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Author Archives: LizLocke

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!

The Departed

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The Departed

Image credit: The Departed, 2006

Sometimes, a movie comes along that seems outside your typical genre comfort zone, but is so good you can’t help but love it. I’ve never been big on gangster pictures or cop dramas, however Martin Scorsese’s The Departed (Disc/Download) is in a class of its own. This film is the twisty-turny, double-crossing magnum opus that would finally win our beloved auteur an Oscar; it’s also just the kind of immersive thriller I need right now.

Loosely based on real-life Boston crime boss Whitey Bulger, The Departed stars Jack Nicholson as the depraved head honcho, Matt Damon as the mobster infiltrating the police force, and Leonardo DiCaprio as the police officer infiltrating the mob. The story is complex, yet told in a way that there’s never a question of who’s betraying whom. We know Damon’s character is a sleaze, just as we know Leo’s doing bad things for the right reasons. Nicholson pulls off one of the best performances of his career, giving us a smart, egotistical villain who erases all fond memories of Melvin Udall in my mind. And then there’s Mark Wahlburg, who disappears halfway through the film, only to re-emerge in a final shocking twist. It’s a cornucopia of New England accents and Celtic punk music that puts me right into the world of underground Boston crime, with nary a friendly Dunkin’ Donuts in sight.

Undercover cop Leo has to constantly prove his loyalty to the criminal world, never letting any of his associates sense his fear and anxiety. Someone makes fun of him for drinking cranberry juice? Beat the guy’s ass and move on. While watching The Departed, I recommend drinking this Cranberry-Beet Down.

Cranberry Beet-Down

2 oz Frankly® Pomegranate vodka

¾ oz Cointreau

¼ oz Beet Juice

¼ oz Cranberry Juice

½ oz Lime Juice

Fresh Cranberries

Blood orange slice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker over ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with cranberries and blood orange slice.

Cranberry Beet Down

When you think about the kind of career Martin Scorsese has had, and continues to have, it’s remarkable that his pictures only get richer and deeper as the years go on. The Irishman wasn’t my favorite, but I admire that he continues to challenge himself and his storytelling capabilities. If the last two decades brought us The Departed and Hugo, I can’t wait to see what he does in the Roaring ‘20s. Cheers!

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