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The Shape of Water

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Image Credit: The Shape of Water, 2017

There’s so much I love about this week’s creature flick, The Shape of Water (Disc/Download), I don’t even know where to start. The 1960s setting, copious water scenes, classic film appreciation, and a surprisingly sexy amphibious man are my main selling points; however, you should also be forewarned about a gross, mildew-covered bathroom, kitty homicide, and the black, rotting fingers of Michael Shannon (which, for the record, still give me the shudders with every viewing). Guillermo del Toro’s romantic fantasy is the movie I never knew I needed until it was presented to me in all its aqua-tinted glory.

Full disclosure, I’ve never actually seen The Creature from the Black Lagoon. However, I’ve seen Splash more times than I can count, so “sea creatures in bathtubs” is not a new concept for me. But where this film surpasses that stellar Tom Hanks rom-com is in its subtle use of fantasy as an allegory for society’s persecution of “the other”. The thing in a tank at a Baltimore laboratory is about as otherworldly as you can get, but as his future paramour Eliza (Sally Hawkins) points out, he’s really not so different from her, or any other human. His primary desires are freedom and love—can’t we all say the same about ourselves?

Speaking of love, Eliza’s neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins) goes looking for it in all the wrong places, including a terrible pie shop. He subjects himself to far too many slices of rancid key lime pie in order to talk to the cute guy behind the counter—a guy who, as it turns out, is definitely not worth his time. But you can enjoy a little bit of that florescent green flavor in this twist on the Pisco sour, the Key Lime Tequila Sour.

Key Lime Tequila Sour

2 oz Silver Tequila

½ oz Patrón Citrónge liqueur

1 oz Key Lime Juice

½ oz Simple Syrup

1 egg white

Pinch of Sea Salt

Dash of Angostura Bitters

Combine tequila, lime liqueur, key lime juice, simple syrup, egg white, and salt in a shaker without ice. Shake vigorously for ten seconds, then add ice. Shake for another thirty seconds, then strain into a glass. Garnish with a dash of Angostura Bitters.

If you enjoy the films of Douglas Sirk, you’ll find a lot of familiar elements in The Shape of Water. It’s a defiant love story, set under the backdrops of beautiful mid-century style, an intolerant society, and a stirring musical score.  When the credits roll at the end of this, and the spell is finally broken, you’ll still be floating. Cheers!

Beauty and the Beast

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Image credit: Beauty and the Beast, 2017

Ask any female bookworm who grew up in the ’90s what her favorite Disney movie was, and you’d probably get the same answer- Beauty and the Beast (Disc/Download). Smart, shy girl doesn’t fit in with the people in her small town, longs for the type of adventure she’s only read about in stories, but feels resigned to a quiet life with her dad and his gadgets. Then, a gruff hero comes into her life and woos her with a library and fancy soup. To say that I idolized this character in 1991 would be an understatement. I had Belle dolls, Belle posters, Belle Halloween costumes, and even a prized Belle Trapper Keeper gracing my desk. I also had a Beast doll you could pull the head off of to make him magically transform into a human (which, looking back on it, was a little creepy). In short, I was A FAN. I was skeptical that a live action version of this tale could ever work, but I should have known Disney would make all my adult Belle dreams come true too.

I remember the first time I saw this adaptation in the theater a few years ago. Emma Watson opened her mouth to sing “Little town, it’s a quiet village….” and reader, I got goosebumps. These songs were so ingrained in my memory that I could recall every word and note with perfect precision. It was like a trip back to childhood, where movies seemed completely wondrous, and characters lived in your head in a way they simply don’t when you’re an adult. I loved A Star Is Born, but let’s just say I don’t have Jackson or Ally dolls in my bedroom. But hey, if Disney wants to make a Dan Stevens “Beast” doll, or even a Luke Evans “Gaston” doll with that show-stopping baritone voice recorded on a pull string, they’ve still got a buyer in me.

Taking place in a small French village, and featuring a magic rose that slowly drops its petals, this movie deserves the kind of cocktail you could enjoy sipping for hours in a gigantic library by the light of a talking candelabra. While watching Beauty and the Beast, I recommend drinking a Rosewater Gimlet.

Rosewater Gimlet

2 oz Gin

1 oz Lime Juice

¾ oz Simple Syrup

½ oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur

3 drops Rosewater

Rose Petal garnish

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass containing an ice ball. Garnish with a rose petal.

