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Author Archives: LizLocke

Notting Hill

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Julia Roberts & Hugh GrantNotting Hill

©Universal Studios

Image credit: Notting Hill, 1999

It’s been twenty years since Julia Roberts walked into Hugh Grant’s travel bookshop in Notting Hill (Disc/Download), but to me it feels like yesterday.  Everything seems to be right where I left it—the house with the blue door, the inedible guinea fowl, the “fruitarian”— and it’s all still as endearing as it once was.  Hugh may have lost the stutter and floppy hair IRL, but thankfully, William Thacker is immortal.

In this script written by the master of rom-coms Richard Curtis, average guy Will meets-cute with movie star Anna on the colorful streets of London’s Notting Hill.  He plays it cool while selling books, then gets adorably flummoxed after spilling orange juice on her.  Hugh Grant is the perfect blend of respectful and starstruck, with a dash of charm he just can’t turn off, and Julia Roberts is at her best, making us believe she really is just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.  She makes us understand that to her,  fame doesn’t matter, and if she had it her way, she’d get to hang out at quirky dinner parties with normal folks and act, without having to choose between the two.  Given her gradual real-life retreat from the big screen, I have to think maybe Julia took some lessons from Anna Scott.

My favorite way to spend an afternoon is watching Hugh Grant stutter his way through a love scene. Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and Sense and Sensibility are the trifecta of Grant awkwardness, and in Notting Hill, this results in the famous Apricot & Honey scene. Personally, I don’t need apricots soaked in honey, but I wouldn’t say no to some apricots soaked in brandy! While watching Notting Hill, I recommend drinking this Low Point cocktail.

Low Point

1 1/2 oz Apricot Brandy

3/4 oz Orange Juice

4 dashes Orange Bitters

Apricot Sparkling Water

Champagne

Dried apricot for garnish

Combine Apricot brandy, orange juice, and bitters in a shaker with ice.  Shake until chilled, then top with sparkling water.  Stir gently to combine, then strain into a coupe glass.  Top with champagne, and garnish with a dried apricot.

Low Point

You certainly don’t need a fizzy cocktail to enjoy this film, but it doesn’t hurt.  And if you spill some orange juice on your t-shirt, take a cue from Anna and put your couture on instead.  Notting Hill—I’ve missed you. I promise I won’t stay away so long next time.  Cheers!

Eat Pray Love

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eat pray love

Image credit: Eat Pray Love, 2010

I’ve written about several travel-centric movies this month, even gone to Spain and back.  And now it’s time to ask the question-  what does it all mean?  What’s the point of sitting in a cramped airline seat, fighting off jet lag, trying desperately to translate languages you only partly understand, and spending far too much money on shoes?  Why do we do this to ourselves?  To help me answer these questions, I’m watching the cinematic adaptation of a book that caused a generation of women to start saving up their frequent flier miles, Eat Pray Love (Disc/Download).

When I first saw this film almost ten years ago, I was underwhelmed.  It felt too long, too full of bumper sticker philosophy, too privileged. But now that I’ve grown up a bit, had some successes and setbacks of my own, I see it through a new lens.  What was once a story about an unsympathetic, deeply flawed woman traveling to Italy, India, and Bali to “find herself” (which in this case means eating carbs, wearing colorful scarves, and sweating beautifully) is now a permission slip.  It’s permission to chase happiness, to make mistakes, and to take care of yourself.  It’s permission to have that second glass of wine, to have the courage to extricate yourself from a relationship that’s gone south, and to do something wildly irresponsible (in my case, taking a trip to Menorca while I’m still paying off my new kitchen). If Elizabeth Gilbert’s book and this film have taught us anything, it’s that we only have this one life.  What we do with it is entirely up to us—a fact that’s equal parts scary, exciting, and empowering.  I may not have all the answers yet, but I believe balance might eventually be within grasp.

There’s a lot of beautiful scenery in this film, but I most connect with the scenes shot in Rome and Naples.  The pizza! The pasta!  The delightful small cars!  To celebrate this search for pleasure, I’ll be making a cocktail I found on my own travels, which uses my favorite summertime Italian aperitif. While watching Eat Pray Love, I recommend drinking an Aperol Sour.

