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Category Archives: Classic Films

To Catch a Thief

To Catch a Thief

Image credit: To Catch a Thief, 1955

I’ve taken a lot of cinema travels this summer, so it’s fitting that I end the season with one last trip to the French Riviera. Alfred Hitchcock’s classic To Catch a Thief (Disc/Download) will make you feel like you’re sipping champagne at the Carlton Hotel in Cannes, before meeting your lover for a sexy rendezvous. This week, say bonjour to style, suspense, and sun-drenched 1950s beaches.

This is one of those movies I could watch with the sound off and still feel like I got my money’s worth. To see Grace Kelly slink across the screen in her gorgeous Edith Head costumes is such a treat, but then Hitch had to go and add the Mediterranean Sea. And champagne. And Cary Grant in a lovely French farmhouse. Is he TRYING to make me swoon? If you like the Ocean’s Eleven trilogy, you’ll really enjoy this plot involving a retired cat burglar trying to clear his name after a string of “copycat” jewel thefts. Cary latches on to Grace Kelly’s jet set heiress, using her to draw the real thief out. But somewhere between sunbathing, picnicking, and enjoying the fireworks from a luxury hotel room, she falls for him. Can Cary catch the thief? Can Grace catch Cary? Can the world stop catching coronavirus so I can go to the French Riviera for real???

As previously mentioned, this is a champagne-heavy movie. For my cocktail pairing this week, I’m adapting the classic French Riviera cocktail into something a little more bubbly, and a little more American, in a nod to Grace Kelly’s roots. While watching To Catch a Thief, I recommend drinking this Copycat cocktail.

Copycat

1 ½ oz Bourbon

½ oz Rum

1 tsp Apricot Jam

½ oz Lemon Juice

1 oz Honey Syrup (2 to 1 ratio, honey to water, boiled then cooled)

3 oz Champagne

Combine Bourbon, rum, apricot jam, lemon juice, and honey syrup in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass filled with fresh ice. Top with champagne, and stir gently.

Copycat

This spritz cocktail is perfect for lounging near the beach or pool in your couture, as I know we’re all doing during quarantine. Maybe just me? No matter your plans this Labor Day, I hope you get to take a day off, and I hope that day off involves a fabulous movie or two. Cheers!

The Bad News Bears

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Bad News Bears

Image credit: The Bad News Bears, 1976

I have absolutely no idea what’s happening in the world of professional sports right now, but I’m guessing things are not normal. If you’re missing your peanuts and CrackerJack, and starting to wonder if you’ll ever get back, then allow Cinema Sips to tide you over with a classic baseball flick, The Bad News Bears (Disc/Download). Featuring an alcoholic coach, a feminist pitcher, and a ton of salty language, this 1976 ode to Little League and Southern California will have you experiencing all the flavors of summer.

In this perfect time capsule of a movie, Walter Matthau plays Buttermaker, a retired Minor League pitcher and current pool cleaner of the San Fernando Valley. He accepts a gig coaching a team of all the kids who weren’t good enough to play on the existing Little League teams, thinking it’ll be an easy day in the dugout with a cooler full of beer. As the misfits and all their schoolyard problems start to get under his skin, he realizes he has an opportunity to give these kids a badly needed confidence boost. He recruits the talented Amanda (Tatum O’Neal) for her golden arm, motorcycle-riding delinquent Kelly Leak (Jackie Earle Haley) for his stellar batting average, and brainy Ogilvie (Alfred Lutter) to help him Moneyball the heck out of this league. Buttermaker’s strategy works, and eventually the Bears start winning games. The script is genius, but it’s the realistic performances that make me come back to this film year after year. I feel like I get to journey back to an era where people went inside a Pizza Hut to have dinner without irony, and a towheaded kid named Lupus could mix you the perfect martini.

Speaking of alcohol, it’s kind of amazing that Coach Buttermaker could hand out brewskies to a group of eleven-year-olds after the game and it wasn’t all over social media the next morning. I’m sure he still got to keep his job, and I bet those kids didn’t even care that they lost. While watching The Bad News Bears, join in the fun with this Honey-Bear Shandy.

