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Category Archives: Comedies

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!

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!

Juliet, Naked

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juliet naked

Image credit: Juliet, Naked, 2018

I did a horrible thing. When making my Top Five Films of 2018 list a few months ago, I neglected to include the sweetly perfect rom-com Juliet, Naked (Disc/Download). My only excuse is that I simply didn’t get a chance to see it in 2018.   However I seem to be making up for lost time because I’m on viewing #3 so far, and like a fine wine, it just keeps getting better with age.

Speaking of things getting better with age, I can’t watch this movie and not imagine that Tucker Crowe is Troy Dyer all grown up and regretting his younger Reality Bites shenanigans. A slacker alt-rocker who treats women like crap but is soooo beautiful in all the vintage gig photos? I mean, come on.  Did Ethan Hawke choose this part on purpose, as a meta nod to his iconic role? His casting seems to reinforce an important principle of the movie—that, “Art is not for the artist, any more than water is to a plumber.”  Honestly, as a Reality Bites fan, I want to see what became of Troy Dyer.  Is he still stealing Snickers Bars?  Did he ever get a chance to buy everyone a Coke? Maybe, like Chris O’Dowd’s obsessed character Duncan, I’m reading too much into all of this. Maybe Ethan Hawke just wanted a fun part where he got to sing a Kinks song. Maybe he really liked the Nick Hornby novel this movie was based on. But whatever the truth may be, I still consider Juliet, Naked to be a delightful wink to the members of the TroyDyer4Ever club (if this is not yet a fan club, I’m thinking of starting it).

Ethan Hawke’s endurance as an heartthrob aside, the film’s soul truly lies with beautiful, shy Annie, played by the lovely Rose Byrne.  Annie finds herself stuck in a rut, realizing that she let life carry her along without making any big decisions. But then she meets Tucker, comes out of her shell, and realizes that her story is just beginning. Let’s toast this wonderful performance with a Blossoming Rosé cocktail.

Blossoming Rosé

5 oz Rosé cider

1.5 oz Reposado tequila

1.5 oz Grapefruit Juice

.5 oz Lime Juice

.5 oz Mint-infused simple syrup

Grapefruit Wedge for garnish

Combine tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice, and simple syrup in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then pour into a glass filled with fresh ice. Top with cider, and garnish with a grapefruit wedge.

Blossoming Rose

Ultimately, Juliet, Naked is about taking chances. Taking a chance that you’re going to make the wrong decisions, that you’re going to mess up a little bit, but that nothing good will ever happen if you don’t seize the opportunities life throws at you. If Tucker is my cautionary tale, then Annie is my inspiration. And Duncan, well—he’s just Stevie F*ckin’ Wonder. Cheers!

The Trouble with Angels

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The Trouble with Angels

Image credit: The Trouble with Angels, 1966.

I’ve got the most scathingly brilliant idea. Let’s revisit the wonderful female-centric ’60s film The Trouble with Angels (Disc/Download) while drinking cocktails and worshiping at the altar of Rosalind Russell. I’m not a religious gal myself, but I’d still like to say a prayer of thanks to whoever made this movie happen. Without it, I might never understand the true greatness that occurs when men get the hell out of the way and let women take over.

Starring Hayley Mills and June Harding as precocious teens stuck at an all-girls Catholic boarding school, The Trouble with Angels is a story of friendship and finding one’s place in the world. As a lonely child watching this for the first time, I envied the friendship of Mary and Rachel like nothing else. To have a best friend that would be there for you through thick and thin (even if it means years of scrubbing pots), seemed like an impossible dream. Sure, these girls annoy the heck out of Mother Superior, played by the commanding Rosalind Russell, but it’s such a joy to watch them make mistakes, learn from them, and grow closer. For all the “good girls” out there like Rachel (and me),  we need a “bad girl” to show us that life is meant to be lived, and sometimes, rules are meant to be broken.

This film was one of my first forays into 1960s cinema, and I credit it with triggering a lifelong obsession. I wanted it all- the teased hair, the clothes, the pop culture references, and still do. Rachel’s teen dream is none other than Jack Lemmon, which made me love the actor before I ever saw him strain spaghetti through a tennis racket in The Apartment. Rachel loves Jack Lemmon, so I love Jack Lemmon. I also love this lemon cocktail that’s as fizzy, sweet, and tart as the film itself. While watching The Trouble with Angels, I recommend drinking a glass of Lemmon-ade.

Lemmon-ade

1.5 oz vodka

1.5 oz Gabriello Lemon Cream Liqueur

½ oz simple syrup

½ oz lemon juice

Lemon Italian Soda

Lemon Twist

Combine vodka, lemon liqueur, simple syrup, and lemon juice over ice in a shaker. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass filled with crushed ice. Top with Italian soda, and garnish with a lemon twist.

Lemmon-ade

Watching this film as an adult, I’m delighted by how well it still holds up. I attribute this to the fact that it was directed by a woman (the trailblazing Ida Lupino), written by a woman, and starring all women. Their conversations don’t revolve around men, but around friendships, education, and self-discovery. For females of any generation, this is an important film that deserves to be toasted. Mothers, show it to your daughters—they’ll thank you for it someday. Cheers!

Drive Me Crazy

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Drive Me Crazy

Image credit: Drive Me Crazy, 1999.

I confess, this was not a movie I ever planned to write about. In my deep dive through the prom movies of 1999, I always assumed I’d cover American Pie. It was, after all, a box office smash that year, and a defining movie of my generation. Well, I watched it all right. And let me tell you- there is not enough alcohol in the world to make that movie okay. Rather than subject my blog readers to a flaming turd of misogyny, I’ve turned to a quieter, gentler film to round out Prom Month. Drive Me Crazy (Disc/Download) is the kind of movie you put on when you’re sick and not fully aware of your surroundings. There are no loud noises, no quick cuts, no complicated plots. You can fall asleep halfway through and not miss a thing.

Out of all the films I’ve watched this month, this one gives me the most nostalgia. Not because I even saw it back then (I didn’t), but because of the production and costume design. From chokers and belly shirts to inflatable furniture, this movie is basically a Delias catalog. The characters seem fairly normal, if a little boring, and it technically checks all the 90s teen rom-com boxes. Susan May Pratt as the best friend? Check. Leading actor who’s almost too pretty to be real? Check. Angry girl music of the indie rock persuasion? Check. Outdoor scene that exists just to show teens in bathing suits? Check. As a mash-up of all the other teen movies that year, it should have worked. Unfortunately, the pacing is SO SLOW, and Adrian Grenier and Melissa Joan Hart have zero chemistry.  It makes perfect sense when their parents hook up at the end- these kids might as well be siblings already.

The prom theme in Drive Me Crazy is “Centennial”.  This is a very fancy event with laser lights and champagne flutes full of orange liquid. Is it Tang? Is it Sunkist Orange Soda? We may never know. But while I watch Drive Me Crazy, I’ll be showing my school spirit with an Orange Crush

Orange Crush

8 oz Austin Eastciders Blood Orange Cider

1 oz Morey Mandarin Liqueur

Combine cider and mandarin liqueur in a chilled flute.

Orange crush

It’s been a wild ride for me, watching all the prom movies that came out during the time I should have actually been attending prom. But honestly, 1999 was such a great year for movies that it’s no wonder I stayed home. Why would I have wasted time with a real-life loser when I had Heath and Freddie and Adrian to keep me company? Cheers!