Although there are some new tunes added to this version, the standout song is still “Tale as Old as Time”, sung here by Emma Thompson instead of Angela Lansbury. Really, this is the perfect anthem, for what’s more classic than an enemies-to-lovers story featuring a plucky girl and a gruff hero with a heart of gold? Thirty years later and it’s still bringing me as much joy as it did when I was eight. Cheers!

Black Swan

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-Image credit: Black Swan, 2010

With spooky movie season upon us, I decided it was time to watch a few creature features that highlight incredible achievements in movie costuming and visual effects. Kicking things off is the psycho-sexual horror film Black Swan (Disc/Download), which includes some truly disturbing imagery and themes. If you have a phobia about fingernails, cracking bones, and peeling cuticles, YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.

Not to be confused with my other favorite ballet movie Center Stage, Black Swan showcases the gritty, violent world of New York City dancers, swapping out cute scenes of first dates and salsa moves with bloody appendages and ecstasy-fueled club nights. Peter Gallagher’s artistic director has been replaced with a sexy, sadistic Vincent Cassell, who pits Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis against one another to achieve his goal of finding the perfect dancer to embody both the Black and White swans in a new production of Swan Lake. As the angelic Nina (Portman) descends deeper into the dark world of the Black Swan, we see her lose her grip on reality as this search for perfection leads to loss of control. With hallucinatory tricks such as feathers sprouting from beneath her skin and a doppelgänger dancer in the mirror, the viewer starts to lose their own sense of reality right along with her.

For a dark movie like this, I need a dark, booze-forward drink to calm my nerves. Play up that Black Swan energy this week with this variation on a Black Feather cocktail.

Black Feather

2 oz Brandy

1 oz Lillet Blanc

1/2 oz Cointreau

Dash of Angostura Bitters

Lemon Twist

Combine Brandy, Lillet, Cointreau, and bitters in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon.

Although I find myself covering my eyes any time Nina starts to pick at a patch of her skin (I can’t handle the cuticle ripping!!!!!), I can also relate to the debilitating way perfectionism tends to manifest itself. If true greatness can only be achieved through the loss of control, well, I guess I need to chill out with a few more cocktails. Cheers!

Me Without You

Image Credit: Me Without You, 2001

I love a film that feels like a really great book, especially when it falls under my favorite “women’s fiction” umbrella (and yes, I still HATE that publishing term). Me Without You (Disc/Download) is exactly this type of movie, full of complex characters, pitch perfect style, and the realistic portrayal of a toxic female friendship. Written and directed by Sandra Goldbacher, this one will have you itching for a cozy night in bed with your books and fingerless gloves while the world outside feels like a cocaine-fueled underground party in the ’80s. (And yes, you can probably already tell which of the two women pictured above I most relate to. Although, to be fair, Anna Friel’s leopard coat IS fabulous.)

Holly and Marina (Michelle Williams and Anna Friel) are childhood friends, growing up next door to one another in an English suburb. Holly’s the shy one, Marina the bold one, and their codependent relationship carries them through thirty years of bad boyfriends, wild fashion fads, and family drama. At first we feel sorry for Marina, coming from a house where mom (Trudie Styler) likes to drink gin & tonics in her shag-covered sunken living room while dad is out cheating with anything that moves, but her constant betrayals of Holly become almost too much to bear. Sabotaging any chance her friend has for happiness, over and over again, we start to see how manipulative and needy this girl really is. Honestly, if I were Marina, I’d have been done with this relationship the second my “friend” fashioned an unflattering dress out of a garbage bag on their way to hang out with The Clash, but that’s just me.

Shot in Surrey and along the coast of the Isle of Man, this movie is extremely British. Therefore it calls for one of my favorite British exports, Sloe Gin. A simple drink gussied up with a little edible glitter, I can almost imagine Marine and Holly mixing this on their endless afternoons when they’re so bored. Frankly, until they’ve experienced a pandemic lockdown, these girls don’t know “bored”. While watching Me Without You, I recommend drinking a Sloe Gin Mule.

Sloe Gin Mule

2 oz Sloe Gin

3/4 oz Lime Juice

6 oz Ginger Beer

Pinch of edible glitter

Lime Slice

Build drink over ice, stirring gently to combine. Top with lime slice, and a pinch of edible glitter.

With a fantastic soundtrack, gorgeous costumes, and stellar production design, this movie completely immerses the viewer in the decades of the late 20th century. It may not have been based on a novel, the likes of which Holly would love to write, but Me Without You still feels perfectly literary to me. Cheers!