Honey-Bear Shandy

1 oz Vodka

1 oz Orange Juice

½ oz Lemon Juice

½ oz Honey Syrup (2 parts Honey to 1 part Water, boiled and cooled)

5 oz Hefeweizen Beer

Orange Slice for garnish

Combine vodka, honey syrup, orange juice, and lemon juice in a shaker filled with ice. Shake well until chilled, then strain into a glass filled with crushed ice. Add beer, stirring to combine. Garnish with an orange slice.

Honeybear Shandy

If you’ve ever known what it is to get picked last in gym class, if you’ve ever been underestimated because you’re a girl, or if you’ve ever felt like you’ll never live up to the expectations someone has for you, then you’ll probably relate to this film. I always say, I love baseball movies not because of the sport, but because of the sportsmanship. This year may be full of bad news, but we’ll always have the Bears. Cheers!

Summertime

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Summertime

Image credit: Summertime, 1955

It’s official- the summer doldrums are here. Every July, I become a thoroughly unpleasant person to be around as I slog through a Groundhog Day existence of air conditioning and double showers. But this year, I made the wise choice to take a short jaunt to Venice with Katharine Hepburn in the lush 1950s drama Summertime (Disc/Download). And cookie, I’m glad I did.

When this film begins, Hepburn’s character Jane is excited about her trip to Venice. She’s saved up for it, made all the arrangements, and idealized the Italian city in her mind. She knows it’s a place for romance, but she doesn’t even dare hope for that. She’s been single a long time, and well…it’s enough just to see the beautiful canals. That’s what she tells herself, anyway. But then she actually arrives and discovers that Venice is THE WORST place to go if you’re single. I should know—I went there alone in 2002 and it was the loneliest trip of my life. Thankfully, she meets a charming antiques dealer, who may or may not be trustworthy, but still manages to pull her out of her shell and turn this trip from depressing to romantic. It’s here that Hepburn makes you feel what it is to fall for someone. To hope, but not let yourself hope too much, then to take that first tentative step before rushing in with open arms and saying “I love you” on the first date. She may get her heart broken, but oh, that first, initial joy is worth it. To truly live, is worth it.

Aside from my admiration for this character’s wardrobe (an enviable mix of shirt dresses and plucky hair bows), I also love that Jane travels with her own bourbon. You just can’t count on a foreign country to have all the comforts of home. Lucky for Jane, her pensione has all the ingredients on hand to turn that bourbon into a classic Boulevardier.

Boulevardier

1.5 oz Bourbon

1 oz Campari

1 oz Cinzano Sweet Red Vermouth

Orange Twist and Cherry garnish

Combine first three ingredients in a shaker with ice. Stir until chilled and combined, then strain into a glass filled with a large ice cube. Garnish with a twist of orange and Luxardo cherry.

Boulevardier

Cousin to the more popular Negroni, I actually prefer a Boulevardier if I’m going to commit to a heavier, alcohol-forward cocktail. And really, that’s what this movie needs. Something a little bitter, a little sweet, and very strong, just like Jane’s heart. Cheers!

American Graffiti

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American Graffiti

Image credit: American Graffiti, 1973.

If we’re to see anything positive come out of the Coronavirus pandemic, please let it be the return of attractive automobiles. For someone like me, who spends most of her time watching films of the 1950s and ‘60s, it can be a huge letdown to leave the house and see nothing but ugly, insect-like vehicles on the road. Give me fins, bench seats, and rounded, impractical bodies. Give me the sort of adorable European car Audrey Hepburn would drive. Give me the pastel beasts of this week’s Cinema Sips pick, American Graffiti (Disc/Download).

