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Category Archives: Comedies

Slums of Beverly Hills

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slums of beverly hills

Image credit: Slums of Beverly Hills, 1998.

There’s so much for me to relate to Slums of Beverly Hills (Disc/Download), including (but not limited to): the awkwardness of bra shopping, a childhood of dingbat apartments,; and most of all, a freakish obsession with the book Helter Skelter.  That’s right, I was obsessed with true crime before it was cool.

In today’s world, teenage girls feel free to talk about sex and masturbation and vibrators like it’s nothing.  They don’t wear underwires, and their shorts barely cover their butt cheeks.  Watching Slums of Beverly Hills, it’s very clear that Vivian Abramowitz was born too early. The stuff that was scandalous in 1976 is tame by today’s standards, making this film an interesting time capsule. Even I had to Google a few things, such as—what the heck is a menstrual belt??   But while our societal norms have changed, a few things remain the same. Teenage girls will always feel awkward and out-of-place, they will always be embarrassed by their family, and there will always be people preoccupied with the crimes of the Manson Family (ahem, Quentin Tarantino.  And me).

Viv’s cousin Rita (Marissa Tomei) is the quintessential California chick in the ’70s—beautiful, scattered, and fueled mostly by diuretics and vodka.  This girl needs to get her vitamins where she can.  Let’s celebrate Rita, and the superior fruit crops of California with this Avocado ‘Rita.

Avocado ‘Rita

1/2 ripe avocado, peeled and pitted

1 cup ice

2 oz Reposado tequila

1 oz Cointreau

1 oz Lime Juice

Pinch of salt, plus more for glass.

Rim a glass with salt, and set aside.  Add remaining ingredients to a blender.  Pulse until smooth.  Pour into prepared glass.

Writer/Director Tamara Jenkins has made several films that’ve strongly resonated with me, but none more than this one.  Because to be a teenage girl is to deal with a constant string of dingbats—things that promise the good life but never deliver.  For anyone who’s ever had to accept life and all its disappointments, flaws, etc., this drink’s for you.  Cheers!

Breaking Away

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Breaking Away

Image credit: Breaking Away, 1979.

For anybody who thinks Breaking Away (Disc/Download) is only about cycling, let me enlighten you to the real reason we watch this movie— Dennis. Quaid’s. Abs.  All kidding aside, this is a great flick for when you find yourself in the summer doldrums, waiting for something to change, even when it seems like nothing ever will. It’s a movie about feeling like you’re on the precipice of… something.  You just don’t know what yet.

Starring Beck doppelgänger Dennis Christopher as a teen obsessed with Italian cyclists, Breaking Away follows Dave and his three buddies as they figure out how to go from high school to adulthood.  As “townies” in Bloomington, IN, they’re ridiculed by the university jocks and frat boys, their ambitions reduced to pipe dreams that’ll never come true.  But Dave doesn’t care—he goes after the pretty sorority girl, pretends he’s Italian, and trains obsessively to compete in the local bike race.  His friends think he’s a little nuts, his parents think he’s really nuts, but none of that matters.  He’s got a goal, and nothing’s gonna stop him.

When the Italian racers come to Indiana, they’re sponsored by the Cinzano alcohol brand.  How fortuitous for Cinema Sips!  But the thing is, these Cinzano racers are evil.  Threatened by Dave’s natural talent, they sabotage his bike, leaving him broken and bloody on the side of the road.  So I’m boycotting Cinzano, in favor of my other favorite summertime Italian aperitif Aperol.  While watching Breaking Away, I recommend drinking this Cutter Collins.

Cutter Collins

1 ½ oz Gin

1 ½ oz Aperol

¾ oz Lemon Juice

¼ oz Simple Syrup

4 basil leaves, roughly torn

½ oz Prosecco

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice, and shake until well chilled and combined.  Strain into a glass filled with crushed ice, and top with prosecco.  Garnish with a sprig of basil.

Cutter

For anyone who’s ever felt like their dreams are unattainable, this is a good reminder that hard work and dedication can go a long way.  Also, it’s okay to ask for a little help from your friends. Especially if that friend is a glistening, shirtless Dennis Quaid. Cheers!

 

Shag

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Shag

Image credit: Shag, 1989.

