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Author Archives: LizLocke

To Die For

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To Die For

Image credit: To Die For, 1995.

This story is the type of salacious true-crime stuff I live for. Local weather girl hires her sixteen-year-old lover to kill her husband so she can pursue a career in television? It’s a dark, twisted soap opera, and I am HERE FOR IT. To Die For (Disc/Download) is a great example of a ‘90s indie film with a pedigreed cast, many of whom would go on to win multiple Oscars and accolades in the coming decades. But let’s be clear—it’s still a soap opera.

To Die For came back on my radar after the recent death of screenwriter Buck Henry. He wrote one of my all-time favorite scripts, The Graduate, but this later film is equally brilliant. It was a mockumentary before every TV sitcom adopted the format, and through these faux interviews we see a Hard Copy-style tale of a power-hungry woman who would stop at nothing to achieve her dreams. Is it weird that I feel a strong kinship with Nicole Kidman’s Suzanne Stone? I too am a fan of the alliterated name, and I’ve chosen a career that’s next to impossible to break into. I haven’t gone to the lengths of prostituting myself, but anyone who’s ever done a Twitter Pitch event for writers knows it’s not all that different. You feel pretty cheap and debased by the end. I wouldn’t murder for my art, but I would rock a Donna Karan knock-off suit and French twist at my next writer’s conference.

The thing that really sells me on this movie is the torrid affair Nicole Kidman has with the much younger Joaquin Phoenix. And we’re talking yooooooung Joaquin, with a mullet and sad little stutter. It’s an icky relationship for sure, but I can’t help but feel for this horny kid who just wants attention from a beautiful woman. And Nicole is stuck in a lame marriage to Matt Dillon—need I say more? While watching To Die For, I recommend drinking this Forbidden Fruit cocktail:

Forbidden Fruit

1 ½ oz Frankly® Apple/Ginger vodka

½ oz Hofland Meesterbitter liqueur

½ oz Lemon Juice

4 oz Ginger Beer

Apple garnish

Combine vodka, liqueur, and lemon juice in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into an ice-filled glass. Top with ginger beer, and stir gently to combine. Garnish with an apple slice.

Forbidden Fruit

Finally, I’d like to give props to adorable Pomeranian Walter (after Walter Cronkite), who is the unsung hero of To Die For. I genuinely feel his distaste for his mom’s actions, but also his narcissistic need to look cute in his little outfits. Out of anyone in this film, Walter is the only character deserving of a happy ending. Cheers!

Kate & Leopold

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Kate and Leopold

Image credit: Kate & Leopold, 2001

I’ve discussed how great hair can turn a movie into a hit (see Sliding Doors) but now it’s time to talk about when bad hair does the opposite. There is no obvious reason why Kate & Leopold (Disc/Download) shouldn’t be a major success. It’s got all the elements of a rom-com classic: charming Hugh Jackman, interesting time travel premise, sparkling script, Breakfast at Tiffany’s nod, and even the quintessential dinner-on-a-NYC-rooftop scene (with twinkle lights and a violin for god’s sake!). If I had to sum up its one failure, it would be this: Meg Ryan’s hair.

Rom-Com audiences know Meg as the adorable sweetheart Tom Hanks just can’t get enough of. She’s got curly, wavy, soft hair in all of her films. Until… Kate. Kate has flat-ironed hair styled at a gravity-defying angle, like a mop or one of those dogs that looks like a mop. There is no excuse for this hair. I maintain that if she’d had soft waves, this movie about a nineteenth-century duke who time travels to modern-day New York and falls for a brash ad exec, would have been a massive hit. Hugh Jackman is absolutely irresistible as the duke, and even Breckin Meyer turns in a fun performance as Kate’s brother. But when Meg walks in with that coif and an unflattering leather button-up vest, I just cringe. You can’t have chemistry with that situation.

One of my favorite scenes is when Leopold makes Kate breakfast in the morning, bringing her perfectly prepared toast (because he fixed the broken toaster himself!!!) covered in mascarpone and strawberries. And he does the dishes.

Swoon. Major Swoon.

While watching Kate & Leopold, toast this ultimate romance hero with a Strawberry Gimlet.

Strawberry Gimlet

2 oz Strawberry Vodka (I use Frankly®)

½ oz simple syrup

½ oz lime juice

Lime Twist/Fresh Strawberry for garnish

Combine vodka, simple syrup, and lime juice over ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with lime and strawberry.

Strawberry Gimlet

If you can get past the hair, this is an utterly charming romance. Hugh Jackman could have played this campy, but instead his duke is funny, intelligent, and principled. I guess sometimes you have to go back in time to find a hero deserving of a modern woman. Cheers!

John Wick

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John Wick

Image credit: John Wick, 2014

I did the unthinkable recently when I sat down to watch all three John Wick movies, back-to-back. Six hours of Keanu Reeves, guns, and dogs. Of course I was drunk for this. If you’ve been on the fence about watching this franchise, I’m here to tell you… it’s not that bad.