As I explained in a recent Moviejawn article about drive-ins and dating during the time of COVID-19, our cars will be the solution to loneliness. Truly, with only half the U.S. population wearing a mask (on a good day), the only safe place we have outside the house is inside an automobile. One thing that struck me about American Graffiti, George Lucas’s ode to cruisin’ in the 1960s, was that these teens could flirt and have entire relationships without ever leaving their vehicles. Taking place over the span of one night, four teen boys come-of-age to the sounds of Wolfman Jack and the revving of engines. Relationships are broken and mended, futures are decided, and Harrison Ford finally gets his chance to shine under a cowboy hat and devastating smile. But the thing is, this movie only works with gorgeous classic cars. Copping a feel from the front seat of a Toyota Corolla? Yeah right. Luring a girl into your Mercedes sedan for a night of innocent fun? Heated seats or not, I’m still unimpressed.

Completing the film’s early 1960s tableau is the soda shop as gathering place. There are roller-skating waitresses, doo-wop records on the jukebox, and car-loads of teens ordering fried foods. Let’s get this party rolling with a boozy cocktail that goes down smooth. While watching American Graffiti, I recommend drinking this High-Octane Cherry Coke.

High-Octane Cherry Coke

1 oz Bourbon

½ oz Cherry Heering

¼ oz Amaretto

8 oz Coca-Cola

Luxardo cherry (for garnish)

Build drink over ice, stirring to combine. Garnish with a Luxardo cherry.

High Octane Cherry Coke

It’s heartbreaking to me that George Lucas never made another small film like American Graffiti, preferring instead to devote much of his career to blockbuster special effects extravaganzas. To each their own, but this beautiful work of art is proof that there’s an incredible storyteller under all those light-sabers and Ewok costumes. This movie isn’t just about cars, but about human relationships and the way we can’t help but call out to each other, from behind our moving temples of glass and steel. And if any auto manufacturers happen to stumble across this little blog post, let me take the opportunity to plead my case for a retro-styled hybrid white T-bird. I’m in the market for a new car, and I hear blondes look bitchin’ in them. Cheers!

 

Dangerous When Wet

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Dangerous When Wet

Image credit: Dangerous When Wet, 1953.

I have a confession to make: I’ve been cheating on Doris Day with Esther Williams. I never thought I would find an actress as charming, classy, and strong as Doris, but then Esther swam into my life. I loved her in Million Dollar Mermaid, but thought the film as a whole could have used more cocktails. THEN, I caught this week’s flick Dangerous When Wet (Disc/Download), which features roughly the same plot as her most iconic role, with the essential additions of alcohol and Fernando Lamas. Dear reader, I’m in cinema heaven.

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to dive into (pun intended) the Esther Williams filmography. After all, I am long-obsessed with swimming pools, and I happen to own an Esther Williams-brand bathing suit. I admired her as an innovator and symbol of athletic grace long before I saw any of her movies, but now that I’ve watched a few, I can’t get enough. In Dangerous When Wet, Esther plays a wholesome farmer’s daughter from Arkansas who gets hired by phony vitamin company Liquipep to swim the English Channel with her entire family. While across the pond, she meets cute with a French champagne maker (I know, I KNOW!!) who shows her there’s more to life than swimming. Fernando Lamas is decidedly dreamy as her romantic lead, and let’s just say there is a very risqué scene set in a bathhouse changing room that has some major Pillow Talk vibes. The two lovers follow it up with a moonlight swim in his family’s pool, synchronizing their movements in the water. Busby Berkeley really was not needed in this picture, with so much chemistry heating up the screen.

Romance aside, what I enjoy most about Esther Williams films is their interpretation of what it means to be a women. Esther is allowed to be vulnerable in regards to her personal relationships, but also brave enough to take on incredible physical challenges. She’s graceful in her underwater sequences, and strong while proving her endurance in long-distance swimming. She can do back-flips with Tom & Jerry and swim twenty miles across the English Channel, all while nursing a wicked Liquipep hangover. While watching Dangerous When Wet, toast Esther and the other fierce women in your life with this English Channel cocktail.

English Channel

2 oz Earl Grey Tea, cooled

¾ oz Galliano

¾ oz Cointreau

Dried Bergamot (or lemon) slice

Brew tea and allow to cool. Combine with Galliano and Cointreau in a shaker with ice, and shake until chilled. Strain into a coupe glass, and garnish with Bergamot or lemon.

