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Category Archives: Comedies

Little Miss Sunshine

Little Miss Sunshine

Image Credit: Little Miss Sunshine, 2006.

When Little Miss Sunshine (Disc/Download) came out almost fifteen years ago, I related most to Olive- the little girl who would always be different and hadn’t yet realized this was a good thing. But now, I find myself identifying with Olive’s grandpa (Alan Arkin) and his end-of-life wisdom. He’s seen a lot, he’s lived to tell the tales, and he’s tired of the bullshit. Or, maybe he’s just plain tired.

Little Miss Sunshine is a multi-generational comedy about a family road trip and the tensions erupting along their journey. Young Olive makes it into the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant, so her weary mom, desperate dad, silent brother, depressed uncle, and heroin-addict grandpa pile into the VW bus. The vehicle itself becomes a character, breaking down along the way, forcing the family to work together to push-start it, mocking them with its broken horn. This is a comedy, but it’s equally balanced by tragedy. Death, suicide, and failure stand right alongside the hilarity of child beauty queens, with their capped teeth and miniature stripper outfits. There are sequins and hospitals, ice cream and Proust. And at the center of it all, a charming super-freak.

This sunshine-colored bus hides a lot of bitterness inside, so I think it’s appropriate to make a cocktail that’s both sweet and sour. While watching Little Miss Sunshine, I recommend drinking this Sunbeam.

Sunbeam

1 ½ oz Irish Whiskey

¾ oz Dry Vermouth

½ oz Lemon Juice

¾ oz Grapefruit Juice

¾ oz Simple Syrup

2 oz Club Soda

Grapefruit Bitters

White grapefruit or lemon twist

Combine first five ingredients in a shaker over ice. Shake until chilled, then pour into a Collins glass filled with ice. Top with club soda and a few dashes of grapefruit bitters. Stir gently, and garnish with a twist of lemon or white grapefruit.

Sunbeam

Maybe, like me, you’ve spent time believing you’re a loser. Watching other people who just seem to fit, be it with their career, or looks, or friendships, and feeling like you’d always be on the outside looking in.  But as grandpa says, “Losers are people who are so afraid of not winning, they don’t even try.” Rest assured, this super-freak is still trying like hell, with help from a talented supporting cast of friends and family. Cheers!

Long Shot

Long Shot

Image credit: Long Shot, 2019

I’ll take any excuse to watch Long Shot again, and this week my justification happens to be Valentine’s Day. Gone from theaters before anyone knew it had arrived, Long Shot (Disc/Download) was the 2019 gift to rom-com obsessives like myself (and to jaded people like my husband who just didn’t know what they were missing). I’ve made it my personal goal to get the word out about this whip smart, endearing ode to unexpected romance and Boyz II Men, and if Motown Philly doesn’t entice you, maybe a cocktail will.

When one hears the name Charlize Theron, the phrase “Seth Rogen movie” probably doesn’t come to mind. This is the tough-as-nails actress who takes on Immortan Joe and misogynist pigs. The woman who sashays across our television screens in Dior, looking like a glamorous gazelle. This woman does not belong in a comedy with a teddy bear-shaped funnyman and weed jokes, right? WRONG. Long Shot proves definitively that Charlize can do it all. As the U.S. Secretary of State vying for the job of President, she’s calm and collected. But underneath the polished facade, she’s a sleep-deprived woman who stopped noticing how lonely her life has become. That is, until speechwriter Fred Flarsky  comes along to remind her that politics isn’t everything; love is. Sure, the script has some of that infantile bro humor typically found in a Rogen movie, but I beg you to look past that. Focus on sweet moments like when they’re dancing in an empty kitchen to the Pretty Woman soundtrack, or Seth’s face when he realizes this beautiful, impressive woman actually wants him. The guy with the goofy jacket and big heart, who everyone makes fun of; he’s the one who finally gets the girl of his dreams. Not since Lloyd Dobbler called up Diane Court have I felt so hopeful about life.

As Secretary of State, Charlotte Field spends a lot of time traveling the world. Thus, the official cocktail of the DC Beltway (the Gin Rickey) needs to be tweaked just a bit for her. With the addition of lychee syrup, you’ll feel like you’re right there in that Manila hotel room, watching two people fall in love over their laptops. When viewing Long Shot, I recommend drinking this Traveling Rickey.

