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Author Archives: LizLocke

Walk the Line

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Walk the Line

Image credit: Walk the Line, 2005.

Ah… March. That special month when hordes of musicians descend upon my city of Austin and turn every square inch of space, from the sidewalk outside a grocery store to the floor of a tiny boutique, into a stage. This year, Cinema Sips is getting in on the action by highlighting some quintessential biopics, guaranteed to make you want to dance, drink, and never EVER date a musician. Kicking things off is the love story of Johnny and June, Walk the Line (Disc/Download).

One of my first SXSW shows happened, coincidentally, at a Johnny Cash-themed bar, the Mean Eyed Cat. I remember thinking at the time, wow—this guy must’ve been pretty amazing to have a whole bar dedicated to his music. After watching Walk the Line, I get it. While schmaltzy in the way that most biopics tend to be, you still leave the film with an awakening that Cash’s music was truly something special. Though he had his demons, he didn’t shy away from them—he put them into his music so that others could feel a little less alone. Joaquin Phoenix plays Cash with an effortless cool, doing such a good job on the vocals that I get chills. And Reese Witherspoon as June Carter!! Be still my heart. She’s saccharine sweet, but one tough cookie. The contrast between her bubbly on-stage persona and her real-life “ain’t got time for this crap” attitude is such a joy to watch. Plus, you know I love a good backcomb!

To celebrate Johnny and June’s fiery chemistry, I’ll be mixing up a cocktail that’s equal parts sweet and hot. While watching Walk the Line, I recommend drinking this Ring of Fire.

Ring of Fire

1 shot Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire

12 oz Hard Cider (I use Austin Eastciders Original)

Pour shot into a pint of cider, and enjoy!

Ring of Fire

If you enjoy Walk the Line and all its standard-issue music biopic beats, you’ll probably also get a kick out of its satirical cousin, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Honestly, I can’t watch one and not the other. It’s easy to make fun of the formulaic way that musicians’ stories are handled in cinema, but my heart truly bursts at the sight of Johnny and June finally turning their onstage chemistry into a real-life love for the ages. Bradley and Gaga—ARE YOU LISTENING??? Cheers!

Casablanca

Casablanca

Image credit: Casablanca, 1942

You Must Remember This…… No, this is not a cocktail tribute to Karina Longworth’s stellar podcast (though, that’s not a bad idea!). Rather, it’s a long-overdue post on one of the greatest romances in the history of cinema. I’m a sucker for tragic love and glamorous gin joints, so of course, Casablanca (Disc) is a perfect fit for Cinema Sips.

Starring Humphrey Bogart as a salty bar owner in 1940’s French-Morocco, Casablanca is a stirring testament to the power of cinematic storytelling during wartime.  The sets of this film remind me of an Epcot pavilion—almost too perfect to be real, but I would still move in tomorrow. To live above Rick’s Café, enjoying the piano stylings of Sam, watching expatriates wrangle visas to the United States while sipping on a cocktail or a glass of champagne—the image is so clear, I can even picture the satin dress I’d wear. Ingrid Bergman brings all the angst to this picture as the beautiful woman caught between her husband and former lover, both good men, and both hopelessly devoted to her. This is a love triangle for the ages, one that can only end in heartbreak for someone. Maybe their problems don’t amount to a “hill of beans” in their crazy world, but to me, there’s nothing insignificant about the ecstasy and agony of love.

There are so many wonderful cocktail moments in this film that it’s difficult to focus on just one. I love it when Rick’s floozy ex-girlfriend requests French ‘75’s Nora Charles-style (line ‘em up!), but Bogey also does some fairly admirable sulking over a bottle. The ambiance at Rick’s is so tantalizing, it almost makes you forget that half the patrons are Nazi’s. Let’s celebrate that bygone era of cocktails with a twist on an old favorite, the Moroccan ’75.

Moroccan ‘75

1 oz gin

½ oz lemon juice

½ oz Stirrings® Blood Orange syrup

½ oz Cointreau

2 oz Champagne

Combine gin, lemon juice, blood orange syrup, and Cointreau in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Top with Champagne.

