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Category Archives: Comedies

That Thing You Do!

Image Credit: That Thing You Do!, 1996

Anyone who knows me (or really anyone who’s ever read this blog) knows I have a thing for the 1960s. But where did this obsession come from? I blame the following: endless Nick at Night marathons in the ’90s, and this week’s movie, That Thing You Do! (Disc/Download).

Having been raised on the Pittsburgh oldies station in my dad’s car, I knew this era’s music inside and out. So when Tom Hanks “the director” burst onto the scene with his ode to ’60s pop, I was instantly hooked. Add to that Liv Tyler’s cigarette pants and high ponytails, Tom Everett Scott’s electronics shop wonderland (THOSE VINTAGE RADIOS!!!), and all those references to forgotten stars like Gina Lollobrigida and Suzanne Pleshette, and I was officially a goner. I’d found my pop culture home, and the mid-1960s was it. I wanted to live in this world where the One-ders could rise to superstardom on the strength of one hit song, and not flashy boy-band dance moves. This world where rock bands got to pretend-perform in movies as Capt. Geech and the Shrimp Shack Shooters. This world where jazz and rock & roll was still somewhat interconnected, and a talented musician like Guy Patterson could perform in front of screaming teenage girls one minute, and studio icons the next. Maybe, at the end of it all, I just wanted to imagine a world where I could leave Pennsylvania and follow my dreams—wearing those cigarette pants, of course.

It’s still incredibly odd to me that Tom Hanks hasn’t found more projects like this to direct, because clearly the guy’s got skills. He made a perfect gem of a movie that captures a specific moment in time, pulling together exceptionally talented people to realize his vision. Let’s celebrate this maestro of ’60s nostalgia with one of my favorite cocktails, the classic Tom Collins.

Tom Collins

2 oz Gin

1 oz lemon juice

½ oz simple syrup

Club Soda

Lemon garnish

Combine gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a shaker with ice.  Shake until chilled, then strain into a Collins glass with fresh ice. Top with Club Soda, and stir gently to combine. Garnish with lemon.

I did a thing I pretty much never do, which was to watch an unedited version of this movie one lazy Friday night. I know a lot of people enjoy Special Features and Extended Cuts, but to me, theatrical cuts exist for a reason. In most cases, it’s the best version everyone could agree on. But I got curious, wondering what was tossed from my perfect film, and WOW it was a lot. For example, poor Charlize took the biggest hit, and now that strange Spartacus line finally makes more sense. Sort of. Also- Tom Hanks’ manager character was actually gay?? That’s actually something I wish they’d left in. Aside for some great dresses that ended up on the cutting room floor, most of the edits were necessary. Would I watch the extended version again? Probably not—it was extremely long and slow-moving. But as a lesson in how all the parts have to come together in just the right way to tell the best story possible, it was invaluable. Like the difference between the Oneders vs. The Wonders, simple is usually better. 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!

Broadcast News

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Broadcast News

Image credit: Broadcast News, 1987.

I just finished the stellar new season of one of my favorite podcasts, You Must Remember This, which takes listeners on a journey through the career of one of the great unsung heroes of Hollywood, Production Designer/Screenwriter/Producer Polly Platt. I knew of Polly before Karina Longworth’s deep dive, having seen her name in the credits of so many of my favorite films, but the show has opened me up to even more great flicks, like this week’s Cinema Sips pick, Broadcast News (Disc/Download).

I’ve seen Broadcast News classified as a rom-com before, but I have to say, I disagree with that label. Yes, there’s a love triangle set within the world of television news, and there’s certainly comedy (thanks in large part to scene stealer Albert Brooks), but I wouldn’t say the film leaves me with a happy, buoyant feeling. Perhaps that’s because so much of the script is a warning of what’s to come in the world of journalism; a doomsday prediction that has actually come true. It warns of a distrust of information, brought about by flashy salesmen instead of real, credible journalists. The news as entertainment instead of vital public service. Albert Brooks’ character Aaron has the smarts and dedication for the job of newscaster, but lacks the right packaging. And then there’s William Hurt’s Tom, who has the looks but not the brains, or any shred of journalistic ethics. Naturally, he’s given prime screen time. Placed in the middle is Holly Hunter’s Jane, a thinly-veiled Polly Platt stand-in, the producer who’s smarter than all the men in her life, but will never get the recognition or personal happiness she deserves. To be a woman in this industry is to make sacrifices, and nobody knew that better than Polly. If you’ve ever allowed yourself the five-minute cry (*raises hand*) you get it. So much of this film is funny and relatable, but sadly it’s all things you wish you didn‘t relate to.