Aperol Sour

2 oz Aperol

½ oz Gin

¾ oz lemon juice

½ oz simple syrup

1 egg white

Orange peel for garnish

Add Aperol, gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, and egg white to a cocktail shaker.  Do a dry shake to combine, then add ice.  Shake vigorously until chilled and frothy (about a minute).  Strain into a coupe glass, and garnish with an orange peel.

Aperol Sour

On my recent vacation, I spent a lot of time on the beach reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s other bestselling book, Big Magic.  In the way that Eat Pray Love encourages us to find balance in our lives, Big Magic encourages us to find the creative energy within and let it out into the world.  This may all be a lot of self-help mumbo jumbo, but I can’t deny that both of these books, and this film, have brought new energy into my writing.  And I give special thanks to Eat Pray Love for introducing me to my favorite mantra: Smile with your liver.  Cheers!

Call Me by Your Name

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call me by your name

Image credit: Call Me By Your Name, 2017.

I’ve already featured this week’s film Call Me by Your Name (Disc/Download) on my Top Five list for 2017, but now it’s time for an official cocktail pairing.  And let’s face it- I’ll use any excuse to sink into the eyes of Timothée Chalamet for a couple hours. Join me in remembering what it was like to be young, in love, and very very passionate about fruit.

Based on the gut-wrenchingly beautiful novel by André Aciman, Call Me by Your Name is set in a small Italian village in 1983. Archaeology grad student Oliver (Armie Hammer) travels to a professor’s villa in Italy to help with research for the summer.  There he meets the professor’s teenage son Elio, and the two share flirtatious glances across the breakfast table.  Tension builds and builds, until at long last they become lovers.  Everything about this movie is beautiful, from the romantic script by James Ivory, to the lush scenery of Italy, to the haunting Sufjan Stevens soundtrack, and it feels like a vacation that’s just too perfect to last.  Kind of like the love story of Elio and Oliver.

I’ll admit, the peach scene in this film left me pretty aghast and/or awestruck, but it also inspired me to make a tasty summertime cocktail.  While watching Call Me by Your Name, I recommend drinking a Peach Collins.

Peach Collins

1 ½ oz Deep Eddy Peach Vodka

1 oz lemon juice

½ oz simple syrup

Splash of club soda

Peach slice for garnish

Combine vodka, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a shaker with ice.  Shake until combined and chilled, then strain into a glass filled with ice.  Top with club soda, and stir gently to combine. Garnish with a peach slice.

peach collins

There’s been talk of a sequel to this film, which excites me to no end.  Having read the book, I can say there’s definitely more to Elio and Oliver’s story that’s deserving of screen time.  In the meantime, we can sit in front of the fireplace and sob, wishing things could be different.  Wishing more movies like this got made- movies that show us love, and all its many forms, in beautiful, sun-dappled light.  Cheers!

Stealing Beauty

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stealing beauty

Image credit: Stealing Beauty, 1996.

The votes are in, and it’s official: Stealing Beauty (Disc/Download) is the sexiest movie ever made.  Nobody is more shocked than I, that Bernardo “Pass the Butter” Bertolucci managed to make a film that speaks to the angst of being a woman rather than just a base exploitation of the female body.  As a director, he carries us on a journey of personal and sexual awakening, and believe me—it’s a trip you want to take.

Stealing Beauty features Liv Tyler as Lucy, a nineteen-year-old American vacationing at a Tuscan villa owned by family friends. She’s come to Italy to find her birth father and lose her virginity, though not necessarily in that order.  A testament to the folly of youth, Lucy thinks she wants her first time to be with predatory playboy Niccoló Donati, never realizing that his shy friend Osvaldo is the real catch.  Everyone staying at the villa seems to have an opinion on her love life, making Lucy alternately blush and/or run off into the scrub brush with no shoes.  Repeatedly. When the loss of her virginity finally happens, we’re so keyed up as viewers that it honestly does feel like a release.  The movie is alive with desire and wanting, placing us right there with her in the rolling, sun-warmed hills of Tuscany.

Because most of the villa’s inhabitants are English, and we all know how the Brits love their gin & tonics, I’ll be enjoying something that combines the flavors of Italy and England.  While watching Stealing Beauty, I recommend drinking this Tuscan G&T.