Traveling Rickey

2 oz Gin

½ oz Key Lime Juice

½ oz Lychee Syrup

Club Soda

Lime Slice

Combine gin, key lime juice, and lychee syrup over ice in a Collins glass. Stir well to combine. Top with club soda, and garnish with a lime slice.

Traveling Rickey

While the film is obviously meant to be a parody of our current political dumpster fire, at the center of it all is a love story that gives me so much joy. To see the chemistry of this unlikely pair is to witness pure cinema magic. Charlize, I beg you to run for president in 2020- but only if you bring your First Mister with you. Cheers!

To Die For

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To Die For

Image credit: To Die For, 1995.

This story is the type of salacious true-crime stuff I live for. Local weather girl hires her sixteen-year-old lover to kill her husband so she can pursue a career in television? It’s a dark, twisted soap opera, and I am HERE FOR IT. To Die For (Disc/Download) is a great example of a ‘90s indie film with a pedigreed cast, many of whom would go on to win multiple Oscars and accolades in the coming decades. But let’s be clear—it’s still a soap opera.

To Die For came back on my radar after the recent death of screenwriter Buck Henry. He wrote one of my all-time favorite scripts, The Graduate, but this later film is equally brilliant. It was a mockumentary before every TV sitcom adopted the format, and through these faux interviews we see a Hard Copy-style tale of a power-hungry woman who would stop at nothing to achieve her dreams. Is it weird that I feel a strong kinship with Nicole Kidman’s Suzanne Stone? I too am a fan of the alliterated name, and I’ve chosen a career that’s next to impossible to break into. I haven’t gone to the lengths of prostituting myself, but anyone who’s ever done a Twitter Pitch event for writers knows it’s not all that different. You feel pretty cheap and debased by the end. I wouldn’t murder for my art, but I would rock a Donna Karan knock-off suit and French twist at my next writer’s conference.

The thing that really sells me on this movie is the torrid affair Nicole Kidman has with the much younger Joaquin Phoenix. And we’re talking yooooooung Joaquin, with a mullet and sad little stutter. It’s an icky relationship for sure, but I can’t help but feel for this horny kid who just wants attention from a beautiful woman. And Nicole is stuck in a lame marriage to Matt Dillon—need I say more? While watching To Die For, I recommend drinking this Forbidden Fruit cocktail:

Forbidden Fruit

1 ½ oz Frankly® Apple/Ginger vodka

½ oz Hofland Meesterbitter liqueur

½ oz Lemon Juice

4 oz Ginger Beer

Apple garnish

Combine vodka, liqueur, and lemon juice in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into an ice-filled glass. Top with ginger beer, and stir gently to combine. Garnish with an apple slice.

Forbidden Fruit

Finally, I’d like to give props to adorable Pomeranian Walter (after Walter Cronkite), who is the unsung hero of To Die For. I genuinely feel his distaste for his mom’s actions, but also his narcissistic need to look cute in his little outfits. Out of anyone in this film, Walter is the only character deserving of a happy ending. Cheers!

Kate & Leopold

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Kate and Leopold

Image credit: Kate & Leopold, 2001

I’ve discussed how great hair can turn a movie into a hit (see Sliding Doors) but now it’s time to talk about when bad hair does the opposite. There is no obvious reason why Kate & Leopold (Disc/Download) shouldn’t be a major success. It’s got all the elements of a rom-com classic: charming Hugh Jackman, interesting time travel premise, sparkling script, Breakfast at Tiffany’s nod, and even the quintessential dinner-on-a-NYC-rooftop scene (with twinkle lights and a violin for god’s sake!). If I had to sum up its one failure, it would be this: Meg Ryan’s hair.

Rom-Com audiences know Meg as the adorable sweetheart Tom Hanks just can’t get enough of. She’s got curly, wavy, soft hair in all of her films. Until… Kate. Kate has flat-ironed hair styled at a gravity-defying angle, like a mop or one of those dogs that looks like a mop. There is no excuse for this hair. I maintain that if she’d had soft waves, this movie about a nineteenth-century duke who time travels to modern-day New York and falls for a brash ad exec, would have been a massive hit. Hugh Jackman is absolutely irresistible as the duke, and even Breckin Meyer turns in a fun performance as Kate’s brother. But when Meg walks in with that coif and an unflattering leather button-up vest, I just cringe. You can’t have chemistry with that situation.