My favorite scene in Broadcast News is one where Albert Brooks is home alone on his day off, drinking and haunting the sofa in a ragged pair of sweats. He’s slightly inebriated, yelling at the news, wondering when the hell everyone got so stupid. Been there, buddy. Let’s join Aaron in his ennui with this Journalist cocktail!

Journalist

2 oz Gin

¼ oz Cointreau

½ oz Dry Vermouth

½ oz Sweet Vermouth

¼ oz Lemon Juice

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Luxardo Cherry and citrus wheel for garnish

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a chilled coupe glass. Drop in a Luxardo Maraschino cherry and garnish with a dried citrus wheel.

Journalist

If you’re looking for answers as to how we got where we’re at right now in America, look no further than Broadcast News. The question now is, where do we go from here? Can journalism be saved? It’s a question the film fails to answer definitively, and maybe it’s because the answer is up to us. It’s up to all of us to demand that substance win out over style. Cheers!

The Proposal

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The Proposal

Image credit: The Proposal, 2009.

While Texans were sticking to their car seats in rush hour traffic, I was supposed to have been playing with sled dog puppies and cruising open waters. Thanks to COVID, my Alaska vacation is now a distant dream, but in a way, I can still take it through the power of movies and cocktails. This week, go on a fake journey with me to Sitka, Alaska (by way of Massachusetts) as we watch The Proposal (Disc/Download).

This rom-com starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds has so many of my favorite tropes, I don’t even know where to begin. Enemies-to-Lovers! Workplace romance! Marriage of Convenience! “There’s only one bed”! Add to that a gorgeous house on the water, a humorous (if false) look at the world of book publishing, and a cute dog named Kevin, and I am officially smitten. Directed by Anne Fletcher, The Proposal tells the story of Margaret Tate, a buttoned-up book editor with an immigration problem. She strong-arms her assistant Andrew into agreeing to marry her, but in order to sell the relationship to ICE, they must put on a united front at his Grandma’s 90th birthday in Alaska. Turns out Andrew is secretly the beloved prince of Sitka, and honestly what woman could resist a funny, gorgeous, wealthy scion? Plus, his grandma enjoys strippers and is played by Betty White. If Margaret won’t marry him, can I?

I actually saw this movie in the theater with my grandma, and it would turn out to be our last visit to the multiplex together. We both loved Betty, but agreed her weird Native American dance scene needed to end up on the cutting room floor. I’m thrilled to use one of grandma Jo’s vintage glasses while I drink this week’s classic cocktail, the Alaska.

Alaska

1 1/2 oz Gin (I used Mahon)

1/2 oz Yellow Chartreuse

Dash Orange Bitters

Lemon twist

Combine Gin, Yellow Chartreuse, and Bitters in a shaker with ice. Stir until chilled, then strain into a chilled coupe glass. Release lemon oils over glass, then drop the twist in.

Alaska

I can absolutely picture Margaret sipping one of these while she redlines a manuscript late at night, and the chemistry between the gin and yellow chartreuse is just as electric as the chemistry between Bullock and Reynolds. If I can’t actually go to Alaska, this is the next best thing.  Cheers!

Punch-Drunk Love

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Punch Drunk Love

Image credit: Punch-Drunk Love, 2002

With a title that includes the words “Punch”, “Drunk”, and “Love”, Paul Thomas Anderson’s dark romantic comedy seems like a natural fit for my collection. However, Punch-Drunk Love (Disc/Download) is not a movie I liked on the first watch, or even the second. It’s rare that my opinion shifts so drastically on a film, but that’s exactly what’s happened over the ensuing eighteen years. Now, in our cursed year of 2020, I adore it.

