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Category Archives: Dramas

Zodiac

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Zodiac

Image credit: Zodiac, 2007.

I’ve already discussed my love of true crime on Cinema Sips, but in case you missed it, I have a thing for serial killers.  Especially serial killers of the 1960s-70s.  While I’m still awaiting that big-budget Richard Speck biopic (somebody PLEEEEAAAASE make this movie), I have to tide myself over with David Fincher’s Zodiac (Disc/Download).

After watching Fincher’s recent television project Mindhunter, it’s very clear that Zodiac should have been a mini-series. I personally split it up into two nights of viewing, because let’s face it, two hours and thirty-seven straight minutes of police procedurals can be a bit fatiguing.  But even with this lengthy run-time, it still felt like crucial details were missing. With crimes taking place over several years, the film often skips ahead, which is great for the case, but not so great for character development.  Jake Gyllenhaal is married after one bad date?  Robert Downey Jr.  went from ace reporter to alcoholic houseboat dweller?  When did all this happen?  But where the film truly shines is in the actual murder depictions, and in the questioning of potential suspects.  Fincher amps up the tension like a pro, making you wonder what sort of sick turn he’ll take next.  Will the couple make it out of this picnic alive?  Will Ione Skye and her baby escape from the car?  Is Jake Gyllenhaal about to be murdered in the basement of a San Francisco cinephile?  Is the weapon of choice an old Buster Keaton reel??  I CAN’T LOOK AWAY.

I’m a sucker for good production design, and it’s clear that this film was painstakingly researched. When Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr. settle into a leather booth in a dim San Francisco joint, you can almost smell the cigarettes and aftershave.  Gyllenhaal’s character orders an Aqua Velva cocktail, so let’s stay movie-appropriate and follow his lead.

Aqua Velva

1 oz Vodka

1 oz Gin

½ oz Blue Curacao

Sprite

Lemon Slice, Maraschino Cherry for garnish

Combine vodka, gin, and blue curacao in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a rocks-filled glass.  Top with Sprite, and garnish with a lemon slice, maraschino cherry, and drink umbrella.

Aqua Velva

While this film certainly has its flaws, it’s still a thrilling step back in time to a frightening period of American history.  The term serial killer hadn’t even been invented yet, but nevertheless, they were out there.  Taunting us. Watching us. Waiting for their lives to be immortalized on celluloid…

Monster

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Monster

Image credit: Monster, 2003

It’s Halloween this week, and perhaps you were expecting a monster movie—the kind with Boris Karloff in heavy makeup, maybe some weird lighting and a spooky soundtrack.  But I’ve got something even scarier for you: Charlize Theron, sans eyebrows, in a film about a woman on the edge.  Monster (Disc/Download) isn’t for the faint of heart, but if you can handle the intense drama, it offers a rare glimpse into the fear and violence of life on the streets.

Newscasters love to talk about how rare the female serial killer is, like a strange unicorn in a world of Dahmer’s and Gacy’s.  But similar to some of these higher-profile men, Aileen Wuornos has been abused most of her life, driven to a kind of madness that makes her actions almost inevitable. Her first killing is in self-defense, but the rest are portrayed by Theron as a sort of PTSD.  Like the collective trauma of being a woman in a world dominated by depraved men is simply too much to handle.  In contrast to all the other films of prostitute-as-“Party Girl/Model/Call Girl”, with their impeccable grooming and charming romantic subplots, Monster takes a hard look at the reality of prostitution.   Maybe she was always a cold-blooded killer, maybe she became one out of necessity. But when Aileen snaps, she SNAPS. Honestly, I wish she’d snapped a little more and killed her annoying, lazy girlfriend (played by Christina Ricci), but that’s a complaint for another day.

Before the blood spatter, the film showcases the tender romance between Aileen and Selby, two women both looking for a little comfort in a cold, hard world.  All they want is some beer, maybe a little whiskey, and a warm place to sleep that’s free of judgement.  While you’re watching Monster, pretend it’s ladies night at the local dive bar and cozy up with this Blood Orange Shandy.

Blood Orange Shandy

6 oz Budweiser beer

2 oz Ginger beer

1 oz Pomegranate juice

1 oz Blood Orange juice

Orange Twist

Combine ingredients in a chilled glass.  Stir gently to combine, and garnish with an orange twist.

Blood Orange Shandy

The thing that makes Monster so scary is that this story could conceivably happen to anyone.  Maybe I have some devastating medical expenses, my husband dies, parents are gone, I lose my house, my job, my skin cream, and I’m on the streets.  What would I do to survive?  It’s this thought sending shivers up my spine because the simple answer is: I don’t know (cue spooky music).  Cheers!

