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Category Archives: Classic Films

What’s Up, Doc?

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Whats Up Doc

Image credit: Whats Up Doc?, 1972

The 1970’s were a really unfortunate time for hair. Also luggage. But there was one great thing that set the decade apart from all others- Barbra Streisand. Specifically, young, gamine, fresh-faced Barbra Streisand, before she was Oprah-rich and started cloning her dogs. In this week’s film What’s Up, Doc? (DVD/Download), she’s at the top of her game, but isn’t afraid to pratfall down to the bottom.

Directed by Peter Bogdanovich, What’s Up, Doc? pays homage to the great screwball comedies of the 1930’s. Fast dialogue, rapid fire puns, etc.- it’s like Bringing Up 70’s Baby. Four people show up at the same hotel carrying the same ugly suitcase. Naturally the suitcases get mixed up, and chaos ensues. Barbra is radiant as flighty Judy Maxwell, and her zany romance with engaged musicologist (played by Ryan O’Neal), is great fun to watch. The script is still remarkably fresh, and I found myself imaging who’d play these roles in the remake. Dream cast: Ryan Reynolds as Howard Bannister, Aya Cash as Judy Maxwell, and Kate McKinnon as Eunice Burns. Boom.

One of my favorite scenes involves Judy and Howard meeting on an abandoned floor of the hotel.  The stuffy musicologist plays “As Time Goes By” (because every construction site has a spare piano lying around…) and they gaze into each other’s eyes, and…. (insert *sigh* here). This cocktail is as sparkling as the movie dialogue, as sweet as the romance, and naturally, on the rocks. While watching What’s Up, Doc?, I recommend drinking an Elderflower Collins (on the rocks).

Elderflower Collins (on the rocks)

2 oz gin

1 oz St. Germain

1 oz lemon juice

2 oz Lemon Elderflower Soda

2 oz Topo Chico

Fill a highball glass with ice, then build drink, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with a lemon slice.

elderflower fizz

If you’re traveling to San Francisco anytime soon, I’d highly recommend giving this movie a watch. So many great location shots of the city, including some truly epic car chases up and down the hills. Bogdanovich throws every sight and sound gag at us, and luckily, most of them work. In What’s Up, Doc?, anything goes. Cheers!

 

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Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

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MrSmithGoestoWashington

Image credit: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, 1939.

This week, I’m celebrating the Fourth of July with one of the most patriotic movies I can think of. A film that’s stood the test of time, through good presidents and bad, noble politicians and corrupt. I’m talking of course about Frank Capra’s classic Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (DVD/Download).

It’s astounding how often I’m reminded of the iconic image of Jimmy Stewart as Senator Jefferson Smith, weary after a lengthy filibuster, sweaty, distraught, his face an open wound, realizing his fight is hopeless. The corrupt politicians of Washington have broken him, as they have broken the rest of us too. Jimmy is America in this film. Whether we’re talking about the 1938 or 2018, it’s all the same. Leaders drunk with power can (and often do) run afoul of the people who voted for them. Mr. Smith goes to Washington with a dream of doing good work for the citizens of his state. Though the film has a satisfying ending, I wouldn’t necessarily call it “happy”. Happiness and politics are parallel paths that rarely intersect.

I love a lot of things about this film- plucky Jean Arthur and her little hats, disgruntled newspaperman Diz and his wry cynicism, even Claude Rains as the most sedate villain of all time. But the scene that gets my heart pounding is of course The Filibuster. For 24 hours Mr. Smith tries to postpone a crooked bill from getting through the Senate, and though he eventually falls, the fight is really something to see. While watching Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, I recommend drinking a Filibuster.

Filibuster

4 oz bourbon

2 oz simple syrup

2 oz lemon juice

2 tbsp fresh orange juice

1 egg white

Angostura bitters

Pour all ingredients except bitters into a cocktail shaker. Shake until combined, then fill with ice. Shake again with all the rage you feel toward our current United States government. Strain into a coupe glass. Top with a few dashes of Angostura bitters.

