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Category Archives: Comedies

The Four Seasons

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Image credit: The Four Seasons, 1981

Anyone who knows me know I love vacations. Talking about them, going on them, planning them—I live for escapism. So imagine my delight to discover a 1980s Alan Alda film The Four Seasons (Disc/Download), in which three couples do nothing but take vacations. Sign me up!

In addition to this fantastic premise, the cast is what really sold me. Alan Alda, Carol Burnett, Sandy Dennis, Rita Moreno—a who’s who of interesting, intelligent, funny people. We see these actors bicker and laugh as they travel from rustic New England cabins to St. Thomas yachts, and back to an ivy-covered college campus. But even in the most gorgeous, unbelievable surroundings, the characters feel so down-to-earth and real. There’s a particular scene where Alan Alda and Carol Burnett are lying in bed on the boat, listening to their friend and his new girlfriend make love in the adjacent stateroom, and they just can’t stop giggling. It makes you feel like you’re right there with them, on this ridiculous trip, with these ridiculous people. Their life is your life, for the length of this trip.

Speaking of boats, I think it’s straight-up #goals to see Jack Weston chilled out on the top deck, relaxing with a drink while everyone else argues about naked Bess Armstrong crashing the party (for all you My So-Called Life fans- yes, I’ve now seen Patty Chase’s butt).  While watching The Four Seasons, make believe you’re cruising the Virgin Islands with this Painkiller cocktail.

Painkiller

2 oz Dark Rum

4 oz Pineapple Juice

1 oz Cream of Coconut

1 oz Orange Juice

Nutmeg (for garnish)

Combine liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass or tiki mug filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a pinch of nutmeg and a tiny umbrella.

I’ve always loved movies and television shows about the complexities of marriage and adulthood because they’re an opportunity for relatable conflict. Throwing people into the chaos of vacation brings existing tensions to the surface, in a way that’s believable. We’ve all been there, on this trip where not everything goes to plan, and maybe your travel companions are getting on your nerves. But knowing you can go back to your room and just laugh with your favorite person on the planet—that’s what makes it all worth it. Cheers!

Bridesmaids

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Image credit: Bridesmaids, 2011

Are you reaaadyyy to paaaaaartyyy? I know I am, and I can’t think of two better hosts than Maya Rudolph and Kristen Wiig. Add in a Melissa McCarthy chaser, and you’ve got yourself a ridiculously fun time with this week’s pick Bridesmaids (Disc/Download).

A rite of passage for many of us, this film perfectly captures the expense, the hassle, the camaraderie, and the sentimentality of being a bridesmaid. Kristen Wiig’s character Annie is truly every woman who has ever balanced the happiness of her friend’s engagement with the dread of knowing you’re going to have to buy a dress that (despite reassurances to the contrary), you will never wear again. Then there’s the inevitable bachelorette weekend, plus the shower, which are all enjoyable, but still… it can be a lot. That’s why we rely on alcohol to get through all these rituals. I don’t care how nice your fellow bridesmaids are, or how much you love your friend who’s getting married, there’s going to come a time when you’ll want to pound that third glass of rosé because you just cannot deal with One. More. Posed. Picture. 

Speaking of rosé, this movie is a great excuse to bust out your favorite bottle and pretend you’re at Lillian’s French-themed shower. Unfortunately, at the time of this movie’s production, Frosé was not yet a staple among the brunch crowd. But you KNOW if it had been, Helen would have had that wine slushy machine cranking non-stop. While watching Bridesmaids, I recommend drinking Frosé.

Frosé

1 bottle Rosé Wine

1 cup Frozen Strawberries

1 cup Frozen Peaches

2 oz Simple Syrup

Luxardo Maraschino cherry

Measure out 2 cups of Rosé, and pour it into ice cube trays. Freeze 2 hours (or overnight). When ready to make your drink, pour remaining wine and simple syrup into a blender, then add frozen rosé cubes, strawberries, and peaches. Blend until smooth and slushy. Pour into glasses, and top with a Luxardo Maraschino cherry. (Serves 4).