Tuscan G&T

2 ½ oz London dry gin

3 oz Italian dry red wine

½ oz simple syrup

Tonic Water

Orange and lime wheels for garnish

Combine gin, wine, and simple syrup in a shaker with ice.  Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass filled with ice.  Top with tonic water, and garnish with orange and lime.

tuscan g&t

Despite its visual and thematic sensuality, Stealing Beauty isn’t just about sex; it’s about poetry and art and death and above all, life. It’s about being shaken up, to see if you really know yourself inside and out.  And of course, it’s about finding joy, whether it’s tits out in a sculpture garden, or diving for sunken treasure in the pool. Cheers!

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

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vicky-cristina-barcelona

Image credit: Vicky Cristina Barcelona, 2008.

Yes, yes, I know, Woody Allen is cancelled.  But you know what isn’t cancelled?  My trip to Barcelona!  That’s right, Cinema Sips is headed to España this week, where I intend to drink all the cava in the city before flying off to a Menorcan cheese farm (because wine + cheese is YES).  To give all you readers a taste of my getaway, I’m featuring a movie steeped in Gaudí, glasses of Rioja, and strong female performances—Vicky Cristina Barcelona (Disc/Download).

Starring Scarlett Johanssen and Rebecca Hall, this film about two American students and their romantic entanglements with a Spanish artist (Javier Bardem) feels like a step back in time. It’s the sort of dialogue-heavy, sexually freewheeling, location-specific movie that would have gotten made in the early 1970s, before focus groups and big budgets sucked the life out of everything. Shot in Barcelona and the small city of Oviedo, the country of Spain is its own character within the story—costumed in sun-drenched days, mosaic-covered buildings, and red wine-stained tablecloths.   I love films where the setting is key, and truly I don’t think this story could happen anywhere else.  You need the passion and fiery history of this place to make sense of Penélope Cruz’s crazy ex-wife character Maria-Elena, who goes toe-to-toe with her real life husband Bardem in an Oscar-winning performance. It just wouldn’t have the same impact if the film was shot in, say, London.  The viewer needs Spain to understand that sometimes, women go a little crazy.  I blame the absurdly low price-point of wine.

Speaking of booze, I may have gone over my weekly quota at this point.  But when it’s cheaper than Diet Coke, AND I’m on vacation, what’s a girl to do? While watching Vicky Cristina Barcelona, I recommend drinking a glass (or three) of Red Wine Sangria.

Red Wine Sangria

2 bottles Rioja wine

1 cup brandy

1 cup orange juice

¼ cup sugar

2 oranges, sliced thin

2 lemons, sliced thin

2 limes, sliced thin

2 apples, cut into small chunks

2 cups club soda

Combine wine, brandy, orange juice, and sugar in a pot over heat until sugar dissolves.  Add the fruit, and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.  Once chilled, add the club soda.  Serve in glasses over ice.

Sangria

The thing about Vicky Cristina Barcelona is that none of the characters are likeable.  They’re all incredibly self-indulgent, make terrible choices, and betray one another left and right.  And yet, I really enjoy it.  Maybe I want to live vicariously, to imagine what it would be like to run off for the weekend with a sexy Spanish artist.  But when it comes down to it, I think I prefer running off for a whole lifetime with a sexy American artist.  Cheers!

Dazed and Confused

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Dazed and Confused

Image credit: Dazed and Confused, 1993.

It’s time to talk about a movie I’ve snoozed on for too long with this blog.  As any Austinite can attest, you really can’t go two feet without bumping into Dazed and Confused (Disc/Download) at the end of May.  Maybe part of my reluctance is that it’s more of a beer movie than a cocktail movie, but nevertheless, nothing says IT’S FINALLY SUMMER!!! like this wild ride through the last day of school, circa 1976.

Something director Richard Linklater excels at is showing us how one single, ordinary day can be life changing.  He did it with the Before movies, he did it in Slacker, and he does it so well with Dazed and Confused.  Following a group of students on the cusp of summer vacation, the movie feels intimate and big at the same time.  There are important philosophies up for debate (Ginger or Mary Ann), words like “Neo-McCarthyism” batted around, and deep discussions about George and Martha Washington’s colonial weed business. We’re observers to this moment in time when everything seems possible for these kids; to a night when social cliques and freshmen hazing are temporarily cast aside under the light of a moontower. This is American Graffiti for the 1970s, and like that masterpiece, made twenty years after the time period it depicts.  I guess we’re overdue for a version taking place in the ’90s.