English Channel

There’s a moment toward the end of the movie when Esther’s French lover jumps into the Channel to help coach her across the finish line. I literally rubbed my arms with glee when this happened, not because Fernando Lamas stripped down to his boxer briefs (though, that didn’t hurt), but because he didn’t try to stop her from continuing. He knew she could make it all the way; she just needed a cheerleader. And now, in the year 2020, she’s got another one in me. Cheers!

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

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The Ghost and Mrs Muir

Image credit: The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, 1947.

There has never been a more requested movie in the history of Cinema Sips than this week’s pick, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (Disc/Download). After finally watching it for the first time (I know, I KNOW- I shouldn’t have waited this long), I finally understand why. This movie is literally the Venn Diagram of all my interests: Romance, Real Estate, and Rocky Beaches. Hell, let’s throw in another loop for Rex Harrison!

Starring the absurdly beautiful Gene Tierney, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir begins like any good episode of House Hunters. We see why this single mom is leaving her current home, followed by the meeting with the realtor where she talks about her budget and needs. They get in a motorized buggy, and drive up to see Gull Cottage in person. Mrs. Muir falls instantly in love with the open concept, the views, and the fact that it’s move-in-ready. The only catch? It’s haunted! But we’re not talking about just any ghost.  No, we’re talking about a sexy bearded sea captain ghost who wears black turtlenecks and gaudy belt buckles (a look he wears very well). Add to that a saucy maid and oodles of time to type up a novel, and let’s just be honest: this is my dream home.

Captain Gregg has enough stories from his seafaring days to generate a best-selling book, and although it’s not explicitly stated, I have to think most of those stories were fueled by alcohol. Let’s have this strong cocktail to celebrate the tales of sexy seamen everywhere, the Sea Captain’s Special.

Sea Captain’s Special

1 Sugar Cube

3 Dashes Angostura Bitters

2 1/2 oz Bourbon

1/4 oz Absinthe

3 oz Champagne

Club Soda

Lemon Twist (optional)

Place sugar cube in a glass, and soak with a few dashes of bitters and small amount of club soda. Muddle the sugar, rotating the glass so that the mixture lines the inside. Add a large ice cube, then pour in Bourbon. Top with Champagne, and Absinthe. Garnish with a twist of lemon (optional).

Sea Captain's Special

I really think HGTV needs to take a look at The Ghost and Mrs. Muir. I can see it now- a whole season of “Haunted House Hunters”, for people who want a little supernatural spookiness with their soaking tubs. Until then, let’s just watch this classic over and over, dreaming of romance and turtlenecks by-the-sea.  Cheers!

 

 

 

 

 

Sullivan’s Travels

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Sullivan's Travels

Image credit: Sullivan’s Travels, 1941.

I’m often struck by the way history continuously repeats itself. I wonder—do people not already know how this ends? You don’t even need to read a textbook; classic films  provide proof we’ve been through this before. Rampant unemployment, innocent lives lost, oppression of the poor and non-white communities—it’s all there, in this week’s masterpiece of a film, Sullivan’s Travels (Disc/Download). Maybe director Preston Sturges didn’t know how to fix the world’s problems, but he understood that laughter is sometimes the only medicine we’ve got.

Fictional Hollywood director John L. Sullivan is tired of being the Adam Sandler of the 1940s. He’s sick of making brain-dead comedies that fail to address the world’s problems. So he decides to adapt a Serious Novel called O Brother, Where Art Thou (before you ask, yes the beloved Coen Brothers film is a reference to this novel-within-a-movie). But before starting production, Sullivan decides to travel across the country incognito in order to witness and understand the lives of real, ordinary people. He ditches tuxedos in favor of hobo chic, meets Veronica Lake’s character, and together they go off to look for America. However, before their journey concludes, Sullivan gets hit on the head and accidentally assaults a cop. He doesn’t remember that he’s actually a wealthy man of privilege, so he never gets a proper defense in court. After being sentenced to a chain gang, he finally remembers who he is and has to prove his innocence. It’s during a chain gang movie night where he finally realizes the only thing bringing these guys joy is a silly Disney cartoon. It’s their one opportunity to smile and feel human. That’s true of most of America, he realizes. When it comes to entertainment, people don’t want to be told what their problems are; they want to laugh and forget, if only for a little while.