Although this film features a heartwarming romance between Kristen Wiig and Chris O’Dowd’s characters, it’s really the female friendships that make this an instant-classic to me. In a lot of ways, I root for Annie and Lillian more than I root for Annie and Officer Rhodes. Men may come and go, but hilarious brunch companions are forever. Cheers!

Emma.

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Image credit: Emma. 2020

As any frequent moviegoer will tell you, 2020 was pretty much our worst nightmare. While theaters began to shut their doors last March, we saw our hopes for carefree, popcorn-scented afternoons dashed as quickly as that animated roller coaster flings itself around a cartoon soda in the opening pre-show. Perhaps you spent some time thinking about the last movie you saw before lockdowns, wondering if you made the right call. In my case, I could rest easy knowing I went out on a high note with Emma. (Disc/Download).

Though any Jane Austen scholar will likely critique this film’s deviation from its source material, to me it captures the spirit, whimsy, and fun of the book. Plus, in contrast to Clueless (my other favorite Emma adaptation), we get to enjoy the sumptuous costumes and polite society of the Regency era. I’ll always have a fondness for “Rollin’ With the Homies,” but there’s something about a choreographed quadrille that just makes me grin from ear-to-ear. Autumn de Wilde’s directorial style shows similarities to that of Wes Anderson or Sofia Coppola- heavy on style and symmetry, light on melodrama and manic performances. Anya Taylor-Joy is perfection as our meddlesome title character, and of course I adore Bill Nighy as her lovable, hypochondriac father whose greatest foe is a chill draft. It’s a pastel world of manners and manipulation, and in a year when literally everything seemed beyond our control, it was comforting to think of another character who had to abandon her controlling ways to find happiness. I was not alone in the struggle.

In the dark days of the pandemic, I often thought about the candy-coated costumes and production design of this film. Even down to the tiniest stitch or ribbon of paint, every element was an important piece of the visual tableau. In my beverage choice, I wanted to celebrate Emma’s love of flowers and bold pastel colors. While watching Emma., I recommend drinking this Night Bloom cocktail.

Night Bloom

1 1/2 oz Gin

1/2 oz Creme de Violette

1 Egg White

1/2 oz Lemon Juice

1/2 oz Simple Syrup

2 dashes Orange Bitters

Flower Garnish

Combine Gin, creme de violette, egg white, lemon juice, bitters, and simple syrup in a shaker. Shake vigorously for ten seconds, then add ice. Continue shaking until chilled and frothy, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a flower.

As I write this, I’m about to head back to the movie theater after sixteen months away. The flick: To Catch a Thief. Hollywood still has a long way to go before it lures me back with new material, so until then I’ll be enjoying some old favorites and savoring the memory of watching Emma Woodhouse dance with Mr. Knightley for the very first time (*sigh*). Cheers!

Coming to America

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Image credit: Coming to America, 1988

There’s a rumor I’ve heard, and maybe you’ve heard it too. Apparently, a long time ago, in a land not so far away, Eddie Murphy used to be funny. You’ll forgive me if I’m skeptical—after all, I grew up in the era of The Nutty Professor. I know Eddie as the strange guy in the fat suit.  So when my husband sat me down and told me the comedian had starred in a really great 1980s rom-com called Coming to America (Disc), I decided to take a chance. And shock of all shocks—I loved it!!!

Although there are a few absurd disguises in this (Eddie as an old Jewish man? Pass.), for the most part Murphy keeps his juvenile gimmicks in check. As Prince Akeem, he’s surprisingly earnest for a man who has rose petals thrown at his feet wherever he goes. This royal yearns for true love instead of an arranged marriage set up by his parents, so he and man servant Semmi go to the most logical place for a future king to find his mate—Queens, NY! Once there, he finds shelter in a literal crime scene, a job at the local knock-off fast food joint (McDowell’s anyone?), and a sweet romance with the boss’s daughter. Rather than reveal his true identity, he pretends to be a poor immigrant student in order to ensure that his lady loves him for who he is instead of what he has back in Zamunda. Aside from some cringe-worthy scenes in a barber shop, this is a solid A+ rom-com that left me smiling from beginning to end.