The reason I initially had a hard time connecting with this story was because I just didn’t know what to make of Adam Sandler’s character Barry. Was he being weird for weird’s sake? Was he simply shy with a dangerous undercurrent of anger? No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t figure him out. But since this movie’s release, we have a new language to describe people like Barry. I don’t know that this theory has ever been confirmed by the filmmaker, but to me, this guy is very clearly on the Autism spectrum. And with that realization, I now root even harder for him to find love with fellow lonely-heart Lana. Paul Thomas Anderson did something really incredible in this movie, making us feel through the camerawork and music, what it’s like to be in Barry’s head. Adam Sandler gives an incredible performance (as if there were any doubt- he’s been my uncut gem for YEARS), and I want so badly for this novelty toilet plunger salesman to find the one person in the world who “gets” him. I long for him and Lana to take those pudding cup miles and ride off into the sunset.

Speaking of sunsets, how gorgeous is the scene on Waikiki Beach? I’ve been lucky enough to sit at that beachside bar at the Royal Hawaiian, sipping a Mai Tai, and it’s a memory I cling to during lockdown. Someday, I’ll get back there (in fact, there’s already a room booked for June 2021. Call me an optimist.). But in the meantime, let’s have a drink with Barry and Lana. While watching Punch-Drunk Love, get those Waikiki sunset vibes with this Mai Tai Punch.

Mai Tai Punch

1 cup Light Rum

1 cup Gold Rum

1 cup Cointreau

½ cup Lime Juice

½ cup Orange Juice

½ cup Orgeat Syrup

Dark Rum for topping

In a glass bottle or punch bowl, combine Light Rum, Gold Rum, Cointreau, Lime and Orange juices, and Orgeat. Stir or shake until well combined. Pour into cups filled with crushed ice, and drizzle dark rum on top.*

Mai Tai Punch

There’s a moment in Hawaii when Barry and Lana are in bed, and they start saying violent, mildly shocking things to one another. He looks down at her and says, “This is right. This is good.” Those words perfectly describe what love is—finding that one other person who understands your weirdness and jumps right on into it with you. Barry, I’m sorry it took me so long to get to the diving board. Cheers!

*This gold pineapple glass, while attractive in a photo, is hands down THE WORST container I have ever put a drink in. The top wobbles and falls off, and the bottom gets so cold and slippery that you can’t even hold it. I have a dried puddle of Mai-Tai on the back of my couch cushion to prove it. If you got this from Target on a whim, do yourself a favor and THROW. IT. OUT.

Airplane!

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Airplane

Image credit: Airplane!, 1980

Since air travel is a distant memory for most of us these days, there’s no better time to watch a 90-minute joke about flying. Airplane! (Disc/Download), the classic parody film inspired by disaster flicks of the 1970s, makes me nostalgic and nauseated all at once. Two words you never want to hear on an airplane: Stomach. Virus.

To be honest, flying was always my least favorite part about travel. The seats are tiny, the air is either too hot or too cold, I distrust the ice in my cocktail, and I always end up next to a man-spreader. Now add virus anxiety, and you’ve got a situation that’s even more nightmarish. Somehow, the writers of Airplane! managed to turn all our air complaints into comedy gold, delivering a steady stream of one-liners and deadpan jokes—some of which land, and some of which fall pretty flat. Luckily Leslie Nielsen is on board to provide his dry sense of humor, almost single-handedly keeping this movie aloft.

I talk a lot about what I don’t like about air travel, but here’s something I do like: BISCOFF COOKIES. Day or night, I always look forward to my Biscoff and Ginger Ale. It’s the perfect snack, and the only thing that can distract me from the annoying person behind me watching YouTube videos on their ipad, without headphones. Yes, we can ALL hear you. While watching Airplane!, mimic the feeling of being airborne with this Biscoff Highball (recipe adapted from TheKitchn).

