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Doctor Zhivago

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Doctor Zhivago

Image: Doctor Zhivago, 1965 (Also: The Great Coronavirus Quarantine 2020)

Unlike Doctor Zhivago’s runtime, the following post will be brief. I had enormously high hopes for this film (Disc/Download), thinking it would be hot men in the snow, meets three-and-a-half hours of Julie Christie looking sad and gorgeous. I took advantage of the orchestral overture to mix a cocktail and settled in to be transported to glamorous Moscow. Expecting snow-covered romance and emotional angst, imagine my shock upon realizing I’d committed to watching an extremely tedious episode of Little Kremlin on the Prairie.

I won’t bore you with all the reasons why this movie failed me. As any writer of romance can affirm, we’re told to show, not tell. Well, I was told that Omar Sharif and Julie Christie were hopelessly in love with each other; I just wasn’t shown it. Every time even a whisper of passion came across the screen, the film made an abrupt cut. I couldn’t understand why poet/physician Zhivago would wander through the barren frozen wasteland of Russia in search of his former nurse (and patient?) Lara, when they’d shared only about 20 minutes of screen time thus far. Was it just that she was so beautiful? I’m honestly still confused.

The one bright spot in my three-and-a-half hour trip to Cinema Siberia was the cocktail pairing I chose. As previously mentioned, grand epics are tailor-made for drinkers because the lengthy overture and intermission give you plenty of time for mixing. While watching Doctor Zhivago, replicate the feeling of walking through snow and ice to kiss a girl you kinda, sorta once knew with this Russian Frostbite cocktail.

Russian Frostbite

1½ oz Vodka

¾ oz Brandy

1 oz Coffee Liqueur

1 oz Cold Brew Coffee

1 oz Rumchata

1 ½ oz Half-and-Half

Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice, and shake until mixed and chilled. Strain into a glass filled with fresh ice.

Frostbite

It’s not a coincidence that this cocktail has coffee in it; you’ll need it to stay awake. While I loved the visuals of an ice-covered onion dome, Julie Christie’s shiny coif, and Omar Sharif’s forearms (!!!), Doctor Zhivago ultimately didn’t move me. It didn’t even nudge me. In the future, if I ever find myself in the mood for impossible love in the middle of a communist revolution, I’ll stick with the book. Cheers!

 

 

 

 

Rome Adventure

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Rome Adventure

Image credit: Rome Adventure, 1962.

I’ll say one thing about Troy Donahue—he’s a unique kisser. Whether it’s on the beaches of California in A Summer Place, or in a carriage pulled through the streets of Rome in this week’s Rome Adventure (Disc/Download), he pretty much swallows his partner whole. I can’t know how it feels to be on the receiving end of one of these melodramatic lip attacks, but if Suzanne Pleshette married him three years after filming wrapped, it must have left an impression. She said arrivederci soon after the wedding vows, but… we won’t get into that.

If you love Roman Holiday and Three Coins in the Fountain, I urge you to check out this romantic drama. Suzanne Pleshette stars as a disgraced librarian Prudence (she rec’d a romance novel to teens! The horror!!!) who flees to Rome in search of love and La Dolce Vita. She lands a sweet gig in an American bookshop just off the Piazza Navona, owned by a funny, sexy ex-pat (Constance Ford in a MUCH more appealing role than the racist mom in A Summer Place). There’s even a cute bookshop dog! Prudence falls for a charming American architect (Donahue), already under the spell of she-wolf Angie Dickinson and her fabulous silk evening gowns. Meanwhile an older man Prudence met on a cruise is still trying to seduce her, and a square student (who bears a remarkable resemblance to Beto O’Rourke) carries an unrequited torch. Let’s just say, this librarian goes looking for love and gets more than she bargained for.

The movie makes a bold case for the Italian aperitif Strega, a new-to-me spirit. As Prudence likes to say, it “turns the world gold”. While watching Rome Adventure, I recommend drinking this Strega Sunrise.