Moroccan 75

When I think of Casablanca, I picture champagne bottles, coupe glasses, and beautiful people using evening gowns and tuxedos to disguise their desperation. This film is an example of how perfect cinema can be, when all the elements come together in just the right way. Here’s looking at you, Hollywood— you were great once, and I think you can be again.  Cheers!

California Suite

California Suite

Image credit: California Suite, 1978.

Well, I don’t know what to say about the Oscars this year except they’ve really mucked it up, haven’t they? From the host debacle, to the televised category back-and-forth, to the lack of female nominees, it’s enough to make even the most die-hard film fan skip the ceremony altogether. Me, I love a good train wreck.  But if you REALLY must skip,  I suggest watching California Suite (DVD/Download) instead. In this delightful gem of a film, Maggie Smith perfectly sums up the Academy Awards in one sentence: “I’ve been getting ready for this horseshit affair for THREE HOURS!!!!” I feel ya, Mags. All they have left are the dresses.

Adapted from a Neil Simon play, California Suite follows four couples who are all staying at the Beverly Hills Hotel. In these vignettes, we get to enjoy the following highlights: Maggie Smith, shit-faced after losing the Academy Award, arguing with her semi-closeted gay husband played by Michael Caine. Walter Matthau, waking up next to a hooker he has to hide from his wife. Jane Fonda and Alan Arkin, bickering over custody of their daughter. Richard Pryor and Bill Cosby, playing tennis, wrestling, and showing us why it’s a bad idea to travel with friends. Shot on location at the Beverly Hills Hotel, this film is a vintage textile lover’s dream. That banana leaf wallpaper— SWOOOOON! I know I’ll never be Maggie Smith, and I know I’ll never be up for an Academy Award, but I can sure as hell get drunk in the hall and fondle that wallpaper. One might even say it’s on my bucket list.

While Maggie prepares to lose the Oscar, her fabulous husband is busy pouring the gin. As he says, “three gins, one tonic”. Sounds like the perfect ratio. You could make one strong drink, or you could join me during the red carpet coverage in trying ALL THE GINS, and a little bit of tonic. Cheers!

Gins and Tonic

We love to hate on this year’s Academy Awards broadcast, but California Suite proves that people have been hating on this damn dog-and-pony show since the 1970’s.  Probably even before.  Whether you watch this movie to mock the absurdity along with Maggie Smith (who incidentally, did win an Oscar for her role in this), or watch it for the wonderful slice-of-life script, just watch it. Preferably with three gins of course ;-). Cheers!

Love Story

Love Story

Image credit: Love Story, 1970

We all know the classic line: Love means never having to say you’re sorry. But really… does it?? I may have only a decade of marriage under my belt, but I would’ve thought that love means defying your family to be with the person you want. Or working a crappy job to support the dreams of someone else. Or maybe love is holding your spouse in a hospital bed while they die from a mysterious illness that only makes them look more beautiful. Really, there’s a lot of love in Love Story (Disc/Download). It’s just not where the script wants it to be.

Oliver (Ryan O’Neal) and Jenny (Ali MacGraw) meet in college, trade barbs, then kisses, and eventually wedding rings. They struggle to make ends meet while he’s in law school, and just as things start looking up financially, Jenny gets sick. From what, we’re never told. All we know is she looks ah-mah-zing during mournful winter scenes in snowy New York, and especially on her death bed. We know from the very first line of this movie that Jenny’s not going to make it, and yet I spend 90 minutes thinking somehow, someone made a mistake. Maybe Ryan O’Neal is talking about a long-lost little sister, not the wisecracking wife who’s way too good for him.

For such a sad, serious movie set in a bitterly cold climate, all I can think about when I watch this film is an earthy, warming cocktail. Aptly named, this Widow’s Kiss will have you thinking about poor Oliver, cradling his wife for the last time. I’m not crying, you’re crying!!!!