Biscoff Highball

1 ½ oz Bourbon

½ oz Biscoff Syrup (recipe below)

8 oz Ginger Ale

Combine Bourbon, Biscoff Syrup, and Ginger Ale in a glass over ice. Stir gently to combine.

Biscoff Highball

Biscoff Syrup

½ cup sugar

½ cup water

2 Biscoff Cookies, loosely crumbled

Boil sugar and water together, until sugar is dissolved. Let cool. Add cookie crumbles to a jar, then pour in the cooled syrup. Let the cookies dissolve and infuse the syrup, 4-6 hours. Strain to remove solid pieces, and keep syrup refrigerated in an air-tight container.

Airplane! is one of those movies where the more you drink, the funnier it gets. If you’re in the mood to watch one million Hare Krishna jokes and a blow-up “Otto” pilot, then by all means, stock up on bourbon. Surely, that’s all of us by now. But don’t worry- I won’t call you Shirley. Cheers!

A Life Less Ordinary

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A Life Less Ordinary

Image Credit: A Life Less Ordinary, 1997

Exactly as advertised by the title, forgotten ’90s romantic thriller A Life Less Ordinary (Disc/Download) is truly anything but ordinary. If you like your love stories with a dash of kidnapping, attempted murder, black comedy, and a pair of cursing angels, then this one’s for you.

Directed by Danny Boyle and starring Ewan McGregor, this film initially fell victim to high expectations. People went in hoping for another Trainspotting, and came out wondering what the hell just happened. Yes, the soundtrack is as superb as their previous film together, but that’s where the similarities end. In A Life Less Ordinary, Ewan McGregor plays a janitor and aspiring romance novelist (!!!) who falls on hard times. He takes his boss’s daughter hostage (Cameron Diaz), not realizing she’s a feisty badass who wants to piss off Daddy. The two scheme to get the ransom money, while falling deeper in lust with one another. Meanwhile, they get some help from a couple of potty-mouthed angels (Holly Hunter and Delroy Lindo) who are on a mission to unite two humans in true love. The plot meanders at times, but McGregor and Diaz have such great chemistry that you keep on rooting for them, especially when he serenades her at a karaoke bar. I cannot resist Ewan McGregor singing. Ever. Also, given the stir that Stanley Tucci’s arms have created during quarantine, I feel it’s important to mention his shirtless scenes in this film. Do with that information what you will.

When we first meet Cameron Diaz’s character Celine, she’s playing a game of William Tell with her butler, a gun, and an apple. Let’s honor her marksmanship with this cocktail that combines apple cider, fiery tequila, and scotch- the Poco Loco.

Poco Loco

1 oz Habenero-infused Añejo tequila (Infuse tequila with a few slices of habanero pepper for 1 hr, then strain)

½ oz Scotch

1 ½ oz Apple Cider

½ oz Lime Juice

½ oz Simple Syrup

Dried Apple Slice for garnish

Pour all liquid ingredients into a shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with apple slice.

Poco Loco

There are a lot of strange elements to this film, but A Life Less Ordinary is still one of my favorite romances. It posits the theory that love isn’t just two people randomly meeting and making it work, but a supernatural occurrence as well. Call it destiny, call it divine intervention, call it the work of two fallen angels who just want to get off this garbage dump we call Earth, but Perfect Love is out there, even if it looks a little crazy sometimes. Cheers!

Heartbreakers

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Heartbreakers

Image credit: Heartbreakers, 2001

After being cooped up inside for most of the spring, I’m really excited to watch a movie featuring beaches, cocktails, and a grand old Florida hotel. Heartbreakers (Disc/Download) is a surprisingly fun rom-com that will have you dreaming of palm trees, the Intracoastal Waterway, and romance under the stars.