Staying Alive

Image credit: Staying Alive, 1983

Two great things came out of the year 1983—me, and this week’s Cinema Sips pick, Staying Alive (Disc/Download). I know what you’re thinking: isn’t this the movie where John Travolta does hip thrusts next to Jamie Lee Curtis? The answer is no, that’s a weird little flick called Perfect. Which, I admit, is what I thought I would be watching when I put on Staying Alive. Nevertheless, my accident turned into a happy one when I realized I might be the only person on the planet who thinks this is a decent sequel to Saturday Night Fever. Allow me to make my case.

First, I think we’re far enough away from that Bee Gee’s disco fever dream to admit that while SNF had some gritty, hard-hitting moments, it was still John Travolta in a tight white leisure suit strutting his hips on a light-up floor. It’s cheesy as hell. So when Sylvester Stallone directed him to shake those hips again in a Broadway chorus line, why was that suddenly too cheesy? Any fan of Showgirls will be wowed by Tony Manero’s big Broadway debut in “Satan’s Alley”, and yacht rock fans will delight in the soundtrack, featuring the vocal talents of Cynthia Rhodes of Dirty Dancing fame. Honestly, I want to believe that Penny left the trauma of her back-alley abortion behind in the Catskills and reemerged twenty years later as a successful Broadway dancer. This all seems totally plausible to me.

Back when I covered Saturday Night Fever, I paired it with a Brooklyn cocktail, a lower borough version of the Manhattan. But now that Tony’s moved downtown, it’s time to class things up with this brandy version. While watching Staying Alive, I recommend drinking a Metropolitan cocktail.

Metropolitan

2 oz Brandy

1 oz Sweet Vermouth

½ tsp. Simple Syrup

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine all ingredients. Shake well, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon, if desired.

Maybe I have an overly generous view of Staying Alive because I’ve been where Tony is (hell, at the time of writing this, I am Tony). I’ve crossed some hurdles in the road toward publication, but I still have a few more to go. Like Tony, I’m hustling, trying to make sure my dream stays alive. It can be a hard thing to accept the fact that not everyone can be “one of those people” who encounter success incredibly early in their lives (and yes, I kind of hate those people). Tony and I really have to work for it, but man—do we have potential. Cheers!

Driving Miss Daisy

Image Credit: Driving Miss Daisy, 1989

The question I’m asked most frequently when I tell people about this blog is, “Do you come up with the movie first, or the drink?” Nine times out of ten, it’s the movie. But in rare cases, such as this week, I stumble upon a cocktail I want to make and find a movie to fit. The cocktail in question is a Whiskey Daisy, and unfortunately, I’ve already covered The Great Gatsby, Harold & Maude, and You’ve Got Mail. That leaves me with either Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, Inside Daisy Clover, or the Jessica Tandy/Morgan Freeman classic Driving Miss Daisy (Disc/Download). As much as I love Doris and Natalie, I decided to go with the pick that gets talked about most frequently, for better or worse.

I’ll be honest, despite dozens of Miss Daisy jokes made while my husband drives me around in the classic car I recently inherited, I’d never actually seen this movie. A heartwarming friendship between a black chauffeur and the surly, clueless white woman he drives around? Pass- I’ve already watched Green Book, and didn’t feel like I needed its role-reversed ancestor. However, despite some problematic content that simply comes with the territory of a story set in a less-enlightened time period, I found myself solidly charmed upon my initial watch. Jessica Tandy is a delight, especially when paired with Morgan Freeman and perennial friend-to-vodka-lovers Dan Aykroyd. What could have been a one note allegory about racism in America actually ended up being a really touching illustration of the aging process and loss of independence. As the wrinkles get more pronounced, the glasses thicker, and the memories more jumbled, all the social constructs seem to strip away, leaving these two people with the realization that they were always more than the labels society thrust upon them. They were friends.

Now, back to that cocktail. I like the sound of this drink because it seems easy to make and uses ingredients I already have. Driving Miss Daisy isn’t really a booze-heavy movie, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it one. Just remember- no drinking and driving!

Whiskey Daisy

2 oz Bourbon Whiskey

1 oz Lemon Juice

¼ oz Simple Syrup

½ oz Cointreau

Club Soda

Add bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup, and Cointreau to a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Top with a splash of club soda.

I’m not about to dive into the controversy of “did this movie deserve all the Oscars it received” because that’s an argument with no winners. But I will say, this is a film that knows how to take an audience along for the ride, whether or not it was a trip you felt like making. I’m glad I finally watched Driving Miss Daisy, and I’m even more glad to add this cocktail to my repertoire. Cheers!