Strega Sunrise

2 oz Strega

1 oz Fresh orange juice

1 oz Lime Juice

1 tsp honey syrup

Orange Bitters

2 oz Club Soda

Orange Twist

Combine first five ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until well chilled, then strain into a glass filled with ice. Top with club soda, and a twist of orange.

Strega Sunrise

If you want to make your viewing even more fun, take a drink every time someone says “Arrivederci!”  And now you’ll have to excuse me—I’m off to go fantasize about working in a Roman bookshop with a saucy broad and her sheepdog. Cheers!

Farewell to the Summer Light

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Farewell to the Summer Light

Image credit: Farewell to the Summer Light, 1968.

For fans of Wong Kar-wai and Richard Linklater, I present to you the 1968 gem, Farewell to the Summer Light (avail. on YouTube). A love story featuring two Japanese expats walking and talking about nothing and everything, this movie hits me right where it matters. Watch it, but be warned- this one will stay with you.

Beautifully shot in Lisbon, Paris, Madrid, Scandinavia, and Rome, Yoshishige Yoshida’s film is a tapestry of European cities. Kawamura is searching for a mythical church when he meets Naoko, a married furniture/art buyer, still traumatized by the loss of her family to the Nagasaki atomic bomb. Kawamura and Naoko relate to one another initially through their heritage and the displaced feeling of being foreigners in a Western world, but eventually, their friendly wandering turns into attraction. In a constant push/pull, we feel the disappointment each time they leave one another, then the heart-lifting triumph when they find each other in a new city. It’s a love grounded in fate, but stymied by circumstance.

This gorgeous film deserves an equally lovely cocktail pairing with Japanese and European influences. While watching Farewell to the Summer Light, I recommend drinking this Low Tide cocktail.

Low Tide

1 ½ oz Sake

3-4 oz Dry Cava

½ oz Lime Juice

½ oz Mint Simple Syrup

Lime Twist

Combine Sake, Lime Juice, and Simple syrup in a shaker over ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a or flute. Top with Cava, and garnish with a twist of lime.

Low Tide

I’ll admit, my 1960s international film tastes have largely skewed toward the French and Italian, but Farewell to the Summer Light makes me want to learn more about what was happening in Japanese cinema. When Naoko and Kawamura kiss in front of a cathedral built on the beaches of Normandy, you realize what their love truly is—a beautiful sandcastle not meant to last. There’s such poetry in the way it’s shot; a desperation that practically tears through the screen. I may still look the same on the outside, but inside I’ll be carrying that scene with me forever. Cheers!

Model Shop

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Model Shop

Image credit: Model Shop, 1969

When I found out that two of my favorite movies of last year, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Echo in the Canyon, were reportedly influenced by Jacques Demy’s 1969 film Model Shop (Disc/Download), I needed to see what all the fuss was about. If you’re searching for a slice-of-life ride through ‘60s Los Angeles, look no further than this gorgeous film about love, mortality, and the mistakes of youth.

As the sun rises on a rundown LA bungalow, we meet George Matthews, a former architect at a crossroads in his life. His girlfriend’s got one foot out the door, his car’s about to be repossessed, and he doesn’t know what he wants to do ten minutes from now, let alone ten years. But then he spots a mysterious woman (Anouk Aimée) on the Sunset Strip and follows her up into the hills in his little MG. She goes into a house, he looks out over the city that doesn’t feel like home anymore, then turns around and leaves. But fate forces their paths to cross again, and this time he follows her into a Model Shop.  In this strange make-your-own-porn business that could have only existed in the 1960s, men pay to take pictures of women in their underwear, eventually leaving with negatives and a sweaty brow. For George, this sets off a Before Sunrise-esque 24hr love affair, fueled by the looming threat of a Vietnam draft notice which just arrived in the mail. That’s the thing about the ’60s—things happened fast because they had to.

Even though George’s model strips down for his camera, it isn’t until they’re back at her place that she really starts to reveal herself (a good drink will always get you talking well into the night). Equal parts sweet and bitter, while watching Model Shop, I suggest drinking this Sunset Stripped cocktail.

Sunset Stripped

1 oz Brandy

1 oz Lillet Blanc

¼ oz Honey Syrup (Equal parts honey and water boiled together, then cooled).

