house that just doesn’t get built anymore. If I were invited to a pool party, I know what I’d be drinking- a rose-flavored cocktail meant for an afternoon of script-reading and suntanning. While watching The Kid Stays in the Picture, I recommend drinking a Mountaintop cocktail.

Mountaintop

1 ½ oz vodka

¾ oz Campari

2 oz Grapefruit soda

2 oz Ginger Beer

½ oz Lime Juice

¼ tsp Rosewater

Build drink in a tumbler filled with ice, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with twist of lime.

Apex

The story of Robert Evans is so outrageous that I think it could only be told documentary-style. With Evan’s colorful bravado, who needs actors? I don’t know if he’s got a third/fourth/fifth? act in him, but if he does, I already know it’ll be one hell of a ride. Cheers!

Shampoo

Posted on
shampoo

Image credit: Shampoo, 1975

In 1960’s-era Beverly Hills, the hairdresser was king. Back then, women didn’t have all the handheld home gadgets we have today. No straightening irons, fancy ionic hairdryers, or texturizing sprays. It was aquanet and curlers, and if you were really brave, an actual clothes iron. So of course, any heterosexual man who could make a woman’s hair look like a million bucks would have been the natural recipient of a casual sex buffet. In Shampoo (DVD/Download), that man was Warren Beatty. Outside of Shampoo, that man was still Warren Beatty.

I like to think of this Hal Ashby-directed gem as American Graffiti meets Dazed and Confused meets the French New Wave. The story unfolds slowly, letting the audience experience a typical day in the crazy life of a popular, promiscuous hairstylist. Warren Beatty’s character George doesn’t end the film much further than where he started, but our own perception has shifted. His metamorphosis from sexy cad to sad hustler occurs once  Julie Christie and Goldie Hawn show him the consequences of his actions, and it’s worth watching just for their performances alone. This film isn’t for everyone, but I’ve always been a fan of slice-of-life stories. And wow, there’s a lot of life in this slice.

All you regular Cinema Sips readers know I love a good party scene, and Shampoo does not disappoint. There’s a celebratory dinner for Republicans (picture stuffed shirts glad-handing each other over Nixon’s presidential victory), and then there’s a wild, acid-fueled counterculture party at a Hollywood mansion. While I’d probably rather be with the hippies, I can’t deny that Republicans know how to make a lethal cocktail. Goldie tries to order a Stinger, which prompted me to ask, what’s a Stinger? Apparently, a drink that died out in the 1970’s. Let’s celebrate 1968 with this slow sipper. It certainly makes me feel like I’m drinking in another era.

Stinger

1 ¾ oz Cognac

2/3 oz White Crème de Menthe

Pour Cognac and Crème de Menthe in a cocktail shaker with ice, and stir to combine. Pour entire contents of shaker into a rocks glass.

Stinger

What I find fascinating about this movie is that it was made just after Nixon’s resignation, yet takes place on the night he was elected president in 1968. Such a short number of years in between, but what a difference those years make both in hair, and in politics. I wonder, will we be seeing movies set on 11/8/16 at some point? If the answer’s yes, I’d just like to say: I was a shell-shocked mess, but I think my hair looked pretty good. Cheers!

*Ironically, Beatty’s character has THE WORST haircut I’ve seen on a man. Where do the sideburns begin and end? Where are his ears? I have no idea!!!!!

Big Night

Posted on
Big Night

Image credit: Big Night, 1996

Word of advice- DO NOT come hungry to this film. You will end up so ravenous that you might pull a Chaplin and eat your own shoe. Forget Stanley Tucci and Tony Shaloub; the real star of Big Night (DVD/Download) is the food. What’s a timpano you ask? An Italian kitchen sink of greatness that I want to swim in. If you eschew carbs, just walk away right now. You have no place in this film universe.

This mid-90’s indie hit about two Italian brothers trying to save their New Jersey restaurant largely passed me by upon its release.  But now, as I begin the long trudge through middle age, I’m in the sweet spot of food appreciation. I’ve had to prepare my own risotto (and yes, it takes a LONG f*cking time- deal with it), I’ve grown sad-looking basil, and I’ve even been to Rome to see what real Italian cuisine is all about. As the movie says, “To eat good food is to be close to God”.  I’d like to say the same about cocktails, but sadly, they don’t nourish me like a great bowl of Spaghetti Carbonara.

