I’m stepping out of my comfort zone this week with a science fiction classic, a genre I rarely cover on Cinema Sips. But in 1976, there was a massively popular film that appealed to both miniature enthusiasts and future Plato’s Retreat patrons—Logan’s Run (Disc/Download). How could I resist?
Dubbed “the sexiest movie ever” by Friends’ Ross Geller, Logan’s Run is a pure escapist fantasy that practically screams disco era. From caftans to holograms, from Farrah Fawcett’s shag haircut to a domed city model straight out of Epcot, this movie relies on practical effects almost as much as it relies on our ability to be distracted by shiny objects. The central theme of a futuristic society where nobody is allowed to live past the age of thirty is almost overshadowed by the impressive visual achievements, which garnered the film a special Academy Award. Why is Logan running? Because he’s been forced to infiltrate and destroy a sanctuary for “olds”. If he’d asked me, I could have pointed him in the direction of Palm Springs. But instead, he goes to Washington DC, where the buildings are crumbling and Congress is basically an abandoned litter box. Sounds about right.
One truly bizarre scene (and there are a lot of truly bizarre scenes in this movie) involves a gold robot called Box that captures and freezes food from outside the domed city for use by the privileged young’uns. It also captures… PEOPLE. Cue the Soylent Green comparisons. While watching Logan’s Run, take a fun trip around the Carrousel with this futuristic frozen cocktail, the Saturn.
1 ¼ oz Gin
½ oz Lemon Juice
½ oz Passion Fruit Syrup
¼ oz Falernum
¼ oz Orgeat
2 cups crushed ice
Add gin, lemon juice, passion fruit syrup, falernum, and orgeat to a blender filled with crushed ice. Blend until smooth, then pour into a hurricane glass. Garnish with an orange twist.
Is America really headed for a Logan’s Run-type existence? I guess we’ve got about two hundred and fifty years left to either fix all the problems or sentence ourselves to a version of doom that looks like a Florida theme park. But if feral cats really do take control of Congress, and somehow our society reverts back to being centered around shopping malls, I have one request: feathered Farrah Fawcett hair and a glittery tunic for all. Cheers!
Continuing through the year 1976, I can’t not make a stop at Taxi Driver (Disc/Download). In addition to serving as a fantastic time capsule of the period, Martin Scorsese’s magnum opus forever changed filmmaking, as well as our perception of the hero/antihero.
It’s hard to say what my opinion of this movie would have been if I hadn’t already been confronted with the concept of mass shooting from the age of sixteen, well before I ever saw DeNiro turn to the mirror and ask, “You talkin’ to me?” For by the time I got to college and actually watched this, it was too late. The image of a disturbed individual (or two, in the case of Columbine), walking into a crowded area, armed with hidden guns under a baggy coat, had already been implanted by news reports. So you’ll forgive me if I don’t find this scenario entertaining in a movie, even when it’s the phenomenal Robert DeNiro playing the tortured white male who just can’t deal. Maybe we’re supposed to relate to his character of Travis Bickle, a man who came home from Vietnam to a crumbling New York City, its sidewalks piled high with trash and sin, who feels out of place and aimless. Maybe we’re supposed to understand why he’d basically stalk Cybill Shepherd, then a teenaged Jodi Foster, as though he’s the one man who can save them from the big bad city. Sure, the climax and the night rides are beautifully shot, sometimes achingly so, but I can’t get over the simple fact that this guy who feels powerless thinks the solution is to take away power from others by any violent means necessary. That doesn’t make him a hero in my book, despite how good his abs look.
A common refrain from Travis is that he wants someone to come in and clean up the city. He drives through the streets of Manhattan, and all he sees is literal and figurative garbage. So while you’re watching Taxi Driver, lean into the theme with this Dirty Manhattan.
2 oz Rye Whiskey
1 oz Dry Vermouth
A few dashes Angostura Bitters
Stir together rye, vermouth, and bitters over ice until chilled. Strain into a martini glass, and garnish with a green olive.
Taxi Driver is one of those movies I think everyone should see, but only once. I personally don’t need the reminder that the world is a burning trash fire with no hope of anybody actually doing anything to change it; all I have to do is read the latest headlines. But nevertheless, I still feel the need to toast Marty Scorsese—he put his heart, and his beard into this one. Cheers!