One of my favorite scenes is when Leopold makes Kate breakfast in the morning, bringing her perfectly prepared toast (because he fixed the broken toaster himself!!!) covered in mascarpone and strawberries. And he does the dishes.

Swoon. Major Swoon.

While watching Kate & Leopold, toast this ultimate romance hero with a Strawberry Gimlet.

Strawberry Gimlet

2 oz Strawberry Vodka (I use Frankly®)

½ oz simple syrup

½ oz lime juice

Lime Twist/Fresh Strawberry for garnish

Combine vodka, simple syrup, and lime juice over ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with lime and strawberry.

Strawberry Gimlet

If you can get past the hair, this is an utterly charming romance. Hugh Jackman could have played this campy, but instead his duke is funny, intelligent, and principled. I guess sometimes you have to go back in time to find a hero deserving of a modern woman. Cheers!

Dick

Dick

Image credit: Dick, 1999.

Recent current events have turned my attention back to films about the Nixon presidency, and while I could certainly watch All the President’s Men, or Oliver Stone’s Nixon, it’s a hell of a lot more fun to watch Dick (Disc/Download).  A satire of Richard Nixon’s fall from grace, this under-appreciated gem is suddenly, gloriously relevant again.  Oh, Checkers the dog- how I’ve missed you!!

Starring Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams as average teenage girls who inadvertently become embroiled in the Watergate scandal, Dick is a whip-smart comedy masquerading as an SNL sketch. Sure there are dick jokes aplenty, but there’s also a clever revisionist history that imagines Deep Throat as two Bobby Sherman-obsessed, shrieking blondes.  Then there’s Dan Hedaya as Nixon, BY FAR my favorite cinema Nixon.  He’s got the voice, the swagger, the angry little boy tantrums—does this sound like anyone else we know?  It’s a joy to see all the celebrity cameos (Harry Shearer as G. Gordon Liddy, Dave Foley as Haldeman, Will Ferrell as Bob Woodward, Bruce McCulloch as Carl Bernstein, etc.) but my favorite cast member is Teri Garr as Michelle Williams’ mom.  She. Is. Fabulous.  She’s got a chic apartment in The Watergate, she enjoys cocktails and making out with Ted McGinley, and isn’t afraid of wallpaper.  Honestly by the time we get to a doughy teenage Ryan Reynolds, I’m somewhat fatigued by the star power in this strange little film.  And that’s saying a lot because who doesn’t love Ryan Reynolds?

Adding to the ‘70s verisimilitude is Dunst’s stoner brother, who hides his stash in the family walnut jar.  The girls unknowingly make marijuana-laced Hello Dolly bars for the president, landing themselves a sweet dog-walking gig AND peace with the Soviet Union.  I’ve come up with a Hello Dolly-inspired cocktail that’ll make this already-terrific film even funnier.  Up to you if you want to add some CBD oil to make it more authentic!

Hello Dolly

3 oz coconut milk

2 oz Godiva chocolate liqueur

1 oz Brandy

Crushed graham crackers

Walnut bitters

½  cup ice

Wet the rim of a glass and dip in crushed graham crackers.  Set aside.  Combine coconut milk, chocolate liqueur, brandy, and ice in a blender. Blend until smooth, then pour into prepared glass.  Top with a few dashes of walnut bitters.

I don’t know what the future holds in terms of our current political situation, but it’s fascinating to look back several decades and realize the script was largely the same then as it is today.  Crooked, narcissistic politician does something extremely shady, gets caught, then engages in a massive spin campaign to discredit the Washington Post and shift the blame away from himself.  The Carly Simon song at the end of this film says it all perfectly- you’re so vain. Cheers!

Irma la Douce

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Irma la Douce

Image credit: Irma la Douce, 1963

If you love the colorful costumes and sets of classic Hollywood musicals, but can’t abide characters spontaneously bursting into song, then Irma la Douce (Disc/Download) is your movie.  Starring Jack Lemmon as a police officer-turned-pimp and Shirley MacLaine as his prostitute love, this sixties gem is a Billy Wilder film on steroids.  Big visuals, big acting, big run-time—it’s a massive commitment.  But once you give into the world of the Hotel Casanova, you’re in for a real cinematic treat.