Prince Akeem goes to great lengths to find his queen, but luckily you don’t have to. Just make this aptly named cocktail and pretend you’ve got Royal Bathers waiting for you in the shower. While watching Coming to America, I recommend drinking a Queen’s Park Swizzle!

Queen’s Park Swizzle

2 oz Aged Rum

½ oz Lime Juice

½ oz Simple Syrup

2-3 dashes Angostura Bitters

5-6 leaves Fresh Mint

Muddle mint in the bottom of a glass, dragging it up to coat the sides with oils. Add the rest of the ingredients and fill the glass 2/3 full with crushed ice. Use a swizzle stick to mix, until the outside of the glass becomes frosty. Fill the glass the rest of the way up with crushed ice, and garnish with more fresh mint.

If you’re curious about this film’s recent sequel (the oh-so-cleverly titled Coming 2 America– 🙄), don’t feel like you’re missing much if you decide to skip it. While it’s fun to watch some of these actors again, it in no way justifies having to sit through another Sexual Chocolate song. Randy Watson can stay back in 1988. Cheers!

On the Rocks

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Image credit: On the Rocks, 2020

2020 was indescribably hard for everyone, but for those of us who love movies, it was particularly bleak. Instead of frequent trips to the local cinema, we endured a string of forgettable indies on the couch while struggling to focus on literally anything. I know there were probably good films I just couldn’t give my full attention to (lookin’ at you Sylvie’s Love), but for the most part I sat through a lot of 2 ½ hr-long “edgy” movies that made me desperate for a recognizable star, a decent wardrobe/production design budget, and most of all a skilled editor. Eventually, I just gave up, got a Criterion subscription, and said to hell with modern films. It was during this frustrating time that I missed a rare gem in the 2020 wasteland, Sofia Coppola’s On the Rocks. I’m still annoyed it’s only available on Apple TV+, but I’m here to tell you it’s worth signing up for YET ANOTHER streaming platform to see this perfect marriage between Murray and martinis.

Truthfully, I will always give a lot of leeway to any movie that includes a swimming pool, cocktails, a cool classic car, and iconic hotel bars. The thin plot involving a woman trying to discover the truth about her husband’s affairs is almost irrelevant—I just want to watch rich people do their thing. It’s an escape for me; a glimpse into a world I can only visit for brief stretches of time. But oh, what a world. In this rarefied section of New York, Bill Murray plays Felix, a charming art dealer trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter Laura (played by Rashida Jones) through impromptu cocktail parties, drinks at the Carlyle, a late-night stakeout fueled by caviar and champagne, and a spur-of-the-moment trip to Mexico. Is he dad of the year? No. He’s a misogynistic asshole. But he is uniquely himself—unapologetic, wildly entertaining, caring in the only way he knows how.

I know this is not the first movie I’ve paired with a martini on Cinema Sips, but there really is no other option for this one.  You MUST watch it with a Sapphire Martini, and imagine it was brought to you in a chilled carafe on a little silver tray. Picture yourself back out in the world, sitting in an iconic Manhattan bar, where you’re paying more for the real estate and history than the gin. While watching On the Rocks, I recommend drinking a Sapphire Martini.

Sapphire Martini

2 oz Bombay Sapphire® Gin

½ oz Dry Vermouth

2 olives

Combine gin and vermouth in a mixing glass with ice, and stir to chill- about 45 seconds.  Strain into a chilled martini glass, and garnish with olives.

In a year when most new releases made me want to either curl into a ball and cry, or spend two hours restlessly browsing social media on my phone, On the Rocks felt like a fun breath of fresh air. There were no major problems, no big issues to overcome—these people would all be fine whether Laura’s husband is faithful or not. Felix tries to force his daughter to give herself permission to enjoy life again, and that’s what this movie feels like to me. Permission to make a cocktail, watch some pretty people, and have fun for a tight ninety-six minutes.  Cheers!