As much as I’d love to stay in 1967 forever, we must be moving on to a new decade this week- the 1970s! I’ve examined several individual years from this time period, and as far as I’m concerned, the real standout is 1976. We had everything from Jodi Foster in Freaky Friday to Jodi Foster in Taxi Driver, and let’s not forget ’70s MVP Dustin Hoffman, who came out with Marathon Man and All the President’s Men that year. That’s a lot of men! But the movie that’s endured the test of time, despite a never-ending string of subpar sequels and reboots, is the Sylvester Stallone classic Rocky (Disc/Download).
I have a real soft spot for sports movies, particularly underdog sports movies. Rudy, The Bad News Bears (another 1976 gem!), Slap Shot, and this tale of the Italian Stallion going fifteen rounds with Heavyweight Champion Apollo Creed. But what draws me even further into Rocky is the tender romance between the boxer and shy pet store employee Adrian (Talia Shire). The heat between these two when he brings her back to his place to meet his turtles- yowza! Indeed, it’s those human moments of the athlete, sandwiched between training montage clips and bloody eyelids that make this movie something you want to watch again and again. By the end, nobody really cares whether Rocky Balboa wins or loses; we care whether or not his enormous heart is still intact.
Speaking of training, Rocky’s raw egg breakfast is still enough to turn my stomach, even though I put egg whites in my cocktails all the time. Something about that yolk dropping into a glass- blech! Let’s make cocktail hour a little more palatable by celebrating Rocky’s Italian roots with this Campari Sour.
2 oz Gin
1 oz Campari
1 oz Lemon Juice
3/4 oz Simple Syrup
1 Egg White
Dash of Orange Bitters
Orange Wheel Garnish
Fill a glass with ice and set aside. Combine gin, Campari, lemon juice, simple syrup, egg white, and bitters in a shaker, and shake for about 10-15 seconds until frothy. Add ice, and shake for an additional 10 seconds. Strain into prepared glass, and top with orange wheel garnish.
One thing I’ve noticed in 1970s movies is that the sheen of Hollywood perfection seems to have fallen away. There’s suddenly layers of trash on those city sidewalks, and you’re not sure but you think the actors might be wearing their own clothes. Gone are the Edith Head gowns and MGM musical backdrops to transport us away- instead, we see the world as it really was. By grounding Rocky in 1970s Philadelphia, the boxer becomes just another guy down the block, who you’ve maybe seen at the pet store or the laundromat, but who is suddenly on the cusp of greatness. And if it could happen to him, it could happen to anyone. Cheers!
This past week, I had the pleasure of attending my first Turner Classic Movies film festival at the corner of Hollywood and Highland. It was intense, it was magical, and it was everything I hoped it would be. After two years of mostly solitary movie watching, it felt great to be in a theater again, surrounded by other people who love classic films as much as I do. The kind of people who would gladly give Richard Benjamin a standing ovation for the weird and wonderful The Last of Sheila, and who, like me, were incredibly stressed about getting in line early enough to make it into a Pre-Code screening (note to TCM- PUT THESE IN BIGGER THEATERS). For four days, I lived on Gardetto’s snack mix and popcorn, trying desperately not to collapse before the last movie of the day. It’s also worth noting, some nights I didn’t even get back to my hotel room until 11:30pm- who even am I??? TCM Liz, that’s who. She’s wild and she doesn’t even need dinner.
Because I believe in positivity, I won’t go into too much detail about my least favorite things about the fest. The Hollywood Roosevelt hotel certainly topped that burn list, and if (when) I go back, I won’t be staying at the place that lost my luggage and served me a margarita instead of the gimlet I ordered, then took the bold stance that gimlets are often served on the rocks.
Reader, they are not.
I’ve had better service at a La Quinta. Plus, I’ve never had to wait 25 minutes for an elevator at a Marriott. But I digress. This post is about positivity!!! So here they are, my top five moments of TCMFF 2022.