Widow’s Kiss

1 ½ oz Calvados apple brandy

¾ oz Yellow Chartreuse

¾ oz Benedictine

2 dashes Angostura bitters

Luxardo Maraschino Cherry for garnish

Combine Calvados, Yellow Chartreuse, Benedictine, and bitters in a shaker filled with ice. Stir until chilled, then strain into a glass. Garnish with a cherry.

Widows Kiss

One of my great disappointments in life is that Ali MacGraw did not make more films. It’s through her performances in Love Story and Goodbye, Columbus that I learned how to dress with confidence, and how to stand up for myself in relationships. In Love Story, she’s brash, she swears, and she doesn’t take sh*t from anybody. But she also looks fabulous doing it, in wool peacoats, tights, and a scarf for every occasion. If clothes are a woman’s armor, she’s ready for anything, even the inevitabilities of love and death. Cheers!

The Days of Wine and Roses

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Days of Wine and Roses

Image credit: The Days of Wine and Roses, 1962.

I’ve spent a lot of time watching rom-coms and writing books with that all-important Happily Ever After, but this February, I’m planning a deep dive into the tragic romance genre. I want to celebrate those tear-jerker movies that leave you gutted, but nevertheless believing in the all-consuming power of love. This week, I’m subjecting myself to a serious punch to the face by watching The Days of Wine and Roses (Disc/Download).

I’ll be honest, when I hit play on this film, I was expecting something much different than what I got. I thought Blake Edwards + Henry Mancini + Jack Lemmon = a romantic comedy with great music and fabulous party scenes. Well, I got the music, parties, and romance, but there’s nothing funny about this movie about two alcoholics struggling to get sober. Like Reefer Madness before it, and Leaving Las Vegas decades after, this is a film that will make you want to give up all your vices and just stay home with a glass of water. It strays a little too far into propaganda-territory for Alcoholics Anonymous, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a powerful film about loving someone who can’t love themselves. Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick give powerhouse performances as a doomed husband and wife who fall on and off the wagon multiple times, and when each subsequent fall is from a greater height, you start to really ache for them. You hope that their love is enough to help them through this, but eventually, it becomes clear—it might not be.

When the film begins, Lee Remick is a teetotaler, until she meets the sweet, drunken charmer Jack Lemmon and his Brandy Alexander‘s. One sip, and it’s all downhill. You could certainly enjoy that cocktail with her, but this film is also a great excuse to use rosewater. Especially when Jack Lemmon is tearing through a greenhouse looking for the bottle he stashed in a plant. It’s so moving, you can almost smell the soil, roses, and bitter stench of cheap booze. While watching The Days of Wine and Roses, I recommend this Wilted Rose Martini. (But seriously- just one, dear reader.)

Wilted Rose Martini

2 ½ oz Lemon Vodka

½ oz Elderflower Liqueur

½ oz Lemon Juice

½ oz simple syrup

3 drops Rosewater

Lemon Twist

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

Wilted Rose Martini

I count my lucky stars that I’m able to have only one or two cocktails and call it a night. I know how slippery that slope is for many people, and this film gives me empathy for their struggle. The ending is ambiguous, and we don’t know if either of these people will ever stay clean. But I have hope that they do—I believe in love, and I believe that people can conquer their demons.  Maybe there’s a Happily Ever After still to come. Cheers!

That Funny Feeling

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That Funny Feeling

Image credit: That Funny Feeling, 1965.

If I had to describe my favorite film genre, I’d have to say, “anything with 1960’s cocktail dresses”.   Even before Mad Men came on the scene, I was already obsessed.  Blame Doris Day, blame Sandra Dee– so many wonderful actresses took me down that A-line chiffon rabbit hole.  This week, I’ll be watching one of my favorites in the “pretty dress” canon, That Funny Feeling (Disc/Download).