When we first see Irma, slouching against a doorway with that little dog under her arm, you instantly know—this is a woman who has seen it all, and just doesn’t give a sh*t anymore.  She views her profession for what it is (a job), and would never allow herself to be swept away by a sappy romance. Even when she “falls” for down-on-his-luck Nestor Patou, it’s with an eye-roll and a shrug.  I see glimpses of this character in Maggie Gyllenhaal’s fabulous work on HBO’s The Deuce, and at times Irma seems almost feminist in her attitudes.  She may have a boyfriend, but that doesn’t mean she’s ready to stop working.  And thus, her boyfriend has to come up with an asinine scheme, pretending to be an English lord, wearing a silly disguise, working multiple jobs so he can afford to pay  for her time, all so she doesn’t sleep with other men.  This relationship seems doomed from the start, but with a sparkling script by Wilder and winning performances by Apartment co-stars Lemmon and MacLaine, somehow it just works.

Included within the elaborate sets built for this film is a charming bar Chez Moustache, where the pimps come for their union meetings and working gals pop in for a pastis between clients.  You could certainly join them in a straight shot of this herbal spirit diluted with a little water, but I prefer mine in a cocktail.  While watching Irma la Douce, I recommend drinking this Cocktail X.

Cocktail X

1 ½ oz Calvados apple brandy

1 oz Cointreau

½ oz Pastis

1 ½  oz Pineapple Juice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice.  Shake until chilled, then strain into a chilled coupe glass.

Cocktail X

Yes, this film is long. Yes, it’s absurd.  But it’s fun to see the intersection of classic MGM musical and 1960s visual style.  There’s teased hair, plastic heart sunglasses, and movie streets too beautiful to be real, but there is also a heartfelt message about the changing social attitudes within the time period Irma la Douce was made.  As wise Moustache says of the business of sex work, “Love is illegal – but not hate. That you can do anywhere, anytime, to anybody. But if you want a little warmth, a little tenderness, a shoulder to cry on, a smile to cuddle up with, you have to hide in dark corners, like a criminal.”  Leave it to a bartender to speak the truth. Cheers!

Pretty Woman

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Pretty Woman

Image Credit: Pretty Woman, 1990.

Let’s be clear on one thing- Pretty Woman (Disc/Download) is a FAIRY TALE.  Lest we forget, the characters in this film shout it from balconies, fire escapes, and pool patios.  I fully understand that sex workers cannot expect shopping sprees on Rodeo Drive, private jets to the opera, or men who look like Richard Gere.  But knowing this still doesn’t stop me from squealing with glee when Julia Roberts steps into the lobby of the RegeBevWilsh looking like a million bucks.  Sue me- I’m into fairy tales.

In this classic rom-com, lonely businessman Edward (Richard Gere) picks up plucky sex worker Vivian (Julia Roberts) on a rough stretch of Hollywood Blvd.  He needs someone to drive his Lotus, but can’t resist those long legs and winning smile.  They strike a business arrangement, $3,000 for one week together, but things get messy when feelings develop.   For me, the romance is secondary to the joy I feel watching Vivian transform from an insecure girl in cheap clothing to a woman in a tasteful blazer who finally believes in herself.  Romy and Michele said it best:  “I just get really happy when they finally let her shop.”

No offense to the Regent Beverly Wilshire, which I’m sure is a lovely establishment, but daaaaaamn those hotel sets leave a lot to be desired.  The fussy draperies, the magenta bedroom with steps leading up to the bed- yikes. Edward needs alcohol to charm Vivian, because the “plush digs” sure aren’t doing it.  He orders up some champagne and strawberries, which, depending on the quality of the champagne, would totally work on me.   While watching Pretty Woman, I recommend drinking a Sparkling Strawberry Limoncello cocktail.

Sparkling Strawberry Limoncello

1 1/2 oz Frankly Strawberry Vodka

1/2 oz Limoncello

1/2 oz Simple Syrup

1 oz Lemon Juice

3 oz Champagne

Fresh Strawberry for garnish

Combine Vodka, Limoncello, Simple Syrup, and Lemon juice in a shaker with ice.  Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe.  Top with champagne, and garnish with a strawberry slice.

Sure, there are some problematic moments in Pretty Woman (I’m actually slightly amazed Jason Alexander had any kind of career in comedy after this movie), but something I love about it is the idea that a woman is more than what she does for a living.  Whether she’s a sex worker or a department store clerk, she has hidden depths that might include a deep love of opera, a talent for understanding human needs and emotions, or a knack for driving race cars. You just never know until you take the time to find out.  Cheers!