RSS Feed

Category Archives: Comedies

California Suite

California Suite

Image credit: California Suite, 1978.

Well, I don’t know what to say about the Oscars this year except they’ve really mucked it up, haven’t they? From the host debacle, to the televised category back-and-forth, to the lack of female nominees, it’s enough to make even the most die-hard film fan skip the ceremony altogether. Me, I love a good train wreck.  But if you REALLY must skip,  I suggest watching California Suite (DVD/Download) instead. In this delightful gem of a film, Maggie Smith perfectly sums up the Academy Awards in one sentence: “I’ve been getting ready for this horseshit affair for THREE HOURS!!!!” I feel ya, Mags. All they have left are the dresses.

Adapted from a Neil Simon play, California Suite follows four couples who are all staying at the Beverly Hills Hotel. In these vignettes, we get to enjoy the following highlights: Maggie Smith, shit-faced after losing the Academy Award, arguing with her semi-closeted gay husband played by Michael Caine. Walter Matthau, waking up next to a hooker he has to hide from his wife. Jane Fonda and Alan Arkin, bickering over custody of their daughter. Richard Pryor and Bill Cosby, playing tennis, wrestling, and showing us why it’s a bad idea to travel with friends. Shot on location at the Beverly Hills Hotel, this film is a vintage textile lover’s dream. That banana leaf wallpaper— SWOOOOON! I know I’ll never be Maggie Smith, and I know I’ll never be up for an Academy Award, but I can sure as hell get drunk in the hall and fondle that wallpaper. One might even say it’s on my bucket list.

While Maggie prepares to lose the Oscar, her fabulous husband is busy pouring the gin. As he says, “three gins, one tonic”. Sounds like the perfect ratio. You could make one strong drink, or you could join me during the red carpet coverage in trying ALL THE GINS, and a little bit of tonic. Cheers!

Gins and Tonic

We love to hate on this year’s Academy Awards broadcast, but California Suite proves that people have been hating on this damn dog-and-pony show since the 1970’s.  Probably even before.  Whether you watch this movie to mock the absurdity along with Maggie Smith (who incidentally, did win an Oscar for her role in this), or watch it for the wonderful slice-of-life script, just watch it. Preferably with three gins of course ;-). Cheers!

That Funny Feeling

Posted on
That Funny Feeling

Image credit: That Funny Feeling, 1965.

If I had to describe my favorite film genre, I’d have to say, “anything with 1960’s cocktail dresses”.   Even before Mad Men came on the scene, I was already obsessed.  Blame Doris Day, blame Sandra Dee– so many wonderful actresses took me down that A-line chiffon rabbit hole.  This week, I’ll be watching one of my favorites in the “pretty dress” canon, That Funny Feeling (Disc/Download).

Starring Sandra Dee and her then-husband, crooner Bobby Darin, That Funny Feeling follows the familiar Pillow Talk formula that worked so well for Doris and Rock. Sandra’s character Joan is a maid/struggling actress, who meets cute with Bobby Darin’s lothario character Tom, never realizing that he owns the apartment she cleans every morning. His trip gets cancelled, right after Joan allows him to escort her home to “her place”, which is actually his place! He has to move in with a friend (Donald O’Connor, in a truly bizarre role), to maintain the charade, during which time she covers his leather sofa with chintz slipcovers and hawks his suits– I’m still not sure why. Maybe so we can enjoy the sight gag of Bobby Darin climbing down a New York City fire escape in nothing but a plaid parka?   Strange plot devices aside, this movie is full of beautiful cocktail dresses, gin, midcentury interior décor, vintage stereo equipment, and sassy best friends. That’s enough to sell me on even the worst movie.

Sandra Dee is a classy lady in this film, allowing Bobby Darin to buy her gin and quinine that she takes one lousy sip of. Until later, when she has (oh dear!) a FULL GLASS and gets hammered. You can certainly watch this movie with a gin and tonic (I like the quinine ratio in Jack Rudy Tonic Syrup), but I also want to highlight the scene where her roommate dumps a bunch of brandy and Cointreau on a roast duck and lights it up with her cigarette. God, I love the 60’s. While watching That Funny Feeling, I recommend drinking a Big Apple Sidecar.

