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Category Archives: Documentary

Tim’s Vermeer

timsvermeer

Image credit: Tim’s Vermeer, 2013

Documentary Month continues with a film that forever changed the way I view art history and painting. Produced by magicians Penn & Teller, Tim’s Vermeer (DVD/Download) sets out to prove that Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer could have used a system of mirrors in order to paint photo-realistic masterworks. Simply put, it’s a 90-minute explanation of a magic trick. But even more than that, it’s a fascinating look at how technology and art can work together to create something beautiful.

When the film begins, my immediate impression of Tim is that he’s the insufferable party guest who wants to make sure everyone knows he’s the smartest one in the room. And when this non-artist starts the quest to reproduce Vermeer’s The Music Lesson using a camera obscura technique, he doubles down by trying to make the actual things in the painting before he paints it.  That’s great, but you know Vermeer wasn’t off in a corner grinding glass and sanding down chair legs. Tim seems a little showy. But then, once he gets into the painting, all the nonsense falls away. It’s just him, and the tiny details in the window fretwork, or the way the light is hitting a ceramic jug, and that’s when the real magic happens. He starts to see things the way an artist would, and this idea of ability becomes totally irrelevant.  It’s the vision that matters.

By the time Tim is finished painting every little knot in a woven rug, he’s pretty much had it with this painting. I couldn’t help but think that maybe he needed a cocktail to calm his jangled nerves. Let’s celebrate Dutch ingenuity with this simple Genever cocktail. If you’re like Tim, you’ll make your own Genever. I am not like Tim; the liquor store is my friend. While watching Tim’s Vermeer, I recommend drinking a Dutch Mule.

Dutch Mule

1.5 oz Genever

Ginger Beer

3-4 dashes Angostura Bitters

Slice of Lime

Build drink in a glass over ice, stirring gently to combine. Top with a few dashes of bitters, and garnish with a slice of lime.

Dutch mule

Sure, Vermeer was incredibly talented, and his compositions and colors were astounding. If he used a camera obscura, it doesn’t make me think less of him as a painter. If anything, I applaud him for using every tool at his disposal to create a magnificent work of art.  Think about that the next time you use an Instagram filter- aren’t we all just trying to communicate an idea in the truest or most interesting way possible?  I admit, my photo of a happy hour cocktail is no Girl With the Pearl Earring, but still-  that Juno filter makes it look pretty amazing.  Cheers!

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The Endless Summer

the endless summer

Image credit: The Endless Summer, 1966.

No, this week’s film is not about the Groundhog Day-esque hellscape that is Texas in August/September (although, LORD does this summer feel endless). Rather, it’s a documentary about two surfers in the 1960’s who chased the waves from California to Africa, Australia, and the South Pacific. The Endless Summer (Download) is both an explanation of surf culture, and a meditation on why it endures.

Featuring surf rock by The Sandals, a cheeky narration style, and painterly shots of beautiful beaches, The Endless Summer is instantly transporting. Watching this film, I feel like I’m experiencing the mid-60’s like never before. The hair, the cars, the music, the suits on airplanes—I love it all. For 90 minutes I’m mesmerized watching these men balance on boards that cut through the water like butter; waves rolling over them, pounding, punishing, and still they get up and do it again, all in search of that one perfect ride. When they find it, and the wave goes on forever, it’s a powerful moment. Surfing will never be the same for me.

Another thing I love about this film is that it speaks to the adventurer in all of us.  Who wouldn’t want to imagine themselves on a deserted South African beach, or sitting on Oahu watching death-defying surfers face off against the great waves of Waimea?  Obviously, when I picture myself in these scenarios, I’m enjoying a fabulous cocktail.  While watching The Endless Summer, I recommend drinking a Waimea Sunset.

Waimea Sunset

1 ½ oz Reposado Tequila

¼ oz Aperol

¼ oz Lime Juice

2 oz Grapefruit Juice

¼ oz Grenedine

2 oz club soda

Grapefruit twist

Combine Tequila, Aperol, Lime and Grapefruit juices, and Grenedine in a shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously until chilled. Add club soda, and gently shake back and forth once to combine. Strain into a glass filled with ice, and garnish with a twist of grapefruit.

Waimea Sunset

I’ll be honest, when I think of surfers, I tend to stereotype them all as Spicoli– a long-haired burnout who talks slowly and can’t get a real job. But after watching The Endless Summer, I see how much focus and dedication it takes to participate in this sport, almost to the point of obsession. I don’t know what these guys ended up doing in their lives later on, but I like to think that they’re still out there, searching for that one perfect wave. Cheers!

The Kid Stays in the Picture

Kid Stays in the Picture

Image credit: The Kid Stays in the Picture, 2002.

As the summer of ’18 comes to a close, I’m reflecting on what a fantastic few months it was for documentaries at the multiplex (well, maybe not the multiplex, but at least that little indie cinema you keep promising yourself you’ll go to). With films like Won’t You Be My Neighbor, RBG, Three Identical Strangers, and Whitney generating considerable buzz, it’s gotten me excited about the medium again. In a world of “Fake News”, gaslighting, and malicious lies, isn’t it refreshing to see a film that seeks to tell the truth? Or at least, the truth according to someone…  As Robert Evans says in this week’s film The Kid Stays in the Picture (DVD/Download), “There are three sides to every story: Your side, my side, and the truth. And no one is lying. Memories shared serve each differently.”

After watching the film, here are the things I do actually think are true:

  • Robert Evans was a so-so actor, a master salesman, and (for a time) a brilliant Hollywood producer. At age 34, he became the youngest studio head, taking over Paramount Pictures. That’s younger than I am now. The man knew how to hustle.
  • He shepherded some truly great films during his tenure, including Love Story, The Godfather, Goodbye Columbus, Harold and Maude, Rosemary’s Baby, and Chinatown. Just… wow.
  • He made a lot of mistakes in his personal life.
  • Hollywood would not be what it is today without him.

In adapting Evan’s memoir, The Kid Stays in the Picture pieces together still photography, film footage, and audio narration by Evans himself. If you love movies, you’ll love this movie. Although he personifies the “sleazy Hollywood producer” type, you can’t deny his talent. Plus, hearing him call his ex-wife Ali MacGraw “Snotnose MacGraw” is worth the rental price alone.

One thing that seemed to motivate Robert Evans was his own personal Eden, a Beverly Hills estate called Woodland. Surrounded by roses, trees, and a beautiful swimming pool, it’s the kind of fairy-tale house that just doesn’t get built anymore. If I were invited to a pool party, I know what I’d be drinking- a rose-flavored cocktail meant for an afternoon of script-reading and suntanning. While watching The Kid Stays in the Picture, I recommend drinking a Mountaintop cocktail.

Mountaintop

1 ½ oz vodka

¾ oz Campari

2 oz Grapefruit soda

2 oz Ginger Beer

½ oz Lime Juice

¼ tsp Rosewater

Build drink in a tumbler filled with ice, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with twist of lime.

Apex

The story of Robert Evans is so outrageous that I think it could only be told documentary-style. With Evan’s colorful bravado, who needs actors? I don’t know if he’s got a third/fourth/fifth? act in him, but if he does, I already know it’ll be one hell of a ride. Cheers!