Bottle Rocket

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Image credit: Bottle Rocket, 1996

Longtime readers of Cinema Sips know I’m a sucker for any movie with a pool, and now that the weather’s warming up, I’m ready for an onscreen dip. Bottle Rocket (Disc/Download) manages to make a crappy motel pool look like Shangri-La, and although the comedic heist script is an absolute joy, let’s be clear—I’m mainly here for the swimming.

Despite the fact that Bottle Rocket was never a commercial success, critics nevertheless came away from initial screenings with the sense that this was the start of something major. The symmetry; the Mark Mothersbaugh soundtrack; the deadpan comedy style; the saturated colors—all hallmarks of Wes Anderson’s unique body of work. This film is the genesis, a place where we can come to view tiny glimpses of his brilliance, feeling like we just entered a world that’s somehow better than our own (even though it’s just a nondescript, forgettable Texas town). Small is the word I keep coming back to—small budget, small-time crooks, small in scope; however, the movie leaves me with BIG feelings. The romance between Luke Wilson’s character Anthony and the motel maid Inez is so beautiful, it’s enough to make even the worst skeptic believe in love at first sight. That pure, simple moment when you realize the person you love feels the same way in return—like a bottle rocket exploding in your heart.

Of course it wouldn’t be a Wes Anderson movie without a zany cast of secondary characters, one of which is simply called Applejack. It’s a tiny role, but pivotal to the final heist of the film. And lucky for me, cocktail-inspiring as well.  While watching Bottle Rocket, cool off with an Applejack Collins.

Applejack Collins

1 ½ oz Applejack Brandy

½ oz Orgeat

½ oz Lemon Juice

3 oz Club Soda

Combine Applejack, orgeat, and lemon juice in a shaker with ice.  Shake until chilled, then strain into a Collins glass over fresh ice.  Top with club soda and stir gently to combine.

I’ve talked a lot about how this was the start of Wes Anderson’s career, but let’s not forget brothers Owen and Luke Wilson, who also broke into Hollywood with Bottle Rocket. With their Texas drawls, dented noses, and good hair, the Wilsons were practically destined for stardom. Lucky for us, this weird little ‘90s indie film had enough fuel to propel them up there.  Cheers!

Avanti!

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Image credit: Avanti!, 1972

I’ve got a bad case of wanderlust, and it’s all Jack Lemmon’s fault. He makes the Italian island of Ischia look purely magical in this week’s film Avanti! (Disc/Download), an underrated Billy Wilder gem from the 1970s. Though Ischia and it’s highly Instagrammable Mezzatorre Hotel have long held a place on my travel bucket list, this film has moved it straight to the top. What I wouldn’t give to have a room with a view of the sea, thick coffee, an attentive concierge, and a waiter who will ply you with pasta until you forget all about your pesky diet back home. When swimming naked in the Mediterranean is an option, who cares how you look in a bathing suit?

Of course, it’s not all skinny dipping and afternoon prosecco. Jack Lemmon’s character Wendell Armbruster arrives on the island to claim the body of his father, who died in a car crash with his mistress in the passenger seat. The daughter of this mistress is played by Juliet Mills (sister of Hayley), and though Wendell and Ms. Piggott start the film as strangers, they eventually pick up where their parents left off. I watched this film at a weird time in my life, having just spent six weeks dealing with my father’s death and all the legal headaches accompanying it. To say that I identify with Wendell’s frustration about how long and complicated the processes of body transport, death certificates, and funeral arrangements are would be an understatement (and similar to Ischia, nobody works weekends in Florida either). But what I loved about this movie is that by the end, Wendell is able to move past the minutia of death to truly celebrate the life his father lived, in the place where he was happiest. That is how we honor the dead, by experiencing the joy they would have wanted for us.