Big Apple Sidecar

1 ½ oz Calvados Apple Brandy

1 oz Cointreau

1 oz spiced apple cider

1 oz lime juice

½ oz lemon juice

½ oz simple syrup

Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass.

big apple sidecar

I will admit, there’s a cringe-inducing part of this film where Sandra Dee pretends to have a Japanese accent. It’s bad. It’s very, very bad. However, the script does lament the pervasive white-washing of Hollywood, much to my surprise. That’s the thing about these Sandra Dee movies- they may look all fluffy and retro on the surface, but dig deep and you’ll find some thoroughly modern problems.  After all, sometimes even the best cocktails need a little sweet to balance the bitter. Cheers!

The Darjeeling Limited

Posted on
the darjeeling limited

Image credit: The Darjeeling Limited, 2007

Trains are pretty fascinating if you stop to think about it. Depending on which seat you choose, you have the ability to look forward or backward in time, contemplating how the past will influence the future, and how your present is just a brief stopping point on the journey to somewhere else. In this week’s film The Darjeeling Limited (Disc/Download), three brothers do just that on a sleeper car through India. Grab your savoury snacks and teapot- it’s time to dig deep.

Perfectly placed within the Wes Anderson film canon, The Darjeeling Limited features familiar elements like vintage luggage, perfectly tailored suits in various states of dishevelment, a place for everything/everything in its place, and a lot of paterfamilias drama. As three brothers (Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, and Adrien Brody) grapple with their father’s death and their mother’s abandonment, they reexamine their relationships with one another to figure out where they went off the rails (pun intended). The Darjeeling Limited train is pretty much the only way I would ever travel through India, and only if it was designed by Wes Anderson. I thought I was partial to the 20th Century Limited in North by Northwest, but the Darjeeling Limited has a quirky exoticism to it I can’t resist. Plus- SAVOURY SNACKS!

During the summer, I would definitely watch this film with a sweet lime gimlet (recipe here).  But during the winter, a toddy feels more appropriate.  With exotic spices and flavors, this drink will make you feel transported to the sunny, hot climate of India.  While watching The Darjeeling Limited, I recommend drinking a Darjeeling Toddy.

Darjeeling Toddy

1 bag Darjeeling tea

1 cup boiling water

1 oz dark spiced rum

1 oz cognac

1 Tbsp honey

1 small piece dried ginger

2 tsp lemon juice

1 lemon wedge

Combine water, rum, and cognac in a saucepan, and drop in tea bag and ginger to steep. After about 5 minutes, discard tea bag and ginger, then stir in honey. Strain mixture into a mug, and add the lemon juice. Garnish with a lemon wedge.

darjeeling toddy

There’s such a romance to trains that it’s easy to see why they’re still featured in cinema, even when they’re no longer a part of most people’s itineraries.  In an era of depressing air travel and trying to get somewhere as fast as possible, it’s nice to watch people slowing down to experience the journey itself. Cheers!

Splash

Posted on
splash

Image credit: Splash, 1984.

I know I’m supposed to care about modern underwater extravaganzas like Aquaman, but the truth is I’ve never gotten over my first deep-sea movie love:  Splash (Disc/Download).  Even The Little Mermaid pales in comparison to this delightful Tom Hanks/Daryl Hannah rom-com about a man who falls in love with a mermaid.  Funny and charming, with some pretty impressive fishtail effects, this film is a sea fantasy come to life.

When I was young, I totally wanted to be Daryl Hannah.  Alas, all the Morton’s salt in the world couldn’t turn my legs to scales and my hair into a soft, flowing nest of crimped perfection.  As mermaid Madison, she learns English in a single afternoon by watching daytime TV, goes on a Bloomingdale’s shopping spree, and somehow learns how to ice skate despite the fact that she’s never seen ice before.  Plus, she makes the wise decision early on to fall for Tom Hanks.  He’s the kind of guy who offers to get her a hotel room, even after she’s slept with him, because he knows their afternoon delight DOESN’T AUTOMATICALLY OBLIGATE HER TO DO MORE.  He’s the kind of guy who keeps fish tanks in every room because he’s never gotten over the mermaid who saved him as a little boy.  And he’s the kind of guy who will give up a lifetime of John Candy’s jokes for his one true love.  This man is a keeper.