The Shawshank Redemption

Image credit: The Shawshank Redemption, 1994

Odds are, if you had the TNT network in the mid-1990s, you watched all or parts of The Shawshank Redemption (Disc/Download) approximately 457 times. Scrolling through the channels, if this movie was on, you stopped what you were doing and picked up the story wherever it happened to be. Maybe you waited for the current screening to end, at which point they’d… run it again. Suffice it to say, we all love Shawshank, we’ve all seen Shawshank, so let’s have a cocktail and toast the ultimate “new classic”.

It’s tough to pinpoint what makes this tale of a falsely convicted murderer serving out a lifetime sentence in a New England Penitentiary so universally appealing, but I’m going to take a stab at it. I think we’re all Andy Dufresne in some ways, fighting and struggling to stay afloat in the face of adversity. Maybe you even have an impossible goal you’ve been working toward for years, carving and chipping away at whatever obstacle stands in front of you. It’s comforting to watch this smart guy play the long game and come out on top because it means all the hope and labor you’ve been pumping into the universe will be rewarded one day. And if you’re really lucky, you’ll make a friend along the way. Maybe a man who knows how to get things.

Based on Stephen King’s short story, Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption, this film takes place during the 1940s-1960s, during a time when Hollywood starlets reigned supreme. Andy hides his escape tunnel-in-progress behind various pin-up posters, which are somehow sanctioned contraband. Let’s celebrate his first leading lady with a margarita, a cocktail rumored to be invented for the lovely Ms. Hayworth, born Margarita Carmen Cansino. While watching The Shawshank Redemption, I recommend drinking this Marga-Rita Hayworth.

Marga-Rita Hayworth

2 oz Reposado Tequila

1 oz Cointreau

1 oz Pomegranate Juice

1/2 oz Lime Juice

1/2 oz Cranberry Juice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice, and shake until chilled. Strain into a tumbler filled with crushed ice, and garnish with a citrus wheel and lime twist.

If you’re throwing a Shawshank party (and frankly, this seems like a fantastic idea to me), you could also serve up a bucket of ice cold, Bohemian-style beer for all your friends and colleagues, or even a Jungle Bird in honor of Jake. But I personally like this “slow sipper”, which will carry you through Andy’s decades of setbacks and tiny victories. As Red says, in that pitch-perfect Morgan Freeman voice, “Get busy livin’, or get busy dyin’.” Livin’ sounds more fun to me. Cheers!

Cleopatra

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Image Credit: Cleopatra, 1963

I hope you stocked up on alcohol this week because Cleopatra (Disc/Download) is a real endurance test. It’ll take at least a few refills to carry you through a runtime of over four hours—and this is the short cut! If the director’s cut ever gets released, you’ll need a barge to carry all your liquor home.

Insane length aside, this is actually an incredibly sexy movie. History buffs will enjoy the scenes of Ancient Rome and Egypt, but personally, I’m here for the sizzling chemistry between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. “Liz and Dick” caused quite the scandal when their onscreen love story moved off-screen, but having now sat through hours worth of footage, it appears their romance was almost inevitable. How could Burton possibly resist Taylor in those cleavage-baring costumes? How could she not want to climb his muscular legs like a tree? It was always a question of when, not if. The film’s plot is interesting, if a little meandering, but if you enjoy a cornucopia of wigs, pink shag bedrooms, opulent baths, and the haughty attitude of Elizabeth Taylor in glittery eye shadow, you will not be disappointed.

Speaking of Taylor, this gal likes her gold. From boats to drinkware, Miss Cleo doesn’t skimp on the opulence. Celebrate her majesty with this gold-flecked drink, perfect for a Baccus-themed party. While watching Cleopatra, I recommend drinking a Golden Girl cocktail.

Golden Girl

4 oz Dry White Wine

1 oz Gin

½ oz Honey Rosemary Syrup (1/2 cup honey + 1/2 cup water + 3 sprigs rosemary, simmered then cooled)

½ oz Lemon Juice

2 ½ oz Club Soda

Pinch of edible glitter

Sprig of Rosemary for Garnish

Combine wine, gin, honey syrup, and lemon juice in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Top with club soda, and a pinch of edible glitter. Stir to combine, then garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

I will admit, it took me over two days to get through this movie. I was so alarmed by the sight of Archie Bunker stabbing Ceasar in the back that I needed a break. However, once Antony and Cleopatra began their epic romance, I was officially hooked. This turkey may be all breasts and thighs, but those parts sure are delicious. Cheers!