It says a lot about Veronica Lake that even when dressed up like a hobo, she still manages to be one of the sexiest actresses I’ve ever seen. She and Joel McCrea have amazing chemistry, whether they’re sitting beside his swimming pool, or riding the rails of a boxcar. Let’s toast them with this Tramp cocktail!

Tramp

1 oz Sloe Gin

1 oz Peach Liqueur

1 oz Lime Juice

3 oz Cava

Lime twist/dried lime for garnish

Combine sloe gin, peach liqueur, and lime juice in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a Collins glass filled with crushed ice. Top with Cava and lime garnish.

Tramp

In a weird twist of fate, I actually watched Sullivan’s Travels right after sitting through an old Adam Sandler rom-com. As expected, the Happy Madison flick was a little dumb, but I enjoyed the tropical setting and his schlubby earnestness. It felt good to laugh, at a time when everything in the news made me want to cry. However, it also made me understand how rare it is when a movie causes you smile and think and learn something about the world, which is why Sullivan’s Travels is so special, even today. So give yourself permission to laugh and enjoy a cocktail right now—we all need it. Cheers!

Key Largo

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Key Largo

Image credit: Key Largo, 1948

Consider this my pick for a classic lockdown screening. Whether it’s a virus or a natural disaster that has you stuck inside your home, you can watch Key Largo (Disc/Download) and feel a little bit better about your current situation. One, if you’re reading this, then you probably have easy access to alcohol. Two, you’re most likely not trapped inside the house with a murderous band of gangsters. And three, air conditioning is now standard in a way it wasn’t in the ‘40s. Score one for the present day.

I’ll admit, it was a catchy yacht rock song that drove me to watch this film. Bertie Higgins’ ‘Key Largo’ always puts me in the mood for frozen drinks and a captain’s hat. Havin’ it all, like Bogie and Bacall sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? Well, after watching this film, I’m going to label the song false advertising. 1940s Key Largo does not look like a place I want to sail away to. Humphrey Bogart spends most of his time under a fresh slick of forehead sweat, as he tries to be the smart, capable hero in a hotel held hostage. Lauren Bacall is there to make heart eyes at him, which is sweet, but ultimately unhelpful. Truly, it’s only the drunken gangster’s moll (Academy Award-winner Claire Trevor) who shows any real gumption. Somebody get this lady another drink please!

Speaking of drinks, the Hotel Largo has a pretty paltry cocktail list. We’re talking scotch and… scotch. Just watching them drink it WITH NO ICE makes me hot. Let’s cool off with this Key Lime Colada.

Key Lime Colada

2 cups ice

2 ½ oz dark spiced rum

1 ½ oz Key Lime Juice (From 3 key limes)

1 ½ oz Pineapple Juice

3 oz Cream of Coconut

Combine all ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth. Pour into a hurricane glass, and garnish with a slice of fresh lime.

Key Lime Colada

Tropical film noir is a new genre for me, and I really thought I’d miss seeing the gorgeous colors of the Florida Keys. But as the movie progressed, I started to enjoy the shadows of the palmetto leaves on the curtains, the black, menacing ocean, and the reflection of light on the bar glasses. Lockdown never looked so sexy. Cheers!

 

Victor/Victoria

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Victor Victoria

Image credit: Victor/Victoria, 1982.

From Breakfast at Tiffany’s, to The Party, to the Pink Panther films, I am devoted to the comic genius of Blake Edwards. The man does party scenes like nobody else, giving us a blend of style and cheekiness that all but defines 1960s cinema. Victor/Victoria (Disc/Download) may fit squarely in the 1980s (blame Robert Preston’s hair), but I still put it alongside those other classic ‘60s gems. It’s got flair, whit, and above all, it pushes boundaries.