Speaking of John Candy, he plays Hanks’ off-color, sleazy brother with a schlubby, good-hearted charm.  Sure he’s a walking sexual harassment lawsuit, but he also dispenses wisdom like, “Drinking is a matter of algebraic ratio.  It’s not that you had too much to drink; it’s that you’re too skinny.”  SO TRUE.  While watching Splash, capture the flavor of the ocean with some Himalayan Salt shot glasses, and this tasty cocktail:

SALTWATER SHOT

2 oz Citron Vodka

1 oz Orange Liqueur

1 oz Lime Juice

Lime Wedge

Combine vodka, orange liqueur, and lime juice in a shaker with ice.  Shake until chilled, then pour into Himalayan Salt glasses.  Garnish with a lime wedge.

saltwater shots

Rumor has it this film is being remade with a gender swap, but I’ll always love the original because it celebrates a mermaid who doesn’t have to change herself to fit into a man’s world.  Her world is pretty awesome already, and if a guy wants to be with her, he’s just going to have to hang out underwater and kiss her constantly for the rest of his life.  Now THAT’S a happily ever after.  Cheers!

While You Were Sleeping

While you were sleeping

Image credit: While You Were Sleeping, 1995.

Before I dive into a month’s worth of classic Christmas films, I’m easing into the holiday spirit with the movie that probably inspired countless contemporary romance novels and Hallmark productions. (Let’s pause to write the producers a thank-you note).  While You Were Sleeping (DVD/Download) is the Christmas movie for lonely hearts, the siren call for every schlubby transit worker who dreams of the guy in the suit, only to realize the guy in the Carhartt jacket is way sexier. Trust me- you want the guy who can build you a chair, not the one who can buy it for you.

Starring Sandra Bullock as a single, cat-owning, Oreo-eating heroine, While You Were Sleeping is a film not just about romance, but about family connection. After she saves her crush from being hit by a train, his family mistakenly believes she’s their future daughter-in-law, and she goes along with it because it kinda sucks to be alone at the holidays. But then she meets her faux-fiance’s brother played by Bill Pullman (honestly I was always more of a Paxton girl myself, but Pullman makes it work), and realizes he’s maybe kinda sorta her soul mate.  Hijinks ensue, Christmas trees are bought, presents are unwrapped, and Chicago looks really f*cking cold. Pass the eggnog!

One fun thing I discovered on a recent re-watch of this film is that the grandma-with-a-heart-problem (because of course) is played by none other than Glynis Johns, aka. Mrs. Banks from Mary Poppins. Grandma Elsie mixes up a mean batch of eggnog, meant to be sipped slowly. So while watching While You Were Sleeping, let’s join in the fun by drinking Elsie’s Eggnog:

Elsie’s Eggnog

4 oz Store-bought eggnog

1 oz Rumchata

1 oz Southern Comfort

1 oz Bourbon

Whipped Cream and cinnamon for garnish

Stir together eggnog and other ingredients in a shaker with ice. Stir until chilled, then strain into a chilled glass. Top with whipped cream and cinnamon.

eggnog

This movie is especially endearing because it’s not just a film about a girl trying to get a guy at Christmas. It’s about a girl trying to connect with a family, one that comes with drunk relatives, ugly furniture, and the kind of mom who will put up a stocking for someone she barely knows. And that’s what makes the holidays so great, when you stop to think about it. Well, that and boozy eggnog. Cheers!

Clue

Posted on
Clue Mrs Peacock

Image credit: Clue, 1985

For over twenty-five years, I’ve been terrorized by a film. It haunted me into adolescence and adulthood, through midnight screenings and drunken Halloween parties. Just the mere mention of it caused my body to shudder and shake. When I finally got brave enough to admit my fear of Clue (DVD/Download), I was met with confused stares. “Wait,” people would say, “Are we talking about the same movie? Clue?? That really wacky murder-mystery movie from the 80’s?” Yes, that would be the one.