Cocktail Hour Screening
Before the fest, I didn’t know much about Pre-Code films, and I was grateful for the fabulous intro by historian Cari Beauchamp to explain the kind of freewheeling depictions of women and sexuality that were taken from us by Joseph Breen and his censorship office. Cocktail Hour (1933) was a delightful romantic comedy starring Bebe Daniels and Randolph Scott, in an enemies-to-lovers plot about a free spirited artist not wanting to be tied down to any man, even one who’s madly in love with her. She leaves on a cruise, where she unwittingly becomes the third party in an open marriage, before arriving in Paris and getting involved in a murder scandal. This was not even the first movie I saw at the fest where someone fell out a window, but it was certainly the most enjoyable. My only complaint- the TCL Multiplex bar had a paltry list of cocktails to choose from, so I watched with a Mai Tai instead of the French ‘75 I should have been sipping. Oh well. This film is a new favorite, and I never would have been able to see it outside of the fest.
2. Jane Seymour Q&A
I’ve seen the 1980 time-travel classic Somewhere in Time before (and paired it with a cocktail!), but never on the big screen, and never with Jane Seymour discussing how she and Christopher Reeve fell madly in love during its production, and would ultimately be torn apart by a cruel twist of fate. It was obvious to everyone in the audience that Seymour’s love for Reeve endures to this day, and when she said she hopes to see him again “somewhere in time,” I swear there wasn’t a dry eye in the theater. I’m still getting a little misty just thinking about it.
3. Houseboat Screening
Not being a morning person, my 9am screenings were very rare at TCMFF. But for Cary Grant, I’ll put some pants on and leave the hotel room. I’d never seen Houseboat before, so I didn’t expect to receive such an utterly charming and poignant film experience. Although filled with beautiful dresses and chipper songs (including a Sam Cooke single!), I was caught off-guard by the frank and lovely discussion about death between Cary and his on-screen son. Having just lost my dad last year, I kind of needed this fatherly movie icon to tell me it was going to be okay. Houseboat was the warm hug I never knew I needed.
4. The Hollywood Legion theater
I went into this festival really looking forward to being inside the big TCL theater (formerly Grauman’s Chinese), so imagine my surprise to discover that the best movie experience was actually found at the Hollywood Legion! I waited until the last screening of the fest to make the trek over (for Jewel Robbery, another delightful Pre-Code romantic comedy), but it was well worth the extra steps. Gorgeous architecture, cocktails in the basement, and the best surprise of all- a hidden Shining bar! That’s right, this replica of the Overlook Hotel bar was used in pick-up shots for The Shining, and if you’re really nice, a delightful old employee of the Legion will show it to you. Also, three cheers for the free popcorn and chocolate covered pretzels handed out by HBO Max. All the better to soak up that night’s gimlet.
5. The Closing Party
Although I love throwing parties, I don’t always love attending them. I was not expecting a poolside soiree at the Roosevelt to be worth my time (although literally, the only good thing about this overpriced establishment is the heated David Hockney pool), but between bites of hors d’oeuvres and sips of an HBOMax-tini, I found myself talking to other reviewers, TCM hosts, and all the internet friends I’ve made over the last two years of isolation. To have the opportunity to meet these people in person, trading laughs and movie recommendations, hatching plans for the next time we’ll all see each other, made the fest worth every penny for me. It was the perfect ending to a fabulous weekend, and when it comes to me and TCMFF, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
As I conclude my brief journey through 1967, I want to feature a movie from the 2022 Turner Classic Movies Festival (which I was very pleased to attend for the first time this year!!!), Walt Disney’s animated The Jungle Book (Disc/Download). As often happens in the world of film criticism, we tend to forget about children’s fare, but artistically, this movie takes animation in an exciting new direction. Revolution by dancing animals (and not the live ones that peed all over the Doctor Dolittle sets).