Dash of Angostura Bitters

Dash of Orange Bitters

Orange peel or dried orange slice

Combine Brandy, Lillet, honey syrup, and bitters in a shaker with ice. Stir until well chilled, then strain into a tumbler with a fresh cube of ice. Garnish with an orange peel or dried orange slice.

Sunset Stripped

For anyone wanting to see what Los Angeles looked like in the late 1960s, this movie is a perfect time capsule. The cars, the signage, the mini-skirts, the tanned pre-cancerous skin—Model Shop places you right in the center of it all. Sure you could watch someone else’s modern interpretation of this time period, but isn’t it more fun to go straight to the source? Cheers!

Revolutionary Road

revolutionary road

Image credit: Revolutionary Road, 2008.

There are some on-screen pairings that are so good, so real, you become desperate to believe the chemistry continues off-screen as well. We saw it more recently with Bradley Cooper & Lady Gaga in A Star is Born, but my personal favorite movie couple will always be Leonardo DiCaprio & Kate Winslet. It would shock you to know how much time I’ve spent daydreaming about these two. Fantasizing about a world where they finally, after all these marriages and models, finally end up together IRL. Picturing the secret tears poor Leo must have shed walking Kate down the aisle at her latest wedding, wishing it were him waiting at the altar. It’s true, I have a very active, misguided imagination. Or maybe, they were just too convincing as a married couple in this week’s film Revolutionary Road (Disc/Download).

With any other actors, this film would have been a depressing two-hour slog through 1950s suburbia. Cheating husband, frustrated housewife, unwanted pregnancies—this is what happens when you force people to live in cramped 1950s housing. You think it’ll be all mid-century glamour and kitsch until you realize the bathrooms are the size of a postage stamp. Having to share a tiny pedestal sink—that’s enough to drive any marriage to its breaking point. I say this as someone who lives in a mid-century modern house, and who has actively chosen to remain child-free. Honestly, kids just wouldn’t fit. But Frank and April Wheeler didn’t get the memo. They procreate, and live to regret it. Constantly bickering, trading withering looks and baiting insults, their marriage is a pressure cooker waiting to explode. But the thing is, these two have such great chemistry that even when they’re fighting, you want to watch every second. They may not be a real-life couple, but they’ve managed to generate some of the hottest, most passionate scenes in movie history.

Midway through the film, in a desperate attempt to break them out of their suburban prison, April hatches a plan to move the family to Paris. With her little white gloves and expertly tailored dress, she’s a lady on a mission at the passport office. [Spoiler Alert] She never makes it to Paris, but you sure can with this classic beverage. While watching Revolutionary Road, I recommend drinking a Parisian martini.

Parisian

2 oz Gin

3/4 oz Dry Vermouth

3/4 oz Crème de Cassis

Combine all ingredients in a shaker over ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon.

parisian

As with most Sam Mendes films, the cinematography and level of acting achievement are unparalleled. Watching Revolutionary Road, you feel transported to 1955 through the costumes, the styling, and yes, those tiny rooms. It’s claustrophobic and electric all at once, making you feel like an uncomfortable participant in the marriage. This may not be a happily-ever-after love story, but I’m still madly in love with it. Cheers!

Little Miss Sunshine

Little Miss Sunshine

Image Credit: Little Miss Sunshine, 2006.

When Little Miss Sunshine (Disc/Download) came out almost fifteen years ago, I related most to Olive- the little girl who would always be different and hadn’t yet realized this was a good thing. But now, I find myself identifying with Olive’s grandpa (Alan Arkin) and his end-of-life wisdom. He’s seen a lot, he’s lived to tell the tales, and he’s tired of the bullshit. Or, maybe he’s just plain tired.