Featuring Sigourney Weaver and Jennifer Love-Hewitt as mother/daughter con-artists, this movie takes the audience through a lot of twists. First, Sigourney is marrying Ray Liotta, right before catching him in a compromising position with his sexy secretary. Turns out the secretary is her daughter, planted to secure a hefty divorce settlement. Due to a strange subplot involving the ALWAYS FABULOUS Anne Bancroft, the duo heads to Palm Beach next to snag a billionaire. They check in to the Breakers Hotel (get it, HeartBREAKERS??), and begin working on Gene Hackman’s character William B. Tensey, a tobacco executive with one foot in the emphysema grave. Hackman really “hacks” his way through this part, in the best anti-smoking campaign I’ve ever seen. Things get messy when Jennifer Love-Hewitt falls for a sweet, earnest bartender (played by Jason Lee), prompting the age-old dilemma between love and money. If the plot seems bananas, it is. But if you’re looking for some escapism right now, this movie is a perfect choice.

It’s such a joy to see a rom-com set somewhere other than New York/Chicago/LA, so let’s celebrate that Florida Lyfe with a tropical martini. While watching Heartbreakers, I recommend drinking this Floridatini.

Floridatini

1 ½ oz Vodka

1 ½ oz Grapefruit Juice

½ oz Passionfruit Syrup

¾ oz Lime Juice

Dash of Peychaud’s bitters

Combine all ingredients in a shaker over ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with an umbrella.

Floridatini

Although I love the romance of this film, and especially the wedding dress worn by JLH, the movie’s success is actually due to the complicated, endearing mother/daughter relationship. These two actresses have great chemistry together, even when they’re stabbing each other in the back. Somehow, you still feel the love. Cheers!

 

Polyester

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Polyester 2

Image Credit: Polyester, 1981

As a final love letter to the TCMFF that never was, I decided to celebrate not just a classic, but a cult classic. Polyester (Disc/Download) is the rare John Waters movie that has eluded me up till now. Maybe I’d been holding out for an Odorama screening. Maybe I just wanted to watch this someplace more exciting than my living room. But then, I decided the viewing circumstances were irrelevant; Todd Tomorrow should not have to wait until tomorrow.

Having been raised on soap operas, the day I discovered the Douglas Sirk melodrama was a true awakening. Classic cinema had been churning out these “women’s pictures” (I have as much disdain for this term as I do “women’s fiction”) for decades, and life was suddenly a banquet again.  But once you’ve seen Magnificent Obsession and Imitation of Life and All That Heaven Allows, where to go? Baltimore, that’s where. With his core group of Dreamland performers, including Divine, Mink Stole, and Edith Massey, The Pope of Trash took these angst-filled flicks and turned them on their heads. It’s clear Waters has a real appreciation for the original genre, down to the peignoirs, clouds of Evening in Paris perfume, and campy character names, but he injects his own brand of modern weirdness too– foot fetishism, doggie suicide, and drag performance to name a few. The story of Francine Fishpaw overcoming her cheating husband and alcoholism is straight out of the Sirk playbook, but the clever way Waters inserts his own brand makes Polyester into something truly unique.

In a nod to the “gimmick” films of the 1950s, Polyester was originally screened in Odorama, whereby audience members were given cards to scratch and smell during certain scenes. Indeed, even without the cards, we see Divine sniffing like a president during a press conference. Most of the scents are pretty vile (model airplane glue, flatulence, skunk), but the first one is meant to lull us into a false sense of security: roses. By adding a few drops of rose water to this cocktail, you can join in the fun even at home. While watching Polyester, I recommend this Stop and Smell the Roses! cocktail.

Stop and Smell the Roses!

1.5 oz Three Olives Rosé Vodka

.5 oz Lemon Juice

.5 oz Grapefruit Juice

2-3 drops Rose Water

Splash of Sparkling Rosé

Club Soda

Dried Strawberries or Rose Petals for garnish

Combine Vodka, lemon and grapefruit juices, and rose water in a shaker filled with ice.  Shake until chilled, then strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Top with Sparkling Rosé, and club soda. Garnish with dried strawberries or rose petals.

Stop and Smell the Roses

Eventually, Francine learns to stop hittin’ the sauce, but I don’t see any reason for us viewers to stop. Without the famed Odorama cards, we need alcohol as our gimmick. By being something special and different, Polyester breathed new life into the career of Tab Hunter. Maybe, just maybe, it’ll breathe new life into your love of movies; I know it did for me. 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!