You see, seven-year old Liz Locke could not handle Clue. The sight of a gloved hand raising a wrench over an unsuspecting victim’s head gave me such tremendous nightmares that I had to sleep with my parents for a week. Even when they made me suck it up and deal with it, I never turned that nightlight off. EVER. When I grew up, and people tried to tell me how funny, how absurd this film is, I still resisted watching it. Why revisit past trauma? But this week, I finally decided to take the plunge. I actually rented Clue, and with trembling fingers, hit play. And you know what? I LOVED IT! I’ve decided I want to be Mrs. Peacock when I grow up, with her weird hats and cat-eye glasses. I’d be BFFs with Mr. Green, but only if he’s played by the brilliant Michael McKean. I’d attend dinner parties in a fabulous old New England mansion and scurry through secret passageways. And I would NOT slurp my soup.

Perhaps I should credit alcohol for being the main reason I now love this movie. With a cocktail (or two), just about anything can be fun. Normally I’d consider Brandy to be a serious spirit for serious films, but mixed with some maraschino and pineapple, it’s a flirty, 1950’s inspired drink fit for Mrs. Peacock. While watching Clue, I recommend drinking a Club Cocktail.

Club Cocktail

2 oz Brandy

½ oz Maraschino Liqueur

½ oz pineapple juice

2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

Lemon Twist

Maraschino cherry

Mix Brandy, Marschino Liqueur, pineapple juice, and bitters in a shaker filled with ice. Shake well, then strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon and maraschino cherry.

As a nod to this film’s three separate endings, try switching out the brandy with rum, or silver tequila. If you’re throwing a Halloween party, this could be a great way to mix things up. Like a choose-your-own adventure for booze. Show this film, then give the guests one of the three cocktail variations, or perhaps all three! They won’t know what hit them. Cheers to no more nightmares!

Shampoo

Posted on
shampoo

Image credit: Shampoo, 1975

In 1960’s-era Beverly Hills, the hairdresser was king. Back then, women didn’t have all the handheld home gadgets we have today. No straightening irons, fancy ionic hairdryers, or texturizing sprays. It was aquanet and curlers, and if you were really brave, an actual clothes iron. So of course, any heterosexual man who could make a woman’s hair look like a million bucks would have been the natural recipient of a casual sex buffet. In Shampoo (DVD/Download), that man was Warren Beatty. Outside of Shampoo, that man was still Warren Beatty.

I like to think of this Hal Ashby-directed gem as American Graffiti meets Dazed and Confused meets the French New Wave. The story unfolds slowly, letting the audience experience a typical day in the crazy life of a popular, promiscuous hairstylist. Warren Beatty’s character George doesn’t end the film much further than where he started, but our own perception has shifted. His metamorphosis from sexy cad to sad hustler occurs once  Julie Christie and Goldie Hawn show him the consequences of his actions, and it’s worth watching just for their performances alone. This film isn’t for everyone, but I’ve always been a fan of slice-of-life stories. And wow, there’s a lot of life in this slice.

All you regular Cinema Sips readers know I love a good party scene, and Shampoo does not disappoint. There’s a celebratory dinner for Republicans (picture stuffed shirts glad-handing each other over Nixon’s presidential victory), and then there’s a wild, acid-fueled counterculture party at a Hollywood mansion. While I’d probably rather be with the hippies, I can’t deny that Republicans know how to make a lethal cocktail. Goldie tries to order a Stinger, which prompted me to ask, what’s a Stinger? Apparently, a drink that died out in the 1970’s. Let’s celebrate 1968 with this slow sipper. It certainly makes me feel like I’m drinking in another era.

Stinger

1 ¾ oz Cognac

2/3 oz White Crème de Menthe

Pour Cognac and Crème de Menthe in a cocktail shaker with ice, and stir to combine. Pour entire contents of shaker into a rocks glass.

Stinger

What I find fascinating about this movie is that it was made just after Nixon’s resignation, yet takes place on the night he was elected president in 1968. Such a short number of years in between, but what a difference those years make both in hair, and in politics. I wonder, will we be seeing movies set on 11/8/16 at some point? If the answer’s yes, I’d just like to say: I was a shell-shocked mess, but I think my hair looked pretty good. Cheers!

*Ironically, Beatty’s character has THE WORST haircut I’ve seen on a man. Where do the sideburns begin and end? Where are his ears? I have no idea!!!!!