If you’re looking for a good party film, you’ve found it. Big Night has copious amounts of booze, ladies in 50’s cocktail dresses, and a top-notch soundtrack. Louis Prima never actually makes it to the dinner, but thankfully, his music does. While watching Big Night, have a Cocchi Americano and Soda, and don’t worry about the time- the best parties go all night.

Cocchi Americano and Soda

¾ oz Cocchi Americano

5 oz Club Soda

6-7 Red Grapes

In the bottom of a glass, crush grapes, then fill with ice. Add Cocchi Americano and Club Soda, then gently pour back and forth into another glass until thoroughly mixed. Garnish with a few more grapes.

Cocchi

When food is truly great, it creates a memory. I can tell you where and when I had the best risotto of my life (Alla Rampa, Rome, April ‘09), a 10-Euro Cuban feast that just kept coming and coming (unnamed hole-in-the-wall restaurant, Valencia, Summer ‘03), and biscuits so flaky and buttery I nearly wept (Willa Jean, New Orleans ‘14). Sadly, many of the memorable restaurants in my life are long gone, but I’ll never forget the food. Those meals stay with me, like wonderful films I’ve seen a thousand times. When it comes to food, cinema, and celebrations, don’t be afraid to indulge. Cheers!

I Shot Andy Warhol

Posted on
I Shot Andy Warhol

Image credit: I Shot Andy Warhol, 1996

As research for another project I’m working on, I’m going down the rabbit hole of Andy Warhol’s Factory to discover the good, the bad, and the just plain sad. I’ve already listed off my Top 5 Andy Warhols on Cinema Sips, but this week I’m ready for a deeper look at my favorite Warhol, Jared Harris in I Shot Andy Warhol (DVD). Of any portrayal, this one gets closest to the voyeuristic creep I believe the artist to be. Was he on the spectrum? Probably. Did he ruin a lot of lives? Yep. Did he change the way we think about art and popular culture? Absolutely. Was the famous shooting by violent feminist Valerie Solanas karmic payback? You be the judge.

Directed by Mary Harron, I Shot Andy Warhol is a gritty look at the 1960’s Factory scene and all its periphery misfits. Valerie is a damaged, deranged writer who has some radical feminist ideas, but is so unlikable that nobody is willing to pay attention. She flirts with various paths to fame (a book deal with Lolita publisher Maurice Girodias, a movie deal with Warhol), but sabotages it all with her acute paranoia. And yet- she’s not entirely unsympathetic. When Valerie sits next to Andy on his famous velvet couch and strikes up a conversation, it feels like these are two weird peas in a pod. One is violent, the other voyeuristic, and both struggle to find a place in the outside world. But then the tides turn, and as we see the cold, detached Warhol shun her like he did so many vulnerable people, you can’t help but feel like his reckoning was bound to happen sooner or later.

Despite my love for Jared Harris as Warhol, the real star of this film is Stephen Dorff as Candy Darling. This portrayal is done so well that Candy, the trans-pioneer/Chelsea Girl/Superstar, comes off as the only normal person on the island of misfit toys. Let’s celebrate Ms. Darling with a cocktail worthy of her- the SuperStar-burst Martini.

SuperStar-burst Martini

5 pink Starburst® candies, unwrapped

¾ cup vodka

1 oz lime juice

1 oz Cointreau

Place Starburst® candies in a mason jar with lid, and pour vodka over the candies. Replace the lid, and shake vigorously. Let sit overnight to infuse the vodka. Once the vodka is ready, pour into a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add lime juice and Cointreau. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass. Garnish with a Starburst®.

Starburst martini

Watching this film, I can’t help but be envious of the people who lived to see The Factory in all its glory. It was a place where creativity flourished; a place where the avant-garde could find a home. But it’s easy to see why this eden never could have lasted. Eventually every bright star burns out. Cheers!