Filibuster

The thing I find slightly comforting about this film is that it was released in 1939. So, theoretically, Congress has been doing a crappy job for the last 80 years. And we’re still here!!! We still have joys and triumphs, and yes unspeakable rage and indignities. But we’re surviving, day-by-day.   Jefferson Smith didn’t stop fighting for his American ideals, and neither should those of us who believe in honesty, empathy, kindness, and the beauty of our American land.   Cheers!

Father Goose

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Father Goose

Image credit: Father Goose, 1964.

If you like Cary Grant, whiskey, and WWII-era naval intrigue, you’re in luck this week. Father Goose (DVD/Download) is that rare movie that will please every member of the family.  Men, women, young, old- no matter what your situation is, it’s enjoyable to watch Cary Grant be awkward around small children.  Plus, booze in the jungle! LOTS of booze.

One of Cary Grant’s final films, Father Goose is a delightful romantic comedy that showcases the full spectrum of this iconic actor’s charm. As the salty expatriate Walter Eckland (who for some reason thinks that the South Pacific is a good place to retire in the 1940’s), Grant spends the majority of the movie sporting a 5 o’clock shadow and beach bum couture (think captain’s hat, topsiders, wrinkled oxford shirt). After the British navy destroys his boat, he’s forced to live on a remote island to watch for Japanese planes.  But fear not Cinema Sippers- the navy has hidden whiskey bottles all over the island like a fun easter egg hunt. He eventually ends up rescuing a beautiful French schoolmistresses from a nearby island, along with her female pupils. They bicker like they’re in an episode of Moonlighting, then eventually decide that marriage is a good idea. Hey, he’s a man with a boat and a history degree.  She could do worse.

Given the time period and setting of this film, I think a tiki drink is in order.  While most cocktails of this ilk use rum, I’ve just got to sub in whiskey here.  After all, provisions are limited in times of war.  While watching Father Goose, I recommend drinking a Filthy Beast.

Filthy Beast

1 oz bourbon

1 oz whiskey

1 oz lemon juice

½ oz simple syrup

½ oz orgeat

3 dashes tiki bitters

Lemon wheel garnish

Combine all ingredients except the lemon wheel in a shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a tiki glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a lemon wheel.

Filthy Beast

Mr. Eckland and I share a very similar view toward children. They’re annoying, and needy, and anybody in their right mind wouldn’t sign up to have one, but if you happen to be stuck with one (or ten), at least you can put them to work. And by work, I mean bringing you the whiskey bottle. Cheers!

The Invisible Man

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The Invisible Man

Image credit: The Invisible Man, 1933.

For my final “man” film, I’ve chosen to reach all the way back to the 1933 James Whale classic, The Invisible Man (DVD/Download). Although considered by many to be one of the best early horror films, it’s not so much scary as it is fascinating. How the hell did they make Claude Rains invisible, with no computers or digital technology??  I’m still scratching my head.

Based on the novel by H.G. Wells, Rains plays a scientist who’s injected himself with a serum that causes both invisibility and dangerous psychosis. He’s got a soft spot for Gloria Stuart (hey, old lady from Titanic!!), but even that can’t save him from the monster inside. I must say, it’s terrifically creepy when he peels the bandage off his face to reveal an empty hole where a nose should be. And the maniacal laugh as he strangles his victims will haunt my nightmares for weeks.  In the end, I’ve decided the only thing scarier than a villain is the villain you can’t see.

What does mad scientist Dr. Griffin use to become invisible you ask? Monocane. Working with some British spirits he might have had at his disposal, I’ll be putting my beakers and flasks to use this week. While watching The Invisible Man, I recommend drinking a Monocane cocktail.

Monocane

1 oz Pimms No. 1

1 oz Rye

1/2 oz Lemon Juice

3/4 oz Simple Syrup

Twist of Lemon

Mix ingredients together in your favorite scientific glassware. Pour into a tumbler over a large ice cube. Garnish with twist of lemon.

Monocane

The thing that’s great about this classic film is that it doesn’t need blood and gore to inspire terror. Just a few bandages, a disembodied voice from the backseat of a car, some floating props, and boom- instant lifelong fear of an “empty” room. Go ahead and shiver. Cheers!

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!

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!