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Category Archives: Dramas

Stand By Me

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Image credit: Stand By Me, 1986

It’s official—pie season is upon us. Although I think most of us can agree that Waitress is the ultimate pie movie to watch during the lead-up to Thanksgiving, there’s another film that highlights the true American struggle of eating a ton of baked goods in a short amount of time, while trying not to barf. From the brilliant, twisted mind of Stephen King comes this week’s Cinema Sips pick, Stand By Me (Disc/Download).

Directed by Rob Reiner, this adaptation of a King short story centers on four twelve-year-old boys who go in search of the dead body of a missing teen. With their bedrolls, canteens, and comb (thanks, Vern), they follow the train tracks from their tiny Oregon town into the wilderness. Along the way, they encounter a river full of leeches, a junkyard dog named Chopper, and a scary group of high school hoodlums (led by a menacing Kiefer Sutherland). River Phoenix is magnetic as Chris, the smart delinquent who’s protective of his sensitive friend Gordie (Wil Wheaton), while Jerry O’Connell and Corey Feldman provide some much needed comic relief. This coming-of-age story is funny, poignant, and incredibly relatable, even for those of us who didn’t grow up at the tail end of the 1950s. I think we all remember what it felt like to have schoolyard friendships that seemed like they’d last forever, but in hindsight were always destined to be temporary.

Now, back to pies. Proving his talent for storytelling, Gordie spins a fantastic yarn around the campfire about the sweet, sweet taste of revenge. In his story, a bullied teen gets back at the cruel townsfolk who taunted him by entering a pie-eating contest. Things are going well, until halfway through… well I won’t spoil it, but maybe finish your slice of pie before you watch this movie. Inspired by the gorgeous blueberry pies poor “Lardass” sinks his face into, while watching Stand By Me, I’ll be drinking this Blueberry Pie Martini.

Blueberry Pie Martini

2 oz Blueberry Vodka

½ oz Vanilla Vodka

½ oz Orange Liqueur

½ oz Blueberry Simple Syrup

1 oz Lime Juice

Fresh Blueberries (Garnish)

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with blueberries.

2020 has been tough on us all. If you’re like me, maybe you’ve found yourself reaching out to friends you haven’t talked to in a long time, checking in, making sure they’re okay. As Stand By Me shows, just because you may have lost touch with someone doesn’t mean you’re not grateful for the part they played in your life. After all, someone had to bring the comb. Cheers!

Psycho

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Image credit: Psycho, 1960.

There’s a fine line between the kind of horror movie I can handle, and the kind I can’t. A great example of a “Liz Locke-approved Scary Movie” is this week’s pick Psycho (Disc/Download). Even though Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece makes me anxious about taking a shower ever again, the psychological suspense is so well crafted that I almost welcome the terror. Plus, you know I love any movie set in a hotel ;-).

Although this film would later be remade shot-for-shot in color by Gus Van Sant, I’ll always prefer the original black-and-white version. It removes the viewer from the action a little bit, reminding us that this is fiction, and Norman Bates is not peering at me through a peephole or waiting behind a curtain with a knife in his hand. The noise I heard halfway through shampooing my hair was just the dog.

IT’S JUST THE DOG.

In his performance as a disturbed serial killer, Anthony Perkins is equal parts creepy and likeable, similar to all those other famous murderers we’ve heard about in podcasts and documentaries. You know the type: average guy next door; he wouldn’t hurt a fly. And as one of his victims, Janet Leigh’s character Marion isn’t exactly innocent, but she’s so sweet and unsuspecting of what’s about to happen to her that the viewer almost forgets she’s a “bad girl” on the run. This is what I love about Psycho– you think you understand who the criminal is in the first ten minutes, only to realize you had no idea what level of depraved criminal you’re soon about to meet.

When Marion Crane checks into the Bates Motel, she’s probably expecting to relax with her suitcase full of money and a nice cold cocktail (I know that’s what I like to do on vacation, anyway). Instead, she’s stuck talking to a sad loner about his taxidermy collection, over a pile of white bread and pitcher of water. Is this the hospitality industry or prison?? Let’s bring some fun to this lobby party with a cocktail inspired by the upcoming shower scene. While watching Psycho, I recommend drinking this 12 Cabins, 12 Vacancies cocktail.

