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Category Archives: Classic Films

West Side Story

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West Side Story

Image credit: West Side Story, 1961

I have a very important question for all you Cinema Sips readers- are you Team Jet or Team Shark? Personally, I’m Team Jet, due to my not-so-secret crush on Russ Tamblyn. But no matter which side you’re on, I think we can all agree that West Side Story (DVD/Download) is one of the most delightfully jazzy discourses on immigration and gang warfare that cinema has to offer.

Based on the Broadway hit with music by Leonard Bernstein and choreography by Jerome Robbins, West Side Story is an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Instead of the Montagues and Capulets, it’s the Jets and the Sharks- Polish vs. Puerto Rican on the mean streets of New York. Jet Tony falls for Shark Maria, and we pretty much know these star-crossed lovers are doomed from the get-go. I adore the production design- one big Technicolor feast for the eyes. Even the songs are catchy, and this coming from someone who is emphatically Anti-Sondheim. Maybe it’s the beautiful Bernstein score that rescues his lyrics. This is one of those rare musicals that’s never going to seem dated, mainly because the story of Romeo and Juliet is so timeless. Plus, what girl hasn’t twirled around the bedroom singing “I Feel Pretty”? Just me? Really? Well okay then.

One of my favorite songs in the film is “America”, Rita Moreno’s snappy ode to her adopted home. However, her native territory of Puerto Rico is no slouch either. It’s got some great things going for it, such as the eggnog-esque cocktail Coquito. Sweet, boozy, flavorful- it’s the perfect pairing for this film. While watching West Side Story, I recommend drinking Coquito.

Coquito

2 cans coconut cream

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 can evaporated milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 cups rum

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon ground nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a blender, mixing well until frothy. Refrigerate overnight, then serve chilled over ice.

Coquito

I like to think that if every American could just watch this incredible film, there would be no talk of a wall or fights about Dreamers. Every immigrant, no matter how they got here or where they came from, deserves a chance at a better life. That’s America. Quick- how can we orchestrate a Turner Classic Movies takeover of Fox News?? Cheers!

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Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb)

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Dr Strangelove

Image credit: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, 1964.

If you’re like me, when the daily news becomes too depressing, and reality is just a little too real, you retreat into fiction. With this in mind, I recently re-watched the classic Kubrick film Dr. Strangelove (DVD/Download).  Despite the fact that the world may now be on the brink of actual nuclear war, and Russians are still being Russians, somehow Peter Sellers manages make me laugh about all of it.  Better than crying right?

This political satire about a lunatic rogue General setting off a chain reaction of nuclear warfare doesn’t sound like my normal cup of tea. But great writing is something I can always appreciate, and this script zings with double entendres, madcap conspiracy theories, and what I fear is frightfully accurate military defense strategy. The film hinges on the brilliant performances by Peter Sellers (in 3 impressive roles), Slim Pickens as the Texan bomb pilot, and George C. Scott as the bumbling military commander. The way Sellers transforms himself into characters is like nothing I’ve seen before or since his time in pictures (sorry Eddie Murphy). Also, keep an eye out for the scenes onboard the plane carrying the nuclear warhead- I spy some Wes Anderson-esque camera work, AND James Earl Jones.

In a toast to the German Dr. Strangelove, ex-Nazi and all around scary creep, I’ll be drinking a spirit I’ve shied away from for many years, Jägermeister. I’ve heard nothing but horror stories of hangovers and blackouts, but like Major King Kong, I’m gonna strap myself to that bomb and go for it. While watching Dr. Strangelove, I recommend drinking a Jägerbomb.

Jägerbomb

1 shot of Jägermeister

1 can of Red Bull energy drink

Pour can of Red Bull into a glass, and drop the Jagermeister into it. Drink quickly before the doomsday device ends us all!

Jagerbomb

The final scene of atomic bomb detonations set to the tune of Vera Lynn’s “We’ll Meet Again” is both funny and frightening. After spending the last 90 minutes giggling at Jack D. Ripper’s antics and his rants about precious bodily fluids, my eyes see the bombs, my ears hear the music, and I start to laugh at the irony. But then the screen goes dark, and a grim thought seeps in- maybe Kubrick was right, about all of it. Maybe we’ll meet the bomb again, some sunny day. All I have to say is: drink up while you can. Cheers!

Bell, Book and Candle

Bell Book and Candle

Image credit: Bell, Book and Candle, 1958

For all you Vertigo fans out there, consider this my Cinema Sips Christmas gift to you. Maybe you’ve longed for more of Kim Novak’s eyebrows. Or an aging, tan Jimmy Stewart. Or that weird hypnotic lighting. Bell, Book and Candle (DVD) covers all the bases. Plus, there are the added bonuses of a beatnik Jack Lemmon playing the bongo drums, and a very expressive Siamese cat. Happy Holidays to all!