If you’re a fan of Dirty Dancing and Where the Boys Are, let me introduce you to their love child- Shag (Disc).  This 80s-made/60s-set gem is the kind of movie I would have watched in my VCR until the tape finally wore out.  It’s the summer fling flick I’ve been waiting my whole life for, and luckily, it found me after I was of legal drinking age.

Set in 1963, Shag follows four female friends who take a road trip to Myrtle Beach.  One is escaping a fiancé she’s just not that into, one is escaping her reputation as the “fat girl”, one is trying to be a Hollywood starlet, and then there’s Luanne- the buzzkill with the rad car.  Think Sex and the City, but at the beach in retro dresses.  Of course they meet boys, of course they drink, and of course they find themselves during this wild weekend.  But what I love even more than the production design, costumes, and cheesy script is witnessing the bonds of female friendship.  These girls are there for each other, through sexist beauty pageants, TP’d houses, and beyond.

Because Luanne lays down the law early that her daddy’s bourbon is strictly off-limits, we’ve gotta make do with tequila.  For a fun, summertime movie like this, you need something sweet, sparkling, and deceptively boozy.  I recommend drinking this Strawberry Shag.

 Strawberry Shag

4 strawberries + 1 for garnish

½ oz agave nectar or simple syrup

1 oz lime juice

2 oz tequila

2 basil leaves

6 oz club soda

Blend strawberries, agave nectar, lime juice, tequila, and basil in a blender, without ice.  Strain, and set aside.  Then, add crushed ice to a glass, and pour in the blended mixture.  Top with club soda, and garnish with a strawberry.

Strawberry Shag

I didn’t know until this movie that “shag” was a kind of dance, and not a particularly sexual one.  Plus, Bubble Flip is a hairstyle, not a drink.  JFK is a sweet potato, which means he’s dreamy; but also, I never realized how much he actually looks like a sweet potato. Thank you Shag, for expanding my sixties slang horizons.  Cheers!

Little Voice

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little voice

Image Credit: Little Voice, 1998

For something called Little Voice (Disc/Download), this might be one of the loudest movies I’ve ever experienced.  From the shrill nagging of Brenda Blethyn, to Michael Caine’s tour-de-force meltdown, to the amazing musical mimicry by Jane Horrocks, my ears are still ringing.  Let’s take a quiet breath before we discuss a magical movie that fostered my love of the classic chanteuse.

Set in a crappy seaport town, Little Voice is part of the late ‘90s heyday of quirky British cinema. Films like Brassed OffBilly Elliott, and The Full Monty give the impression that England is a cold, grey place where everyone’s broke, the food is terrible, but somehow people can sing and dance really well.  As Little Voice, Jane Horrocks plays a young woman clearly on the autism spectrum, who has the ability to mimic the famous female singers in her father’s record collection.  She belts out all the standards, sounding EXACTLY like Judy Garland, Shirley Bassey, Marilyn Monroe, and others.  Her promiscuous, neglectful mother dismisses her talent, until third-rate manager Ray Say (played by Michael Caine in one of his most impressive roles) decides LV could be his new cash cow.  They’re cruel enough to be Disney villains, if we’re viewing Little Voice as the endangered princess and Ewan McGregor her pigeon-raising prince. This movie isn’t for everyone, but if you love old records and the cockney accent of Michael Caine, you won’t be disappointed.

Reuniting Moulin Rouge actors Ewan McGregor and Jim Broadbent, Little Voice places Broadbent in the role of Master of Ceremonies once again- this time at Mr. Boo’s nightclub.  He’s got greasy, stringy hair and a sequined jacket, yet he’s the only one who seems to have even half a heart in this abusive situation.  While watching Little Voice, I recommend drinking this Boo’s Muse.

Boo’s Muse

1 ½ oz Gin

½ oz Campari

½ oz Simple Syrup

¾ oz Lemon Juice

½ oz Orange Juice

Sparkling Rosé

Combine gin, Campari, simple syrup, lemon and orange juices in a cocktail shaker with ice.  Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass filled with fresh ice.  Top with sparkling rosé.  Garnish with an orange twist.

Boos Muse

In the end, I still love that this film celebrates the female voice.  Whether it’s Judy, or Marilyn, or Brenda Blethyn screeching at the top of her lungs, they all have the power to stop men in their tracks.  Little Voice’s songs may not be original, but this character is one of a kind.  Cheers!

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!