Little Miss Sunshine is a multi-generational comedy about a family road trip and the tensions erupting along their journey. Young Olive makes it into the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant, so her weary mom, desperate dad, silent brother, depressed uncle, and heroin-addict grandpa pile into the VW bus. The vehicle itself becomes a character, breaking down along the way, forcing the family to work together to push-start it, mocking them with its broken horn. This is a comedy, but it’s equally balanced by tragedy. Death, suicide, and failure stand right alongside the hilarity of child beauty queens, with their capped teeth and miniature stripper outfits. There are sequins and hospitals, ice cream and Proust. And at the center of it all, a charming super-freak.

This sunshine-colored bus hides a lot of bitterness inside, so I think it’s appropriate to make a cocktail that’s both sweet and sour. While watching Little Miss Sunshine, I recommend drinking this Sunbeam.

Sunbeam

1 ½ oz Irish Whiskey

¾ oz Dry Vermouth

½ oz Lemon Juice

¾ oz Grapefruit Juice

¾ oz Simple Syrup

2 oz Club Soda

Grapefruit Bitters

White grapefruit or lemon twist

Combine first five ingredients in a shaker over ice. Shake until chilled, then pour into a Collins glass filled with ice. Top with club soda and a few dashes of grapefruit bitters. Stir gently, and garnish with a twist of lemon or white grapefruit.

Sunbeam

Maybe, like me, you’ve spent time believing you’re a loser. Watching other people who just seem to fit, be it with their career, or looks, or friendships, and feeling like you’d always be on the outside looking in.  But as grandpa says, “Losers are people who are so afraid of not winning, they don’t even try.” Rest assured, this super-freak is still trying like hell, with help from a talented supporting cast of friends and family. Cheers!

Long Shot

Long Shot

Image credit: Long Shot, 2019

I’ll take any excuse to watch Long Shot again, and this week my justification happens to be Valentine’s Day. Gone from theaters before anyone knew it had arrived, Long Shot (Disc/Download) was the 2019 gift to rom-com obsessives like myself (and to jaded people like my husband who just didn’t know what they were missing). I’ve made it my personal goal to get the word out about this whip smart, endearing ode to unexpected romance and Boyz II Men, and if Motown Philly doesn’t entice you, maybe a cocktail will.

When one hears the name Charlize Theron, the phrase “Seth Rogen movie” probably doesn’t come to mind. This is the tough-as-nails actress who takes on Immortan Joe and misogynist pigs. The woman who sashays across our television screens in Dior, looking like a glamorous gazelle. This woman does not belong in a comedy with a teddy bear-shaped funnyman and weed jokes, right? WRONG. Long Shot proves definitively that Charlize can do it all. As the U.S. Secretary of State vying for the job of President, she’s calm and collected. But underneath the polished facade, she’s a sleep-deprived woman who stopped noticing how lonely her life has become. That is, until speechwriter Fred Flarsky  comes along to remind her that politics isn’t everything; love is. Sure, the script has some of that infantile bro humor typically found in a Rogen movie, but I beg you to look past that. Focus on sweet moments like when they’re dancing in an empty kitchen to the Pretty Woman soundtrack, or Seth’s face when he realizes this beautiful, impressive woman actually wants him. The guy with the goofy jacket and big heart, who everyone makes fun of; he’s the one who finally gets the girl of his dreams. Not since Lloyd Dobbler called up Diane Court have I felt so hopeful about life.

As Secretary of State, Charlotte Field spends a lot of time traveling the world. Thus, the official cocktail of the DC Beltway (the Gin Rickey) needs to be tweaked just a bit for her. With the addition of lychee syrup, you’ll feel like you’re right there in that Manila hotel room, watching two people fall in love over their laptops. When viewing Long Shot, I recommend drinking this Traveling Rickey.

Traveling Rickey

2 oz Gin

½ oz Key Lime Juice

½ oz Lychee Syrup

Club Soda

Lime Slice

Combine gin, key lime juice, and lychee syrup over ice in a Collins glass. Stir well to combine. Top with club soda, and garnish with a lime slice.

Traveling Rickey

While the film is obviously meant to be a parody of our current political dumpster fire, at the center of it all is a love story that gives me so much joy. To see the chemistry of this unlikely pair is to witness pure cinema magic. Charlize, I beg you to run for president in 2020- but only if you bring your First Mister with you. Cheers!