Based on the stories by Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book is one of the more visually exciting classic Disney films, similar to The Sword and the Stone with its sketchy style. Although not one of my favorite movies plot-wise, this is still a joy to watch at any age because it’s akin to seeing a painting come to life. And while we now recognize some of the harmful racial coding in several scenes, it still feels like an important transitional film for Disney in many ways. In reality, it would be the final animated film of Walt Disney’s life, the great innovator having died during production. With The Jungle Book, the Disney studio would leave tales of western royals and little-girl fantasies behind, in favor of stories that depicted a wide world of adventure. The romantic in me is glad they returned to their happily-ever-after’s with the movies of the early-1990s, but the curious animal lover in me is pretty excited to see a bear scratch his back with a palm tree. And boy, that Louis Prima track on the soundtrack still slaps.
Although tempted to defer to one of my top-five favorite cocktails (the Jungle Bird) for this movie, I decided to switch it up the flavor with Pimm’s No. 1. Plus, the addition of Ginger Beer gives it a fiery kick, perfect for swingin’ jungle VIPs. While watching The Jungle Book, I recommend drinking this Feathered Friend.
1 oz Pimm’s No. 1
1 oz Campari
½ oz Dark Rum
½ oz Lime Juice
½ oz Simple Syrup
1 oz Pineapple Juice
1 fresh strawberry
2 oz Ginger Beer
Muddle strawberry at the bottom of a shaker with lime juice and simple syrup. Add ice, Pimm’s, Campari, Rum, and Pineapple juice, and shake until chilled. Double strain into a glass with fresh ice, and top with Ginger Beer.
Thinking about the year 1967, the main word that comes to mind is change. Yes, the films were all over the place that year, and the studio system was disappearing before our eyes. But in looking at what came after, part of me thinks that this needed to happen, like a slash-and-burn of crops. The stuff that grew before was undeniably beautiful and impressive; however, we didn’t experience the truly wild, interesting flavors until new things emerged from the ashes. Cheers!
Word of warning: DO NOT watch this movie right before bedtime. I made this mistake, and now my days of walking through a dark house in search of a midnight snack or bottle of water are over. If you’ve come to expect humor and lightness in your Audrey Hepburn flicks, Wait Until Dark (Disc/Download) will defy all your expectations—in the best possible way.
Starring Audrey as blind housewife Susy Hendrix, the story begins with a drug smuggling operation wherein a doll stuffed with heroin is unwittingly passed to Susy’s photographer husband at an airport. Soon afterward, he goes off on assignment again, leaving her alone with the doll. Three con-artists attempt to gain entrance into Susy’s apartment, cooking up an elaborate scheme to make her earn their trust, but eventually, she realizes these men are not who they say they are, and in a completely terrifying climax scene, blind Susy turns out the lights and levels the playing field. Or rather, the killing field. Because among her tormentors is one very young Alan Arkin, with an accent like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s Lenny Bruce, and a look straight out of an Oasis music video. He’s smart, he’s sadistic, and he will make you afraid to go near your fridge ever again.
With a doll being the thing that sets this plot in motion, it seems appropriate to drink a cocktail fit for Madame Alexander’s. While watching Wait Until Dark, I recommend drinking a Satin Doll.
2 oz Brandy
1 oz Cointreau
1 oz Pineapple Juice
1/2 oz Lemon Juice
Combine Brandy, Cointreau, and pineapple and lemon juice in a shaker over ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass.Garnish with fresh pineapple and lemon twist.
An unexpectedly great find on my list of 1967 releases, this movie would eventually earn Hepburn a Best Actress nomination and go on to terrify audiences for decades to come. If you’re looking for a smart, adult thriller, it’s time to turn off the lights and hit play on Wait Until Dark. Cheers!
For all the criticism it receives, let me come right out and say that I don’t think Doctor Dolittle isn’t nearly as bad as people say. Yes, it’s long. Yes, the songs are weird (and not even in a good way). Yes, the special effects are a little cheesy. But for all those faults, there’s nevertheless a fun, deadpan humor to the whole thing, particularly in the way Dolittle banters with his animal friends. Just the idea that a duck would have a “missus” he has to get home to, or that a Great Pink Sea Snail has a cousin in Scotland he’s been meaning to visit (Nessy, in case you were wondering), genuinely makes me chuckle. I can probably go the rest of my life without hearing the vegetarian song, or see Rex Harrison sing-speak an uncomfortable love ballad to a seal dressed in Victorian garb, but I am here for the quaint English homes, the beautiful beaches of Sea Star Island, and the teased crown of Samantha Eggar’s hair. You can take the girl out of the sixties, but you can’t take the hairspray out of Hollywood.