Although the film starts on Dec. 24th and stars Mr. Christmas himself, Jimmy Stewart, It’s a Wonderful Life this is not. Kim Novak plays a witch who falls for a book publisher (Stewart), and she must decide whether to give in to love and become mortal, or keep her powers and lose him. The pair’s onscreen chemistry is every bit as sizzling as it was in Vertigo, and even though this is meant to be a romantic comedy, there’s something dark and powerful between these two actors. They’re sexy without even trying to be, and I am totally under their spell.

The movie takes a strange turn when Jimmy Stewart’s publishing house courts an expert on Mexican witchcraft. While it seems like an unnecessary plot element, I still love Ernie Kovacs in this role. (Let’s face it, I love Ernie Kovacs in any role). While watching Bell, Book and Candle, I recommend drinking a Mexican Séance.

Mexican Séance

1 ½ oz Patron XO Coffee Liqueur

1 ½ oz Chameleon Cold Brew Coffee- Mexican flavor

1 ½ oz Egg Nog

¾ oz Crème de Cacao

2-3 dashes chocolate bitters

Orange twist

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a twist of orange.

Mexican Spell

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the production design and costuming. Bell, Book and Candle is a perfect time capsule of 1960’s Greenwich Village style, from capri pants to mid-century modern furniture. Jimmy Stewart’s office, covered in floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and featuring a gorgeous vintage couch, is the stuff of book lovers’ dreams. Witchcraft never looked so appealing. Cheers!

Giant

Giant

Image credit: Giant, 1956

They say everything is bigger in Texas. Well, when it comes to cinema, perhaps they’re right. A prime example would be this week’s film Giant (DVD/Download). True Texans, and yes even Yankee transplants like me, can appreciate this epic film about land, greed, pride, and passion. With a run time of 3 hours and 20 minutes, there’s nothing small about Giant. With Thanksgiving looming, it’s the perfect time to settle in with a classic film about gluttony and family dysfunction.

Starring Rock Hudson as a west Texas rancher and Elizabeth Taylor as his Yankee bride, the timeline of Giant spans decades as it tells the story of the Reata ranch and its unhappy inhabitants. As a progressive northerner, Taylor is a fish out of water in the wild frontier of rural Texas. She loves her husband, and grows to love the barren open environment of her new home, but gets easily frustrated by the prejudice and intolerance she frequently witnesses. Her ally (a very HOT James Dean) saunters across the screen all brooding and beautiful, and together these two outcasts form an unlikely friendship. Their scenes together are simply magic, and one can truly sense the mutual respect that these two people shared in real life as well. Of course, Elizabeth Taylor’s chemistry with Rock Hudson is pretty incredible too, and the scene of Hudson gazing longingly at his estranged wife from across a crowded wedding, with love and adoration written all over his face, is one of the most romantic moments I’ve witnessed on the big screen. Seriously, all the feels.

With a movie about Texas cattle, dusty plains, and bit hats, one has to indulge in a little bourbon. OK, maybe a lot of bourbon. After all, you’ve got over 3 hours to sip- make it a double. While watching Giant, I recommend drinking a Reata Sweet Tea (bonus points for using Texas ingredients!).

Reata Sweet Tea

1 ½ oz Treaty Oak Red Handed Bourbon

1 oz Firefly Sweet Tea Bourbon

6 oz Texas Honey Cider

½ oz Lemon Juice

2 dashes Orange Bitters

Pour all ingredients over ice in a highball glass, stirring gently to combine.

Reata Sweet Tea

I’ve lived in Texas for more than a decade, but in many ways I can still identify with Elizabeth Taylor’s outsider character. I see a lot of injustices in my state, and tend to shake my fists pretty hard at our government, but I also have a deep appreciation for the land and the people I’ve met here. I’m proud to say I’m a Texan, despite not being a native one. You see, Texas is a state of mind, and yes- it is giant. Cheers y’all!

Belle de Jour

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belledejour

Image credit: Belle de Jour, 1967

It is one of my greatest sorrows that I missed being alive during the 1960’s. Sure it was a turbulent time in many ways, but the fashions- oh, the fashions. I’ve done my best to channel what I’ve seen on screen into my current wardrobe (thanks Boden!) but I despair that I’ll never have the style of Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour (DVD/Download). Everything, from her rain coat to her underwear, is perfection. Prostitution never looked so glamorous.

Directed by Luis Bunuel, Belle de Jour is a surprisingly modern film about sexual desire, marriage, and the secrets we keep locked away. Catherine Deneuve is stunning as Severine, the perfect French housewife who gives into her depraved yearnings by working at a brothel. Each day, before the clock strikes 5:00, she satisfies her baser fantasies with men of all types. Eventually she meets a gangster named Marcel, who has all the swagger of a young Mick Jaggar, and despite knowing her time with him is essentially make-believe, Severine finally comes alive. Her debasement is both elegant and sad, as though her perfect outward appearance is just an elaborate mask for the turmoil happening behind those impossibly pretty eyes.

