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Category Archives: Comedies

Teen Witch

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Teen Witch

Image credit: Teen Witch, 1989

I’m not sure whether the How Did This Get Made? podcast is the greatest thing to happen to my Netflix queue, or the worst. It has shined a light on so many terrible (but somehow great?) movies I’d missed over the years, prompting me to turn off my normal taste barometers and see what all the fuss was about. Such was the case with this week’s film Teen Witch (DVD/Download).

Starring Robyn Lively as a teenager who discovers she has magical powers on her 16th birthday (which happens to coincide with Friday the 13th), this movie is half-John Hughes/half-80’s music video. Think sax solos, dry ice, teased hair, etc. I thought the weird musical number would be limited to just the opening credits, but no- it’s the whole damn thing (including one bizarre rap song “Top That” which I don’t totally get, but can’t look away from). Lively’s Louise is the classic smart, social reject yearning to be popular, and she achieves this goal by putting a spell on her high school classmates and wearing tighter clothes. Where Teen Witch really surprises me is with the character of her jock-hero obsession, who turns out to be a surprisingly good guy. Sure, he takes her to a sketchy abandoned house to fool around, but let’s not hold that against him. She seemed into it, rusty floor nails and all. Let’s just hope he came prepared with a CONDOM!

One of my favorite things about this movie is Zelda Rubenstein’s Madame Serena, the fortune teller/witch-guru. Totally adorable, she guides Louise through spells and potions, eventually helping her realize that she doesn’t need powers after all- she’s already pretty great. If I could be anywhere on Friday the 13th, it would be in Madame Serena’s lounge, mixing up something potent. While watching Teen Witch, I recommend drinking a Top That!

Top That!

1 oz Club Soda

2 oz Gin

¾ oz Lemon Juice

¾ oz Simple Syrup

¾ oz Blue Curacao

1 egg white

Fill a Collins glass 1/3 full with crushed ice, top with club soda, and set aside. Pour remaining ingredients into a shaker with no ice and shake vigorously for about 10 seconds. Add ice cubes and shake again until well-chilled and frothy. Strain into the prepared glass.

Top That

I know I shouldn’t like this movie, and yet, I totally do. It’s cheesy and dated and trite, but somehow that just makes it better. There’s enough romance and hormone jokes to appeal to my teen-movie sensibilities, and the out-of-focus, badly choreographed, slow-motion dance sequences are basically what’s been missing from my life. I dare anybody to top that. Cheers!

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Working Girl

working girl

Image credit: Working Girl, 1988.

To celebrate the 4th anniversary of Cinema Sips, this week I’ll be watching a classic ode to big hair and big dreams, Working Girl (DVD/Download).  Championing the idea that if you want to get ahead in life, you have to make it happen, this film is an inspiration to any woman who has ever dared to imagine she could crack the glass ceiling.  Or match her two-toned eye shadow to her jewelry.

As intelligent, hard-working Tess McGill, Melanie Griffith gets overlooked at work due to her Jersey accent, flashy clothes, and pretty face. She wants to make it in Mergers & Acquisitions (whatever the hell that is) but feels permanently stuck down in the secretarial pool. Enter Sigourney Weaver, a boss babe who seems supportive at first, but turns out to be a snake in Armani shoulder pads. Through some creative maneuvering, elocution lessons, and a flattering new haircut, Tess manages to pass herself off as someone who matters. The thing is- she had good ideas all along. She should have been taken seriously from the get-go. But sometimes when the rules are stacked against you, you have to make up new ones.

Along the way to the top, she meets Jack Trainer, delightfully portrayed by Harrison Ford. Talk about a female fantasy- he doesn’t talk down to Tess because she’s a woman, he values her ideas, and he offers her herbal tea when she gets drunk on tequila and valium. Maybe you’re in the mood for romance, or maybe you’ve just had a tough day at the office. In either case, I recommend watching Working Girl with some Lust & Tequila.

Lust & Tequila

1.5 oz silver tequila

3/4 oz lime juice

4 oz Mighty Swell Peach sparkling cocktail (or peach soda)

Topo Chico

Lime Twist

Build drink over ice in a highball glass, topping with Topo Chico.  Stir gently to combine, and garnish with a lime twist.

Lust and Tequila

As any working woman can tell you, making it happen is hard.  As I juggle a day job, a blog, a burgeoning career as a novelist, and that hungry beast called Social Media, I start to wonder if it’s all worth it.  The thing that keeps me going is the idea that someone out there might stumble onto this post and get SO EXCITED about drinking tequila while watching Working Girl.  Maybe it’ll bring a smile to their face.  Same goes for my books.  Finding a story that consumes me so much that I can’t put it down is one of my greatest joys in life. The dream of doing that for someone else is a big motivator.  Like Tess, if I keep pushing forward, some day I’ll get there.  Maybe Working Girl is a fairy tale, but it’s one I want to believe in.   Cheers!

Harvey

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harvey

Image credit: Harvey, 1950

The devastating hurricane that pummeled my state over the weekend may have inspired this week’s  film choice, but rest assured, Harvey (DVD/Download) is the cheer-up film we all need right now.  I’m a fan of pretty much every Jimmy Stewart movie, and this is certainly one of the greats. Sure it’s based on a play, but let’s not hold that against it, shall we?