At 2 ½ hrs, you’ll probably need several cocktails to get through this movie. Let’s take inspiration from the living quarters of a snail shell with this perfectly pink drink- the Snail Mail.
2 oz Malfy Rosa grapefruit gin
¼ oz Aperol
¼ oz Grenadine
½ oz Lime Juice
½ oz Simple Syrup
Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass.
When you compare Doctor Dolittle to live-action Disney films of the era, it comes up short. Without the catchy songs of the Sherman Brothers and the uncannily great casting Walt’s team seemed to deliver, we’re missing a lot of the magic that made films like Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks so good. But I’ll tell you what—I’ll still take Dolittle and his two-headed llama over films like Camelot or The Music Man any day of the week. If this was the end of the big-budget studio musical, at least we went out on the strangest note possible. Cheers!
What makes a movie ‘great’? And how can so many ‘great’ movies come out in the same year; movies which have seemingly little to do with each other? For the next few months on Cinema Sips, I’ll be searching for answers to these questions by examining four movies from a particularly pivotal year in the second half of the 20th century. Inspiration for this project comes from the books Pictures at a Revolution: The Birth of the New Hollywood by Mark Harris, as well as Best. Movie. Year. Ever.: How 1999 Blew Up the Big Screen by Brian Raftery (two fantastic reads if you’re interested in film studies). Cinema Sips will be covering the years 1967, 1976, 1985, and 1999, and depending on the popularity (and my interest in this project), I may continue into the 21st century, or go back to the early days of cinema. But today, like George Lucas, I feel like starting in the middle. Kicking things off is In the Heat of the Night (Disc/Download), a police-procedural drama that feels all too contemporary fifty-five years later.
Starring cinema icon Sidney Poitier as a Philadelphia detective sent to Mississippi to assist with a murder investigation, In the Heat of the Night is both mystery and tense racial drama. As a black man in the Deep South, Poitier confronts ignorant cops who can’t accept the fact that he’s “one of them”, as well as backward-thinking plantation owners and townsfolk who just want to scare him into returning home. As usual, Sidney is calm and cool in the face of abysmal treatment, making the people surrounding him look like complete idiots. I’ll admit, I didn’t know exactly who the killer was until right when the script wanted me to, which is always refreshing in a mystery. And maybe that was the strength of this movie—it was never about a murder, a one-and-done event, but rather, the ongoing struggle of prejudice and overt oppression in that part of the country. Half a century later and I’m still saying, WTF, Mississippi??!! (and WTF, Alabama, and WTF, Texas, and WTF, Florida…. you get the idea).
This movie, similar to another 1967 release Cool Hand Luke, is an extremely sweaty one. Rod Steiger looks like he’s been sitting in a sauna for most of it, and the title doesn’t help matters- you can practically feel the sun still radiating off the pavement at one o’clock in the morning. That’s why, while watching In the Heat of the Night, I recommend drinking an icy cool Left-handed Lemonade.
1 ½ oz Bourbon
8 oz Lemonade
½ oz Fresh Lemon Juice
Lemon slice (garnish)
Muddle a few basil leaves with lemon juice in the bottom of a shaker. Add ice, bourbon, and lemonade, and shake for about five seconds. Strain into a highball filled with fresh ice. Garnish with a basil leaf and lemon slice.
In the Heat of the Night would later be turned into a TV show starring Carroll O’Connor and Howard E. Rollins, the theme song of which would be my cue to turn the television off after Brady Bunch reruns. Sweaty men standing over a dead body on the asphalt didn’t do it for me as a small child. But apparently, Sidney “They call me Mr. Tibbs” Poitier, and refreshing cocktails are all it takes to make me want to sit and watch as an adult. Cheers!
Sometimes, you just need a good excuse for a Tiki cocktail. And what better excuse than Walt Disney’s CinemaScope extravaganza 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Disc/Download)? With island names like Volcania, and talk of “grog”, this movie seems like a perfect match for drinks involving fire and rum. Let’s climb aboard the Nautilus and pour one out!