BUtterfield 8

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Liz Taylor Butterfield 8

Image credit: BUtterfield 8, 1960.

The 1960s were an interesting time for the subject of sex workers in cinema.  The words ‘party girl’, ‘call girl’, and sometimes even ‘model wink-wink’, got thrown around, leaving modern audiences to decipher what was really going on when Holly Golightly received $50 for the powder room, or when Liz Taylor had that mysterious answering service in this week’s film BUtterfield 8 (Disc/Download).  Was there a grey area when it came to sex work vs. relationships?  According to the tragically wild Gloria Wandrous, the answer is yes.

Earning Elizabeth Taylor her first academy award, BUtterfield 8 is the story of a promiscuous Manhattan “party girl” who falls in love with a feckless married man. The story opens with Gloria waking in his apartment to find $250 on the nightstand, but instead of taking the money, she scrawls “no sale” on his mirror in pink lipstick, steals his wife’s mink coat, and walks out with a bottle of scotch.  I love her instantly.  Taylor brings such depth to the role, forcing the audience to empathize with this woman who seems strong and confident on the outside, but inside is struggling with the trauma of childhood sexual abuse and the fear that she’ll never be loved.  She has some chaste scenes with  real life husband-of-the-moment Eddie Fisher, but ultimately can’t move on from rich lover Weston (played by Ewan McGregor look-a-like Laurence Harvey). There are moments where you think maybe, just maybe, this will turn into a Pretty Woman situation, where he’ll rescue Gloria and she’ll rescue him right back, but fair warning:  BUtterfield 8 is no fairy tale.

There’s a lot of booze in this movie, but one of my favorite lines is when Elizabeth Taylor claims she was “soaked through with gin.”  Been there, doll.  While watching BUtterfield 8, pour yourself this gin-based Honey Trap cocktail.

Honey Trap

2 oz Gin

1 oz Lime Juice

¾ oz Honey syrup (3tbsp honey + 1 tbsp water)

Lime twist

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine honey and water. Once it’s just barely boiling, remove from heat and let cool.  In a shaker with ice, combine gin, lime juice, and honey syrup.  Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a twist of lime.

In a weird way, this film feels almost Hitchcockian.  Like Gloria is a mystery we’re trying to unravel within this world of dim lighting, stylish sets, and lush orchestral scores.  Is she a prostitute, or just a girl who got her heart broken one too many times?  And does it even matter?  You be the judge.  Cheers!

Klute

Klute

Image credit: Klute, 1971

Cinema Sips is exploring a set of films over the coming weeks which feature some incredible female performances.  The subject of sex workers is a complex one, but for the purposes of this blog, we’ll just be talking about the movie portrayals (while enjoying copious cocktails of course).  Kicking things off is Klute (Disc/Download), a 1970s thriller starring Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland.

Something I’ll never understand is the popularity of Fonda’s 70s haircut.  It’s almost as though her character Bree thinks this unflattering shag can protect her from even further mistreatment by the men in her life.  There’s the pimp, played by Roy Scheider, plying her with drugs and lies.  There’s the cop, played by Sutherland, who could maybe be a love interest, if he had any kind of personality or charm whatsoever. There’s the stalker, who likes to play tape recordings of their “session” and creep on her throughout the film. Honestly the only decent guy in this is the little old man who wants her to dress in a sparkly evening gown and drink wine.  Klute is an interesting time capsule of Manhattan in the 1970s, and you really feel Bree’s struggle as an actress and model, professions where success seems largely arbitrary.  At least with her other job, she has some control.

But let’s go back for a second to that scene with the sparkly evening gown.  In sequins poured over her body like a second glove, Jane Fonda looks fierce, formidable, and sexy as hell.  This is a woman of power.  Let’s celebrate her with this Ruby Manhattan.

Ruby Manhattan

2 oz Bourbon

3/4 oz Ruby Port

1 bar spoon Maple Syrup

Dash of Angostura Bitters

Luxardo Maraschino cherry

Combine first four ingredients in a mixing shaker with ice.  Stir until chilled and combined, then strain into a glass. Garnish with Luxardo Maraschino cherry.

Ruby Manhattan

Jane Fonda’s research with actual sex workers comes through in this Academy Award-winning performance, one full of both vulnerability and strength.  I’m still not sure why the film was called Klute; clearly it should have been Bree.  After all, it’s her world– the rest of us are just lucky to visit. Cheers!