I resisted these movies for a long time because I didn’t think I could watch a constant stream of bullets flying, bodies falling down like dominoes, and the visual illustration that human lives are expendable. The thing that finally sold me was Keanu. He’s the epitome of Hollywood action star, with his brooding looks and expensive suits. The plots get wilder with each installment, but at their essence they’re all about revenge. Whether it’s John Wick getting revenge on the people who killed his dog and stole his beloved car, or other people getting revenge for the ones Wick has killed, nobody can let anything go. It’s all very black-and-white, which makes the bold cinematography even more impressive. These gunfights could have taken place in an empty parking lot and people still would have watched. But by setting them in a hall of mirrors, or a glass box full of other glass boxes, I want to watch.

As I’ve said, there is a very unfortunate doggie death setting the whole chain of events in motion. It’s brutal. But Keanu does a truly heroic thing at the end of the first film by adopting a shelter dog. Sure, he kind of abandons it in the next two films, but I suppose waiting in a taxi or hotel is preferable to waiting around in a cage at the pound. While watching John Wick, I recommend drinking this Rescue Dog cocktail.

Rescue Dog

1.5 oz Grapefruit Vodka (I like Frankly Organic Vodka)

.5 oz Aperol

.5 oz Lime Juice

3 dashes Grapefruit Bitters

2 oz Sparkling Wine

Combine Vodka, Aperol, and lime juice, and bitters in a shaker with ice.  Shake until chilled, then strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Top with sparkling wine and stir gently.

As far as I can tell, John is not a big drinker. But he does spend an awful lot of time in dark nightclubs, so the cocktail culture is definitely there. I encourage you to watch these with a drink (or several), and remember- adopt don’t shop. Cheers!

Top Five Films of 2019

With only a few hours left on the 2019 clock, I’m finally tackling the difficult job of making my annual best-of list. If you were a politically-disheartened person with a deep love of 1960s period pieces, you probably spent a lot of time at the multiplex in the last twelve months.  I know I did. As usual, when I make my selections, I pick the films I want to watch over and over, set in worlds I wish I could step into. Here they are, my Top Five Films of 2019 in ranking order:

1. Long Shot

Long Shot

Part political satire, part romantic comedy, Long Shot demands repeat viewing. The second the credits roll, I yearn to press play again. I want to watch a movie where a strong, fierce woman leads our country, champions the environment, and stands up to corrupt narcissistic men. I want to root for a heroine who’s vulnerable enough to let a kind, funny, unexpected hero crack through that tough exterior. I want to believe in a world where anything still seems possible. I want to believe we’re going to be okay.

 

2. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

This film combines three of my biggest pop-culture obsessions: 1960s Los Angeles, the Manson Murders, and a shirtless Brad Pitt. This is a love letter to a world that maybe never existed, or if it did, only existed in a drunken fantasy. California Dreamin’, indeed.

 

3. Parasite

Parasite

This film about class conflict nearly gave me a heart attack almost a dozen different times. I can tell you nothing else about it, other than you need to watch it. With a peach cocktail and a defibrillator.

 

4. Knives Out

Knives Out

I’m including Knives Out mostly for the stellar production design. If only I could live in this mansion full of dollhouses, books, weird ephemera, and secret passages. Yes, the whodunnit script is marvelous, and the cast is incredible, but let’s be clear- I’m here for the house.

 

5. Ford v Ferrari

Ford V Ferrari

Hot cars, hot men, and an impressive array of 1960s sunglasses. I’m sold.

 

*Honorable mention goes to the following films, all of which I also loved:

Jojo Rabbit / Dolemite is my Name / Echo in the Canyon / Joker /  Yesterday /  A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood / Marriage Story / Uncut Gems

Sliding Doors

Sliding Doors

Image credit: Sliding Doors, 1998

On the cusp of a new year and a new decade, it’s natural to think about the choices we’ve made over the last twelve months. Did we pick the right mate or perhaps dodge a bullet? Are we where we expected to be in our careers, or could we have done something a little bit different to change the trajectory? In the film Sliding Doors (Disc/Download), Gwyneth Paltrow gets to experience both sides of life’s coin to see what a difference one tiny twist of fate can make.

When we meet Anna, she’s a successful PR exec with a boyfriend and very few cares in the world. But when she gets fired for “borrowing” vodka from the company stash, she retreats to the London Underground to catch a train home.  Here’s where the film splits- in one narrative she catches the train, and in the other she doesn’t. If she catches it, she arrives home in time to find her boyfriend cheating on her, setting off a domino effect of smart, brave career choices, a new Scottish love interest, and a fetching short haircut. If she doesn’t, she’s stuck with the philandering boyfriend, multiple crappy waitress jobs, and a long brunette ‘do that does absolutely nothing for her skin tone. But just when it seems like life is just a game of random luck and misfortune, the filmmakers throw us a curve ball and Anna finds herself in exactly the same situation in both narratives. You can miss the train, but you can’t escape fate.