Starring James Mason as Captain Nemo, with Peter Lorre, Paul Lukas, and Kirk Douglas as the men tasked with investigating a mysterious “sea monster”, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is based on the Jules Verne novel about the adventures of a futuristic underwater ship in the 19th century. What makes this such a joy to watch is the sheer opulence of the production design, with pipe organs, circular viewing portals, and grand salons not often found below deck. Additionally, the cinematic practical effects make this a true fantasy experience. You can practically taste the saltwater coming off that giant attacking squid, or feel the warmth of a lush, blue, tropical isle thirty seconds before the natives attack.
Speaking of tropical, with location shooting taking place in the Bahamas and Jamaica, a rum-based drink is practically required. This one is a slight variation of the Sea Serpent’s Embrace, served at Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar in Disneyland. In a fun twist, I’m setting it on fire by using a hollowed-out lime filled with overproof rum. When watching 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, I recommend drinking this Volcania cocktail.
1 ½ oz Dark Rum
1 ½ oz Gold Rum
¾ oz Gin
¾ oz Brandy
¾ oz Falernum
½ oz Passionfruit Syrup
1 oz Lime Juice
1 oz Orange Juice
1 oz Pineapple Juice
16 oz Crushed Ice, divided
½ Hollowed-out lime
½ oz Overproof Rum
Combine all ingredients with a cup of ice in a shaker. Shake until chilled, then strain over a glass filled with a fresh cup of ice. Top with half a hollowed-out lime filled with overproof rum. Light it on fire.
If sexy, bearded James Mason in a tight knit turtleneck does it for you, then you’ll definitely want to give this film a watch. Even if you’re not into sci-fi, there’s enough adventure in this to make 20,000 Leagues worth your time. It is, indeed, a whale of a tale. Cheers!
If you follow me on social media, then you know I’m an orchid mom. That’s right, I enjoy caring for one of the most delicate plants in nature, all for the promise of a few blooms. I like to watch as they die and resurrect themselves, over and over, like a superhero franchise. They’ve been a joy, a distraction, and an inspiration as I revise and write and revise again, hoping maybe this time, the right words will magically fall into place. Thus I can say with absolute certainty, Adaptation (Disc/Download) is a perfect film for the orchid-obsessed, and for anybody who’s ever struggled to make a story “work”.
Loosely based on The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean, Adaptation is Charlie Kaufman’s wild meta tale of a screenwriter’s quest to turn this book into a movie. Nicolas Cage plays Charlie, and he also plays Charlie’s fictional twin brother Donald, who stumbles into screenwriting like a NaNoWriMo newbie. Charlie writes smart, character-driven stories, while Donald’s are mostly plot-driven, using the formula he learned in a ridiculous workshop. Where things get weird is when the script Charlie is writing (which we see in cuts to Meryl Streep as Susan Orlean and Chris Cooper as John Laroche, subject of The Orchid Thief) slowly morphs into a “Donald script”, going completely off the rails as Charlie loses all sense of his own voice, and what he was originally trying to say. It’s a strange, bizarre twist, showing the audience what happens when people follow the formulas: we get crappy movies that focus more on outlandish plots than character development. One wonders if Nicholas Cage has exclusively been picking “Donald movies” for the past decade, but that’s a discussion for another day.
Now, back to the orchids. I love watching John Laroche wax poetic about the beauty and struggle of his obsession, and Orlean’s look of wonder at all the rare varieties mirrors my own. While watching Adaptation, I recommend drinking a Flower Show cocktail.
1 Egg White
2 oz Gin
1/2 oz Crème de Violette
1/2 oz Cointreau
1 oz Fresh Lemon Juice
Fill a shaker with ice. Add all ingredients and shake until frothy. Strain into a cocktail glass.
One thing the movie never discusses (and I wish it did) is the rebirth of this plant. An orchid can appear completely dead, stripped of all its beautiful blooms, but with enough care and attention, it’ll start to grow again. There’s something comforting in this, knowing that even when all hope seems lost, the thing you loved might not be gone forever. Maybe, like a writer huddled over a keyboard, it can just be… temporarily blocked. Cheers!
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