The Last of Sheila

The Last of Sheila

Image credit: The Last of Sheila, 1973.

This week heralded a lot of firsts for me.  It was the first time I saw James Coburn in drag.  The first time I had impure thoughts about Ian McShane.  And the first time I saw this many pairs of white pants in one movie.  The Last of Sheila (Disc/Download) is a forgotten gem of the 1970s, and as a connoisseur of mid-century weird, I am here for it.

Equal parts Clue and The Cat’s Meow, The Last of Sheila is a Hollywood murder mystery set aboard a yacht in the south of France.  Based on the real-life parlor games staged by the film’s screenwriters Anthony Perkins and Stephen Sondheim (yes, THAT Anthony Perkins, and THAT Stephen Sondheim), the plot follows a group of Hollywood players who have all agreed to spend a week on James Coburn’s yacht one year after the mysterious death of his wife Sheila Green.  Once aboard, they’re told they’ll be playing the Sheila Green Gossip Game, competing to discover one another’s secrets.  Alas, the game turns deadly, and it’s a booze-filled struggle to make it out alive.  With a cast that includes Richard Benjamin, Dyan Cannon, James Mason, Raquel Welch, and a sexxxxxy young Ian McShane, this film combines my three main interests in life: big hair, alcohol, and murder.  It’s weird, it’s wild, and it should absolutely be watched with a cocktail.

Leave it to James Mason—this man epitomizes classy drunk.  With the amount of bourbon he throws back, you’d think he’d be dead or passed out halfway through the movie.  But (spoiler) James hangs on till the bitter end, glass in hand, ready to solve this thing once and for all.  Let’s toast James with the boat’s signature alcohol brand in a Jim Beam® Smash.

Jim Beam® Smash

2 oz Jim Beam® Bourbon

2 lemon wedges

1 oz mint simple syrup (or muddled mint and simple syrup)

Club Soda

Fill a glass with ice and lemon wedges.  Pour bourbon and mint simple syrup into a shaker, and gently shake to combine. Pour into prepared glass, and top with club soda.  Stir gently.

Jim Beam Smash

Having fallen in love with Richard Benjamin in Goodbye, Columbus, it’s odd to see him in this creepier role.  His Freddie Mercury-mustache, tight white pants, and turtleneck are…. not a good look.  And don’t even get me started on the puppets.  Luckily there are a lot of other charming, beautiful people to balance out the sinister elements on this boat.  After all, you gotta have friends.  Cheers!

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

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Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Image credit: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, 1958.

This week, I’m all about bourbon.  And honestly, you can’t find a better bourbon movie than Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Disc/Download).  I’m pretty sure Paul Newman had a highball glass glued to his hand throughout the shoot, and lord was there ever a sexier drunk than 1950s-era Newman?  I think not. If you’re sweltering through an endless summer like Brick, better grab the ice bucket and the full bottle—you’ll need them to get through this steamy drama.

Looking at this film purely from an aesthetic point of view, I’m immediately hooked by the gorgeous southern plantation sets, Elizabeth Taylor’s sensual costumes, and the rugged beauty of Paul Newman.  The man looks to be carved from marble, and is of course one hell of an actor.  Then there’s Elizabeth Taylor’s Maggie “the cat”, my role model for womanhood.  She’s tough, she’s conniving, and she’s not afraid to tell off bratty children.  Watching her smear ice cream over an annoying little girl’s head is SUCH a satisfying moment for me, and proof she’s the one with real Life in her.  It’s no wonder “Big Daddy” prefers her to his other daughter-in-law—you want the woman who will give you a cashmere robe for your birthday, not another loud-mouthed grandchild.

Although we’re supposed to feel anger or sympathy for Paul Newman’s alcoholic character Brick, I can’t help but be impressed.  This man knows how to hold his liquor!  Whether you’re sweating in a Mississippi plantation or just watching people onscreen do it, a cool drink will get you through the worst days of summer.  While watching Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, I recommend drinking this Mississippi Punch.

Mississippi Punch

2 oz Cognac

1 oz Bourbon

1 oz Jamaican Rum

½ oz Lemon Juice

½ oz simple syrup

Orange wedge for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass filled with crushed ice.  Garnish with an orange wedge.

Mississippi Punch.jpeg

Just like this cocktail, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is INTENSE.  By the end I’m exhausted from the emotional turmoil of these characters, and I wish someone would put them all out of their misery. But then Brick smirks and tells Maggie to “lock the door,” and I get that warm, satisfied feeling only a classic film and a great line can deliver.  Well… a great line and a lot of bourbon.  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!