I applaud Sliding Doors for giving us a lot of great alcohol moments. Getting fired will drive anybody to drink, bad boyfriend or not. But my favorite scene is when Gwyneth plays detective with a brandy glass she finds in the laundry basket. Let’s ring in the new year with a festive brandy cocktail, perfect for celebrations and sorrow-drowning alike. While watching Sliding Doors, I recommend drinking a classic Between the Sheets.

Between the Sheets

1 oz Brandy

1 oz Light Rum

1 oz Cointreau

1/2 oz Lemon Juice

Lemon Twist

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

Between the Sheets

No matter what your opinion is on Ms. Goop, you have to admit that she gives us one of the greatest hair moments since Audrey chopped her locks off in Roman Holiday. When her stylist spins the chair around and we see blonde, bright-eyed Gwyneth with the short cut, you instantly know this girl is going to pick herself up from whatever dragged her down. I’ve had two haircuts like this in my life (one just six months ago), and I’m sure I’ll have more in the future. But for right now, on the eve of 2020, my hair is short, and my gaze is hopeful. Cheers!

Christmas Perfection

Christmas Perfection

Image credit: Christmas Perfection, 2018.

“Okay campers, rise and shine, and don’t forget your booties ’cause it’s COOOOLD out there today…” Wait, wrong movie. I got confused because Christmas Perfection (Download) is basically a Christmas-themed version of Groundhog Day. If it weren’t for all the charming accents, I’d start to wonder if this actually takes place in Punxsutawney instead of Ireland.

Christmas Perfection is a delightful surprise within a crowded holiday landscape of milquetoast heroes and low-stakes plots. Our hero Brandon has a scrawny, Ben Whishaw appeal, and it’s easy to picture him standing beside you in a real-life grocery store, looking for the herb goat cheese. Our heroine Darcy is the classic STRESSED AT THE HOLIDAYS-type; a perfectionist who can’t handle it when her holiday doesn’t align with the picture she had in her head. Through the powers of a magical miniature holiday village, she’s transported to a small town in Ireland, where every day is Christmas, and it’s the perfect Christmas she always dreamed of. Except, even perfection gets old after a while. A girl can only take so many gingerbread cookies, cute red-headed children, and Lego-haired Stepford boyfriends; eventually she needs something different. Enter Brandon, her lifelong friend who also transports to the Irish village and helps her see that perfection isn’t everything. I was skeptical about this hero at first, but the actors’ chemistry is off the charts, particularly in one steamy foot-rub/yule log scene. Things get worse before they get better, and there’s even a Groundhog Day-esque moment with the smashed alarm clock (alas, no Sonny & Cher), but eventually Darcy realizes the most perfect Christmas is an imperfect one.

If you’ve got a bottle of Bailey’s sitting around, here is your chance to use it. The thing I’ve noticed with these TV Christmas movies is that there’s usually romance, but never any sex. If you want an Orgasm, you’ll have to make it happen yourself with this cocktail.

Orgasm

1 ½ oz Bailey’s Irish Cream liqueur

1 ½ oz Amaretto

1 ½ oz Coffee Liqueur

Aztec Chocolate bitters

Combine Bailey’s, Amaretto, and Coffee Liqueur in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass with ice. Top with Aztec bitters.

Orgasm

I’ll admit, I saw a lot of myself in this heroine. I too like to play with miniatures, and go to painstaking efforts to decorate my dollhouse exactly the same way every year. I enjoy creating a world where everything is perfect, where not even a tiny Christmas card is out of place. Meanwhile, my real house is full of chaos and warmth; of memories and mistakes. And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Cheers!

2019 Holiday Gift Guide

Still searching for the perfect gift for a movie/cocktail-lover? Or maybe you just want to treat yourself? Check out my picks below, and get shopping.*  Cheers!

1) Diamond Drinking Glasses

Perfect for the next time you watch Uncut Gems, your favorite jewel heist movie, or Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.  Marilyn said it best: “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.”

2) Traveling Cocktail Case

This goes with me on every road trip because nothing beats a well-crafted cocktail after a long day in the car. I also break it out any time I watch Two For the Road!

3. Waiting for Tom Hanks

This delightful book by Kerry Winfrey is the perfect gift for fans of romantic comedies. If you can quote every line from You’ve Got Mail and have a thing for houseboats, you will love this novel too!

4. Echo in the Canyon Soundtrack

Echo in the Canyon was my top documentary of the year, and the soundtrack does not disappoint! Songs of the 1960s Laurel Canyon music scene sung by an amazing roster of current artists- you need this for your next party.

5. Moviejawn Subscription

MovieJawn

If you wish you had more Cinema Sips content in your life, then consider subscribing to this quarterly zine! In it, you’ll find bonus movie/cocktail pairings, wonderful articles on your favorite films from talented critics, and lots of fun goodies. It’s a very happy day when this arrives in the mailbox!

*Cinema Sips is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.