As I’ve said, this is really a beer movie.  If you want to be authentic, head to your local convenience store and grab a sixer. Bonus points if it’s a Texas beer. While I watch Dazed and Confused, I’ll be working my way through a favorite local brew, Zilker Brewing Parks & Rec.  It really brings back memories of the Zilker Park moontower, grackles in the trees, and that distinctly Austin eau de Dillo Dirt.

Sixer

Although this is the movie that enabled drunk frat guys to quote Matthew “Alright alright alright” McConnahey until the end of time, it’s also a movie full of sweet, subtle moments like the exhilaration of a girl’s first kiss, or the excitement/terror of sitting in the backseat of a popular kid’s car, wondering how the hell you got there. It’s a film that encourages us to look around and give a hand to the people who might need a little help socially.  And (most importantly) it encourages us to just keep L-I-V-I-N. Cheers!

That Touch of Mink

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That Touch of Mink

Image credit: That Touch of Mink, 1962.

The world lost a shining light of female grace and gumption last week with the passing of Doris Day. Beloved by so many, it’s difficult to pinpoint what captivated us.  Was it her cheerful onscreen persona that could make even the worst day just a little bit better?  Or the way she portrayed working women as real people- driven to succeed but vulnerable enough to desire love?  Or perhaps it was her style- that perfect, not-a-hair-out-of-place style which made us understand how a woman could find pleasure and power in the art of beauty, just for herself.  For me, it was all of these things and more.  I’ve already covered one of my favorite movie characters Jan Morrow in Pillow Talk, but as we celebrate the life of Doris Day, I think it’s important to discuss another important role, Cathy Timberlake in That Touch of Mink (Disc/Download).

When I first saw this film twenty years ago, the only memory I took away was the Automat.  Such a quaint but brilliant concept- a vending machine for hot food!  Genius!  But watching it now, as an adult, and as a fan of the romance genre, I can say That Touch of Mink was ahead of its time.  Within the gorgeous Mad Men-esque world of the 1960s, we see Doris as an unemployed career-gal, meeting cute with Cary Grant over a Manhattan mud puddle.  You expect this film to progress a certain way (secretary falls for her charming, grumpy, billionaire boss, etc. etc.), but instead it ends up in a totally different place.  The rich tycoon doesn’t give her a job (at least not right away).  Rather, he offers her a trip around the world, a new wardrobe, and a lavish penthouse, all in exchange for… being with him.  Because it’s 1962, the sex is only implied, but we know what this arrangement entails.  We assume Doris will slap him in the face, but surprising everyone, she agrees! She jets off to Bermuda, wears his mink coat (in the tropics no less), and lets him parade her around in front of the other tycoons and party girls.  But this being Doris, she comes down with a rash and can’t actually go through with the act.  Cary, in his dopey Mr. Rogers cardigans, is pissed but gentlemanly about it.  She manages to snag him in the end by hatching a jealousy plot with John Astin, but already the damage is done.  The audience sees Doris as a Bad Girl.  A girl who essentially agrees to prostitute herself, who drinks a bottle of scotch, and invites the creepy guy at the Unemployment Office to join her in a weekend motel romp.  And the thing is, I’m still pretty smitten with this version of Doris.

One of my bucket-list items is to stay at Doris Day’s hotel in Carmel, CA, the Cypress Inn.  I’ve already perused their bar menu and picked out the drink I will have in Terry’s Bar (yeah, I’m that much of a planner).  It’s a champagne cocktail which pairs beautifully with this sophisticated, unusual film.  While watching That Touch of Mink, I recommend having a Day Drink.

Day Drink

Sparkling Rosé

Sugar Cube

Angostura Bitters

1/4 oz Peach Schnapps

1/2 oz Bourbon

Place sugar cube in the bottom of a champagne flute, and soak with a few dashes of bitters.  Top with Peach Schnapps and Bourbon, then Sparkling Rosé.

Day Drink.jpg

It’s incredibly striking to see the threads this movie shares with our modern counterpart, Fifty Shades of Grey.  Handsome, commitment-phobic billionaire seeks smart, pretty, innocent gal for exotic getaways, dress-up sessions, and sex?  Check, check, and check.  We’re missing the BDSM, but I don’t think I can picture Doris with a riding crop.  Unless we’re talking Calamity Jane, in which case she’s a natural.  So this week, let’s raise our glasses to Doris Day, patron saint of love, career, and family. Through her films, through her EPIC eye-rolls, I understand what it is to be a woman.  Cheers!