It wouldn’t be a movie about prostitution without bottles of champagne, and Belle de Jour does not disappoint. Glamorous Madam Anais serves it up freely (though warm). Add some French liqueur, and you’ve got a cocktail with style.  While watching Belle de Jour, I recommend drinking a Boisson du Jour.

Boisson du Jour

4 oz French champagne

1 oz Cointreau

2 dashes grapefruit bitters

Orange twist

Combine ingredients in a coupe glass, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with an orange twist.

Time is a strong motif in Belle de Jour, even down to the title. Severine is the Daytime Beauty, only emerging while the sun is up. We hear the ticking clock at Madam Anais’, and we know that her time is slowly running out. When the clock strikes 5, she’ll take her impeccably tailored raincoat, pillbox hat, and cute buckled shoes and go home to a life that doesn’t quite fit. But then again, perhaps it was all a daydream. Cheers!

I Married a Witch

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I Married a Witch

Image credit: I Married a Witch, 1942

It’s October so you know what that means- scary movie time!! Except…. not so fast. While I understand that horror films are really entertaining to a lot of people, I’m just not one of those people. I prefer my supernatural/spooky with a side of comedy, maybe some romance. Therefore all month long I’ll be highlighting some wonderful witch movies that bring the laughs, charm, and plenty of love spells.

I first discovered this week’s film I Married a Witch (DVD/Download) while listening to my favorite podcast You Must Remember This. Karina Longworth’s Dead Blondes series included an episode on Veronica Lake, someone I’m ashamed to admit I’d never actually watched. Starting with this 1940’s gem about a witch who comes back to life to torment the ancestors of her Puritan oppressors was the perfect way to remedy that oversight. Veronica Lake is luminous and funny as the glamorous witch Jennifer, who makes the mistake of falling in love with her enemy Wallace Wooley. There’s a touch of Bewitched here, as Wooley grapples with his new wife’s powers, but in the end they realize that love is stronger than witchcraft.

Though Veronica Lake is the vessel for a witch’s soul, that soul also spends a good amount of time as a plume of smoke. Sometimes hanging out in liquor bottles, she and her dad plot their revenge on the Puritans mainly through voiceover. Maybe the smoke is supposed to give the viewers the chills- I’m not sure. But it did inspire this week’s cocktail. While watching I Married a Witch, I recommend drinking a Smoke & Mirrors.

Smoke & Mirrors

1.5 oz blanco tequila

1 oz Del Maguey Vida Mezcal

.5 oz ginger syrup

.5 oz lime juice

Shake all ingredients together over ice, then pour into a rocks glass with one large ice cube.

Smoke and Mirrors

This film may not be scary, but what it lacks in blood and gore it makes up for in supernatural spirit and beguiling magic. Who needs Freddie and Jason and all those other guys when you’ve got cocktails and Veronica Lake? Cheers!

Auntie Mame

auntie mame

Image credit: Auntie Mame, 1958

For those ladies out there lucky enough to be an aunt, have I got a movie for you. In this 1958 Technicolor dream starring Rosalind Russell, Auntie Mame (DVD/Download) is a shining example of how fabulous life can be when you’ve got cocktails, a man servant named Ito, and an impressionable young relative looking to you for example. Do I strive to be the Auntie Mame in my own nieces’ lives? Showing them that “life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death”? You betcha.

I immediately knew I would love this movie as soon as I saw Rosalind Russell float across an art deco set in a sequined pantsuit, cigarette holder in hand. Her apartment is everything I’ve ever wanted in life, and what makes it even better are all the eccentric artists and intellectuals coming over to visit.  When Mame is forced to take in her orphaned nephew Patrick, you’d think that would put the kibosh on her wacky, wonderful lifestyle, but instead she manages to bring him along for the ride. In no time at all, he’s mixing a perfect martini and posits the question only the best bartenders know to ask- dry or extra dry?

When it comes to cocktail pairings, there is literally SO MUCH ALCOHOL in this movie. Faced with the impossible task of picking just one thing to drink, I decided to take a page from Mame’s book and step right up to the banquet. Therefore, if you’re watching Auntie Mame, you could drink Champagne, you could drink Spiced Rum and Dr. Pepper like poor Agnes Gooch, or one of Mame’s Martini‘s (recipe below). But for heavens sake, stay away from the honey-sweetened Upson Downs Daiquiri.

Mame’s Martini

3 oz Gin

1 oz Vodka

Dash Cocchi Americano

Lemon twist

Stir gin, vodka and Cocchi Americano over ice until chilled, then strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist. (note: never use olives- it takes up too much room in the glass!)

Martini

As I cruise through the age of “so when are you going to have kids?”, I’m happy to throw up my Aunt status as proof that while I don’t want kids of my own, I don’t hate kids. My nieces are great! They’re fun, they play Barbies, they like purses, and at the end of the night their parents do all the heavy lifting. And when they get a little older, I’ll be waiting right there to show them how to navigate a bar cart and wear costume jewelry with confidence. Cheers!