As Elwood P. Dowd, Jimmy Stewart is at the peak of his nice-guy charm as he drinks the day away, talks to his imaginary rabbit friend Harvey, and perplexes his relatives. Is he crazy? Is he drunk? Who cares?? He’s just so darn pleasant that you want to take his calling card and stop by for happy hour with him and Harvey. What is Harvey exactly? A 6’ 3 ½” “pooka” who’s a great friend to all, even if you can’t see him. Personally, I love the idea of an imaginary friend. For one thing, you never have to drink alone!

Throughout the film, Elwood likes to frequent the local bar, yet he never gets sloppy drunk. He’s just hanging out, having a good time, making new friends. We should all aspire to drink like Elwood. Although martinis seem to be his drink of choice, I’m making something special for his rabbit friend this week. While watching Harvey, I recommend drinking a Carrotini.

Carrotini

1 ½ oz gin

¾ oz Cointreau

1 oz carrot juice

½ oz lemon juice

½ oz simple syrup

Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice, and shake until chilled. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

Carrotini

The lesson that I think we can all learn from both Elwood P. Dowd and Harvey is one of kindness. A little charm, and a little understanding can go a long way toward disarming any situation. Plus, if you’re a nice guy, they might not immediately send you to the sanitarium. Cheers!

Being John Malkovich

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Being John Malkovich

Image Credit: Being John Malkovich, 1999

If you could crawl into the mind of a celebrity, who would it be? For me, the answer is easy- Nicholas Cage. Not only would it likely be a weird and wacky ride, but I might be able to save him (and the rest of humanity) from some truly terrible films. In this week’s film Being John Malkovich (DVD/Download), one of the great American actors of the 20th century becomes the host du jour. Why did screenwriter Charlie Kaufman choose actor John Malkovich? Because it’s just fun to say Malkovich.

Directed by Spike Jonze, Being John Malkovich has all the movie elements I love. Unusual sets (7 ½ floor, anyone?), puppets, good-looking celebrities going ugly (YIKES Cameron Diaz), and famous actors playing themselves. As greasy-haired puppeteer Craig Schwartz, John Cusack slides through the portal into John Malkovich’s mind and eventually opens the actor up to a slew of other people taking possession.  As the film progresses, we start to examine what makes a person uniquely themselves, and how much of our minds are controlled by outside influences.

Although many people try to inhabit the mind of Malkovich, the 105-years-young Dr. Lester has perhaps the biggest claim to this coveted mental real estate. It’s his building where the portal on the 7 ½ floor exists, and he’s spent his life drinking carrot juice to stay vital. Wouldn’t it be great to find a cocktail that reverses the aging process? I’m willing to try if you are. While watching Being John Malkovich, I recommend drinking a Carrot Collins.

Carrot Collins

3 oz carrot juice

¾ oz lime juice

1.5 oz spiced rum

¾ cup ginger beer

1 oz mint simple syrup

Combine all ingredients in a collins glass over ice. Stir gently, and garnish with a sprig of mint.

Carrot Collins

One of the most interesting scenes in the film is when John Malkovich goes through his own portal, landing inside his own mind. What he encounters is a collection of Malkovich clones, who can speak only his surname; or as he puts it, “a world no man should see.” I can empathize. A room full of Liz Locke’s? TERRIFYING. Cheers!

Friends With Money

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Friends With Money

Image Credit: Friends With Money, 2006

Middle age is a really weird time for friendships- something I’m finding truer and truer the older I get. Some people in their 30’s and 40’s have kids and a mortgage, while others still live like they did in college and may or may not have a roommate.  Some have flourishing careers that pay lucratively, and some are still figuring it out while working temp jobs.  This disparity, and the conflict it creates, gets examined in this week’s film Friends with Money (DVD/Download).  A thoroughly lovely picture, it asks the question- how do you stay friends with someone after your lives have diverged so completely?  In what ways does money complicate a relationship?

Jennifer Aniston’s character Olivia is (on the surface) the most dysfunctional within her group of friends. She’s working as a maid, chasing after a married man, and obsessively hoarding sample size cosmetics. She falls into a toxic relationship with a younger man, but endures him because… what else is there? Yet as the film progresses, we see that her other three friends don’t necessarily have it all figured out either. The characters played by Catherine Keener and Frances McDormand may have flourishing careers, but their marriages are questionable at best, and McDormand is a simmering kettle of suburban rage. And then there’s Joan Cusack, who has a trust fund, and pretty much no problems. It’s a stance we don’t often see in film and literature; normally more money = less happiness. But thing is, she and her husband are really happy because they don’t spend all their time arguing about money.