Starring Sandra Dee and her then-husband, crooner Bobby Darin, That Funny Feeling follows the familiar Pillow Talk formula that worked so well for Doris and Rock. Sandra’s character Joan is a maid/struggling actress, who meets cute with Bobby Darin’s lothario character Tom, never realizing that he owns the apartment she cleans every morning. His trip gets cancelled, right after Joan allows him to escort her home to “her place”, which is actually his place! He has to move in with a friend (Donald O’Connor, in a truly bizarre role), to maintain the charade, during which time she covers his leather sofa with chintz slipcovers and hawks his suits– I’m still not sure why. Maybe so we can enjoy the sight gag of Bobby Darin climbing down a New York City fire escape in nothing but a plaid parka?   Strange plot devices aside, this movie is full of beautiful cocktail dresses, gin, midcentury interior décor, vintage stereo equipment, and sassy best friends. That’s enough to sell me on even the worst movie.

Sandra Dee is a classy lady in this film, allowing Bobby Darin to buy her gin and quinine that she takes one lousy sip of. Until later, when she has (oh dear!) a FULL GLASS and gets hammered. You can certainly watch this movie with a gin and tonic (I like the quinine ratio in Jack Rudy Tonic Syrup), but I also want to highlight the scene where her roommate dumps a bunch of brandy and Cointreau on a roast duck and lights it up with her cigarette. God, I love the 60’s. While watching That Funny Feeling, I recommend drinking a Big Apple Sidecar.

Big Apple Sidecar

1 ½ oz Calvados Apple Brandy

1 oz Cointreau

1 oz spiced apple cider

1 oz lime juice

½ oz lemon juice

½ oz simple syrup

Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass.

big apple sidecar

I will admit, there’s a cringe-inducing part of this film where Sandra Dee pretends to have a Japanese accent. It’s bad. It’s very, very bad. However, the script does lament the pervasive white-washing of Hollywood, much to my surprise. That’s the thing about these Sandra Dee movies- they may look all fluffy and retro on the surface, but dig deep and you’ll find some thoroughly modern problems.  After all, sometimes even the best cocktails need a little sweet to balance the bitter. Cheers!

Leap of Faith

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Leap of Faith

Image Credit: Leap of Faith, 1992

I feel a healing coming on– of the cocktail variety!  Get ready for a 90’s blast from the past as Cinema Sips watches Leap of Faith (Download), that gospel-heavy movie where Steve Martin jogs in a belly shirt and cowboy hat, with zero irony. There is a God!

Faith is an important aspect of life for many people, but unfortunately, organized religion can also be a breeding ground for con artists and predators. Jonas Nightingale is of the con artist variety, a slick-tongued preacher promising prosperity to the downtrodden. He travels the Midwest with a bus load of accomplices, setting up a game of smoke and mirrors for people who have a lot of faith, but not much else.  Giving them a good show, he makes them believe in the power of the Lord, then lines his pockets with their hard-earned cash. One could say he’s not unlike certain politicians, feeding off the economic hardships of their constituents, but that’s an argument for another time. As Jonas, Steve Martin is charismatic, dark, and one hell of a showman. Liam Neeson’s well-meaning sheriff doesn’t stand a chance.

The reason these poor townspeople are ready and eager to believe in Nightingale’s “healing power” is the ongoing drought that threatens to ruin their corn crops. Living in Texas, I know the feeling of praying for rain (and I also know the feeling of praying for it to stop… ahem ATX water contamination 2018). Plus, corn is pretty important, if for no other reason than moonshine. While watching Leap of Faith, I recommend drinking a Sunday School Collins.

Sunday School Collins

1 oz lemon juice

½ oz simple syrup

1 ½ oz corn whiskey

4 oz club soda

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

sunday school

“Our Lady of Immaculate Queso” by Heartless Machine (heartless machine.com)

The real standout element in this film is the music. From the opening notes of Meat Loaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” to rousing gospel numbers, it’s no wonder it later received the Broadway treatment. Whether you’re a skeptic or a believer, this film will make you want to get up and dance. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll start to believe in the impossible.  Cheers!