My one quibble with this fabulous movie is the unfortunate body dysmorphia and fat shaming experienced by Ms. Piggott (even the name is like an underhanded dig at the character). I’m not sure why we’re supposed to believe that the gorgeous Juliet Mills is overweight, but let’s just say by 2021 standards she is not. Luckily, after a couple Bacardi cocktails al fresco, she’s able to loosen up and enjoy herself without counting every calorie. Let’s join in the fun with this rum-based cocktail. While watching Avanti!, I recommend drinking a Daffodil.

Daffodil

1 1/2 oz Bacardi White Rum

1 oz Cocchi Americano

1 1/4 oz Orgeat

1 oz Lime Juice

2 dashes Orange Bitters

Dried Orange slice for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice, and shake until chilled. Fill a tumbler with crushed ice, then strain cocktail into prepared glass. Garnish with a dried orange slice (or twist of orange).

There’s a moment in Avanti! where Juliet Mills says, “Italy is not a country- it’s an emotion.” What this film captures so well are the complex emotions of love, loss, humor, frustration, and longing. After living through a year where it seems everything came to a complete stop, what a relief it is to hear the word avanti. In English, it means move forward. Proceed with living. Cheers!

The Ref

Image credit: The Ref, 1994

Never has there been a more requested holiday film in the history of Cinema Sips than this week’s pick, The Ref (Disc/Download). After finally watching it, I understand why. In a year when we’ve all essentially been held hostage inside our homes, it makes sense that people would want to watch a Christmas film about a couple held hostage inside their home. This is exactly the type of dark yuletide comedy we need right now.

In a lot of ways, The Ref reminds me of a stage play. Most of the action takes place in one setting, the dialogue is quick and clever, and the choreography within the larger group scenes is perfectly executed. Denis Leary plays a cat burglar on the run after a botched jewelry heist (for those of you who’ve seen To Catch a Thief, picture the complete opposite of Cary Grant), but before he can set sail for the Caribbean, he’s got to hide out in the home of a bickering Connecticut couple on the brink of divorce. It was a little jarring to see Kevin Spacey in…well…anything, but as Lloyd, the eye-rolling, sarcastic husband of Judy Davis’s snobby, perpetually unhappy Caroline, he really pulls me into this scene of marital discord. There are a lot of side plots that seemingly go nowhere, but overall I appreciate the way this film uses Christmas to highlight the absurdity of wealthy suburban America. These people are heinous on a normal day, but throw Christmas into the mix and you’re one ugly pair of L.L. Bean slippers away from total meltdown.

Something I can personally relate to in The Ref is the bourgeois tendency to “try something new” for your holiday meal. I’m thinking in particular of the time I thought it would be fun to make Spanish Tapas for Easter. In The Ref, Caroline’s absurd theme is Scandinavian Christmas, resulting in a smorgasbord of unpronounceable dishes. Let’s celebrate her good intentions with this traditional Swedish Glögg. If you want to get very authentic, you can throw in some Aquavit. But if you’re like me and don’t want to be stuck with a bottle of Aquavit for the next twelve months, bourbon will do just fine.*

Swedish Glögg

1 bottle Red Wine

1 ½ cups Bourbon

½ cup brown sugar

Zest of 1 orange

2 tablespoons raisins

1 tablespoon cardamom pods

2 tablespoons fresh ginger, sliced

1 Cinnamon stock

8 Cloves

Garnish: Blanched, slivered almonds, raisins, or dried cranberries

Combine all ingredients except the garnish in a pot on the stove. Heat, and let simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, and let it steep for an hour. Finely strain to remove the spices, and reheat to warm. Put a few almonds and raisins in the bottom of each serving glass, and pour in glögg.*

This might seem like a lot of prep for a drink, but really, what else are you doing this year? And if you’re trapped at home with a spouse you’ve come to detest, maybe you need a whole pot of this stuff to get through the holiday. So Merry Christmas, and let’s hope that by next year we’ll all be on a boat to Jamaica. Cheers!

*Note: If you’re pressed for time, and/or incredibly lazy about making things on the stove, you can always warm up some Trader Joe’s Winter Wassail Punch and throw in some red wine and bourbon. Still festive, still delicious, and extremely easy.