Although I find myself most identifying with Frances McDormand’s character (who among us hasn’t wanted to scream at someone who cuts in front of us in the Old Navy line??), I still find Jennifer Aniston’s Olivia incredibly relatable.  I’m such a sucker for sample size anything, particularly cosmetics and alcohol.  So while watching Friends With Money, find some fancy samples at your local liquor store and try them out.  Minimal commitment required.

money bottles

I’m a huge fan of most of director Nicole Holofcener’s films (such as Walking and Talking, Lovely & Amazing, and Enough Said). But Friends with Money is the one that I keep thinking about as things change with my life. The concept of money is so intriguing because everybody is striving for it, hoarding it, or eschewing it, but nobody wants to talk about it. It’s like our lives and relationships are revolving around this completely forbidden subject. Finally with this film, the conversation is started. Cheers!

I Heart Huckabees

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I Heart Huckabees

Image Credit: I Heart Huckabees 2004

No, this is not a film about Mike Huckabee and his daughter Sarah (thank goodness). Rather, I Heart Huckabees (DVD/Download) is a bizarre existential comedy that’s like the most interesting philosophy class you never took in college. It makes me ponder the meaning of life, as well as the inexplicable popularity of Shania Twain.

Directed by David O. Russell (pretty aggressively according to the infamous viral video ), Huckabees stars so many great actors it’s almost impossible to keep track. Jason Schwartzman is perfect as the environmental crusader struggling to understand the meaning of coincidences, Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin play his hired “existential detectives”, Isabelle Huppert is a sexy rival detective, Jude Law and Naomi Watts play corporate shills for the Huckabees Corporation, and even Mark Wahlberg turns in a surprisingly brilliant performance as the petroleum-hating fireman and fellow philosophy student of Hoffman/Tomlin/Hubert.  What is Huckabees really about? It’s hard to say. But if we’re examining philosophy in relation to this film, I find myself squarely in the “everything is the same, even if it’s different” camp. There are so many characters and subplots that it’s dizzying at times, but in the end, they’re all under the blanket of this wonderfully unique movie.

I’ve wanted to try experimenting with activated charcoal cocktails for a while, and Huckabees provides a perfect opportunity. A favorite existential method of discovery is to place a person inside a zipped bag, allowing the darkness to let one’s subconscious thoughts rise to the surface. The great thing about this black cocktail is that there could literally be anything inside of it. I’ve chosen a recipe that is light and tart, but if you want a heavier kick, that’s your call. Who’s to know?  Bonus points if you smear the charcoal all over your face like Naomi Watts while wearing a bonnet. While watching I Heart Huckabees, I recommend drinking a Blanket Statement.

Blanket Statement

1 ½ oz aged rum

Pinch of activated charcoal*

½ oz grapefruit juice

½ oz lime juice

¼ oz Orgeat syrup

¼ oz Maraschino liqueur

Shake all ingredients together over ice, and strain into a chilled martini glass.

*Note: Activated charcoal can be risky combined with certain medications. If unsure, check with your doctor before imbibing.

photo by @pop_up_cobra

David O. Russell would go onto many more acclaimed pictures such as American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook, but I’ll always have a soft spot for I Heart Huckabees. I love to celebrate the truly original, and there’s definitely nothing like this film. If you find yourself wondering “How am I not myself?” in the middle of the day on a Wednesday, it’s worked its magic. Cheers!

Moonrise Kingdom

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Moonrise Kingdom

Image credit: Moonrise Kingdom, 2012

There’s nothing like young lovers and a vintage New England setting to get me excited for summer. Of course my all-time favorite example of this is A Summer Place, but with his 2012 film Moonrise Kingdom (DVD/Download), Wes Anderson created a modern summertime masterpiece. It may not have Troy Donahue in short-shorts, but Bill Murray does sport some nifty madras pants.

Set in the fictional town of New Penzance, Moonrise Kingdom features wainscotted homes full of sturdy antiques, a picturesque lighthouse, rocky beach coves, and pine forests. I can almost smell the salt air, and the vintage postcard-style cinematography is truly transporting. Like any Anderson film this one is full of bizarrely perfect casting, like Bruce Willis as a lovelorn sheriff, Edward Norton as an Eagle Scout troop leader, and Tilda Swinton as a comically severe social worker. The pre-teen lovers are both disaffected to the outside world yet earnest with one another, and as they dance in their underwear to the music coming from a portable record player, I find myself longing to be even half as cool.

There’s nothing like a freshly pressed scout uniform to make you think of summertime cookouts, the open air, and wilderness lodges. This film deserves a drink that’s crisp, refreshing, and easy to make indoors as well as out. While watching Moonrise Kingdom, I recommend drinking a Khaki Scout Cooler.

Khaki Scout Cooler

1 ½ oz Gin

2-3 dashes celery bitters

½ oz Maraschino liqueur

4-5 mint leaves

1 slice of cucumber

1 lime wedge

Topo Chico sparkling water

Muddle mint leaves and cucumber with the maraschino liqueur at the bottom of a Collins glass. Add gin, bitters, and ice. Top with Topo Chico (or sparkling water) and squeeze the lime wedge, dropping into the glass.

Khaki Scout Cooler

photo by @pop_up_cobra

I may be stuck in the fiery pit of hell that is Texas in the summer, but this movie just begs to be watched outdoors. Luckily I’ve got a refreshing cocktail on tap, a pair of madras shorts, and a portable fan. Record player optional. Cheers!