Catch Me If You Can

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Image Credit: Catch Me If You Can, 2002

Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly away… to the glamorous world of 1960s air travel and check forgery. In this week’s film Catch Me if You Can (Disc/Download), our old pal Leo plays a teenage con artist posing as a Pan Am pilot, a doctor, and a Louisiana attorney, all before his nineteenth birthday. The actor himself was around twenty-seven during the filming of this movie, so I ask you, who’s the biggest con man here?

In this pseudo-biographical tale of Frank Abagnale, Steven Spielberg has crafted a fun cat-and-mouse caper where bedraggled FBI agent (Tom Hanks) must devote hours of time and money toward catching a brilliant young criminal with daddy issues. Ultimately, Frank’s crimes don’t really harm anyone (other than the airline CEOs and bankers, I suppose), but nevertheless, the US Government can’t just let this kid run around, hopping on jets, sleeping with flight attendants, and advising on medical emergencies with whatever training he could glean from a few Dr. Kildaire episodes. I concur—this teenage runaway’s high times should probably come to an end. But boy, it’s a fun ride until that day comes.

If you were lucky enough to travel on PanAm during the 1960s, well then, you were lucky enough. I was unfortunately not born yet, but I can still celebrate the stylish, jet-set era with this tasty cocktail. While watching Catch Me If You Can, I recommend drinking a Paper Plane.

Paper Plane

¾ oz Bourbon

¾ oz Aperol

¾ oz Amaro Nonino

¾ oz Lemon Juice

Lemon Twist

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice, and shake until chilled. Strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon.

An enjoyable movie that never lets itself get overly bogged down with the main character’s psychological trauma, this is a great pick if you just want to watch a smart guy do some mildly bad things, in a world where everyone looked amazing. And let’s not forget Tom Hanks’ Boston accent, the real MVP of this movie. It’s still working hard, long after retirement age. Cheers!

Inception

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Image credit: Inception, 2010

Let’s not pretend any of us truly understand this week’s pick, Inception (Disc/Download). Sure, we may have a vague idea of the general plot, but director Christopher Nolan, ultimate master of cinema magic tricks, has crafted a film so full of misdirection and ambiguity that it’s impossible to know what’s real and what’s an illusion. So let’s just pour a drink and follow along as best we can.

As far as I can tell, this film is about dreams and the people who infiltrate them. The goal is to plant an idea that will then take root and manifest as change in the real world, without the sleeping victim being any the wiser. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a dream manipulator who is hired by a rich tycoon to go inside his rival’s mind and lead him toward dissolving his business. Aided by a team of Nolan regulars (including Tom Hardy in a role where he actually has a chance to show off that pretty face!!!), Leo inserts himself into Cillian Murphy’s dream, then deeper to another layer, and deeper again, until he’s able to get to the root of what drives this man’s subconscious. So basically, it’s a dream, within a dream, within a dream, until the end when you realize the whole freakin’ movie might be a dream?! Am I in a dream right now?? Christopher Nolan has effectively made me question the very foundation of human existence.

In thinking about Inception as a cocktail, I realized that infusing alcohol can achieve a similar effect. You start with a base spirit, allow a spice or flavor to soak into it, leaving it forever changed. And with this cocktail, I’ve achieved double inception, going even deeper into that flavor profile. While watching Inception, I recommend drinking a Kick cocktail.

Kick

1 1/2 oz Cardamom/Coffee-infused Vodka*

3/4 oz Kahlua Liqueur

1/4 oz Maple Syrup

3 drops Rosewater

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a chilled coupe.

*To make Cardamom/Coffee Vodka, put six-seven Cardamom pods in a cup of vodka. Allow to infuse overnight. The next day, remove pods, then pour in two tablespoons of ground coffee. Allow to infuse overnight, then strain out solids through coffee filter.

One line from this movie stands out to me, particularly after a recent watch. DiCaprio says, “An idea is like a virus. Resilient. Highly contagious. The smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to define or destroy you.” As I look around, at a vocal part of our society clutching so tightly to dangerous ideas at the expense of everyone around them and a rapidly evolving virus, this quote feels more timely than ever. What’s more insidious: COVID-19, or the denial of COVID-19? The temptation is understandable; the yearning to “wake up” and proclaim that all of 2020 and 2021 was just a bizarre subconscious state. An inception that forced us to appreciate the small things in life, like sitting in a diner booth, or meeting a friend for coffee, or flying to visit a parent. We’ll open our eyes, and the nightmare will be over, instead of just beginning again. But life isn’t the movies; and reality is different than our dreams. We’re already awake.