Starring Edwards’ wife Julie Andrews as a hungry soprano masquerading as a female impersonator in 1930s Paris, this film broke a lot of social barriers. Mary Poppins playing a woman, playing a man, who’s playing a woman is something I never thought I’d see, but this role was unexpectedly perfect for Andrews. She struts about the nightclub stage with confidence, making her audience forget about pedestrian concepts like gender and sexuality. Svengali/Manager Toddy (a role originally intended for Peter Sellers before his sudden death) provides witty banter and one-liners for days, their friendship serving as the true heart of the movie. Sure, we’re meant to root for love interest James Garner, the Chicago mobster who can’t figure out why he’s in love with a man (until realizing “he’s” a “she”), but by the end I don’t even care if James and Julie run off into the Pre-World War II sunset. I just want her to drink champagne in bed with Toddy forever.

Speaking of champagne, these characters drink a lot of it. There’s even one impressive number done by an acrobat balancing on a champagne bottle (CLASSIC Edwards physical comedy). Let’s join these liberal, sophisticated Parisians by drinking a Shady Dame.

Shady Dame

4 oz champagne

½ oz Lillet Blanc

½ oz Cointreau

½ oz Lemon Juice

Lemon Twist

Combine Lillet, Cointreau, and Lemon Juice in a shaker over ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Top with champagne, and a twist of lemon.

Shady Lady

In a lot of ways, this film is a snapshot of “before” (before WWII, before the Nazi occupation of Paris), and yet, also a preview of “after”. After we learn to give up our arbitrary rules regarding gender and sexuality and just let people be who they are. After we say it’s okay for anybody, male, female, or non-binary, to wear flamenco dresses, drink champagne, and laugh. Cheers!

Jules and Jim

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Jules and Jim

Image credit: Jules and Jim, 1962.

Leave it to the French to shock me. Here I was, thinking of polyamory as a concept not fully embraced until the swingin’ ‘70s, but as Jules and Jim (Disc/Download) would suggest, throuples have been around long before Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice; long before that “groundbreaking” episode of House Hunters. Apparently, Paris was a hotbed of free love, even before the Great War.

Directed by Francois Truffaut, Jules and Jim is really about Jules and Jim and Catherine—the free-spirited girl at the center of this complicated love triangle. When we meet them, Jules and Jim are carefree writers who share good times and the occasional woman. But Catherine is something different. Jules stakes a claim early on, even though we can see there’s a strong attraction from Jim as well. She flirts, Jim pines, then Jules marries her and everyone goes off to war. Jules fights on the Austrian side, Jim for the French, and both are afraid of inadvertently killing their best friend on the battlefield. Coming home, Jules settles into an unhappy marriage with Catherine, though both realize something is missing. Eventually, Jim steps in to help right the balance. Despite turbulent times ahead, for a short while in the Black Forest, this throuple is undeniably, unexpectedly happy.

Watching this gorgeous movie at home makes me wish I were instead watching it on the big screen at one of my favorite cinemas, the Austin Film Society* . They have a special gin & tonic on their lobby menu that pairs perfectly with this angsty French love story. While watching Jules and Jim, I recommend drinking the AFS Gin & Tonic.

AFS Gin & Tonic

2 oz Dry Gin

¼ oz Lillet Rose

½ oz Lime Juice

4 oz Elderflower Tonic (I use Fever Tree)

Lime Wheel/Juniper berries for garnish

Combine Gin, Lillet, and lime juice in a shaker filled with ice. Stir to combine and chill, then strain into a glass filled with ice. Top with Elderflower tonic, garnish with lime wheel and juniper berries.

Lillet Gin & Tonic

As with most French New Wave films, lead actress Jeanne Moreau is sexy, cool, funny, and real. Jules and Jim are somewhat forgettable, but Catherine is a woman ahead of her time. This film was made in the 1960s, takes place in 1914-1920s, but feels completely relevant to the 2020s. Let’s touch toes and toast to this unconventional, enduring masterpiece. Cheers!

*If you’re a supporter of indie film, please consider donating to the Austin Film Society so we can all enjoy films and cocktails after the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us.