Waitress

Image Credit: Waitress, 2007

Y’all didn’t think I’d let Pie Month go by without talking about the ultimate in cinematic pie experiences, did you? Frankly, I was shocked to see that I haven’t covered Waitress (Disc/Download) before now. It’s one of my favorite movies, and I watch it every year the night before Thanksgiving, on what we call “Pie Night”- a glorious evening when my husband and I eat all the pie we won’t have room for after the next day’s feast. Trust me when I say that Pie Night is the greatest holiday of the year.

Why is this the best movie to watch on our annual pastry binge? Because it features Keri Russell as sweet, strong heroine Jenna, a waitress who spends her days making gorgeous pies in a rural diner. Her combinations are inspired and often autobiographical, such as the “Pregnant Self Pitying Loser” Pie, and the “I Don’t Want Earl’s Baby” Pie. The pies are an outlet where she can vent frustrations about an abusive marriage, her elation over a secret affair with an OBGYN, and her fears about impending motherhood. Honestly, the movie itself feels like dessert. It’s got sweetness, a little bitterness, and just a touch of heat to make us feel all warm and cozy inside. Director Adrienne Shelley gave women a delicious gift in this movie, and I intend to eat every bite.

There are a lot of pies in this movie, but my favorite is probably the Chocolate Strawberry Oasis. I subbed white chocolate for dark, but the complexity of this drink makes it feel like one of Jenna’s lush desserts. While watching Waitress, I recommend drinking this Everybody Hates Earl Martini (because we DO all hate Earl).

Everybody Hates Earl Martini

2 oz Strawberry Vodka

1 oz White Creme de Cacao

1.5 oz White Chocolate Liqueur

1 oz Chambord Raspberry Liqueur

1 oz Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk

Strawberry for garnish

Combine all liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a strawberry.

Although Jenna has some complicated romantic entanglements, the true heart of this movie lies with her friendships. The bond she forms with fellow waitresses and cantankerous diner owner (Andy Griffith) is such a joy to watch, and reminds me of what I’m most thankful for every year- good food, good drinks, and great friends. Cheers!

Blazing Saddles

Image credit: Blazing Saddles, 1974

Even though I’m not a big fan of westerns, I had to make an exception for this week’s pie pick Blazing Saddles (Disc/Download). It actually wasn’t that hard to do, since this is technically a western spoof, complete with Busby Berkeley dance number, Marlene Dietrich-inspired seductress named Lili von Shtüpp, and a whiskey-swilling Gene Wilder. Mel Brooks, you magnificent genius, you did it again. You made me spit my drink from laughing too hard.

Fair warning, the language used in this movie is sometimes difficult to hear, and in fact the film is often shown with a special introduction now. It’s actually a very progressive script for 1974 as well as today, but taken out of context, certain elements could be problematic. The thing to remember is, the ignorant racists are the ones who come off looking like fools, while the handsome black sheriff and his friends are the heroes. Like most Mel Brooks films, I don’t watch Blazing Saddles for the plot. I watch it for the one-liners, the funny character names, and the biting commentary on Hollywood and society-at-large.

The reason this movie made it into my month of pie flicks is due to the EPIC pie fight between villains, good guys, and assorted staff members of the Warner Bros. backlot. Normally I’d be sad about all these commissary pies being destroyed, but since it’s in the name of comedy, I suppose it’s okay. While watching Blazing Saddles, I recommend drinking this Pie Fight cocktail.

Pie Fight

1 oz Whiskey

1/2 oz Peach Schnapps

1 oz Bailey’s Irish Cream

2 oz Orange Juice

Whipped cream/pie crust for garnish

Combine whiskey, schnapps, Irish cream, and orange juice in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Top with whipped cream, and a piece of pie crust (I used store-bought refrigerated crust, cut out a shape, and placed in an air-fryer for 3-5 minutes to “bake”).

This cocktail is a great substitute for a cream pie, and if you’ve inexplicably found yourself with a racist sitting at your Thanksgiving table, feel free to toss it in their face. Far less clean-up than a whole dessert. Cheers!