12 Cabins, 12 Vacancies

2 oz Red Wine

1 oz Pineapple Juice

¾ oz Simple Syrup

¾ oz Lime Juice

Club Soda

Add the red wine, pineapple juice, simple syrup, and lime juice to a highball glass over ice. Top with soda water, and stir well to combine. Garnish with a dehydrated blood orange.

As blood circles the drain in one of the most artistic murder scenes ever filmed, notice how it looks remarkably like the red wine in your cocktail. Apparently Hitch used chocolate syrup, but personally I prefer a boozier option. This is a refreshing drink that’s easy to refill as you watch Norman descend deeper and deeper into madness. But then again, don’t we all go a little mad sometimes? Especially after a few tipples? Cheers and Happy Halloween!

Far From Heaven

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Image credit: Far From Heaven, 2002.

In many ways, I owe the existence of Cinema Sips to this week’s film, Far From Heaven (Disc/Download). When I had the idea seven years ago to start writing about films and cocktails, it was based on the image of Julianne Moore in a perfect pastel 1950s dress, pouring a pitcher of daiquiris for her girlfriends in the middle of the day. That, right there, was the life I wanted for myself. Unfortunately, I (and most of my girlfriends) have day jobs. There are no lunchtime daiquiris, and most of us live in different states at this point. But what if we could all watch a movie, make a cocktail, and feel like we were together? And what if I could share the experience with the whole world? Just like that, Cinema Sips was born.

It’s no shock that I adore this movie, since I’ve raved on here before about my love of the ’50s melodrama. From Douglas Sirk films like Magnificent Obsession and All That Heaven Allows, to Sirk-adjacent picks like Peyton Place and A Summer Place, I simply cannot get enough of beautiful facades hiding the torrid scandals of a soap opera. Every detail of Todd Haynes’ homage to vintage melodramas is perfection, from the tailored dresses, to the stellar production design, to the script that touches on everything from racism to homosexual shame to domestic violence. You see, even though these characters exist in an idyllic world of brightly colored autumn leaves and silk party dresses, beneath that surface lies a lot of pain and sadness.

As I mentioned, this movie gets me very excited about daiquiris in the middle of the day. If you’re looking for that recipe, you can find it here. However, now I’d like to pay tribute to modern housewives, who, each September, start sucking back the Pumpkin Spice products like a seasonal heroin. Pumpkin Spice was not really “a thing” during the 1950s, but if it were, I’m pretty sure Cathy and her gal pals would be enjoying a pitcher of these Pumpkin Spice Margaritas.

Pumpkin Spice Margaritas

2 parts Reposado Tequila

1 part Cointreau

1 part Lime Juice

2 parts Pumpkin Spice Puree*

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail pitcher with ice. Stir until chilled, then pour into glasses filled with fresh ice.

*Pumpkin Spice Puree: Combine 1 cup brown sugar + 1 cup Water + 2 Tsp Ground Pumpkin Spice in a saucepan. Heat until lightly boiling and the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, then stir in 3/4 cup Canned Pure Pumpkin Puree. Cool, and refrigerate.

In the role of Cathy Whitaker, Julianne Moore shows us that even though many of us may look back fondly on a lot of things from this era, in the end we’re only gazing at a pretty picture. The reality was anything but pretty. If I had my pick, I’d leave the intolerance back in the previous century, but keep the dresses and decor. Day-drinking with friends can also stay. Cheers!

Dead Poets Society

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Image credit: Dead Poets Society, 1989

If nothing else, the horror-show that is 2020 has proven once and for all that teachers are goddamn heroes. Often putting their lives and personal sanity at risk, they’ve had to work three times as hard this year to ensure that kids are not only educated, but comforted during these unprecedented, uncertain times. Even when faced with a laptop screen full of tiny faces, it’s up to them to make every child feel safe, and above all, seen. No movie has communicated the truth of this better than Dead Poet’s Society (Disc/Download).

A perfect pick for Fall viewing, Peter Weir’s film opens on a bucolic New England boarding school just as the leaves are starting to change. The boys who inhabit these drafty buildings want so badly to be men, and it isn’t until they meet their new English professor Mr. Keating (Robin Williams) that they start to learn what that truly means. You see, Mr. Keating doesn’t just teach them poetry. He teaches them to be brave, to inhabit the world with honor, and that feelings and emotions matter. To me, this shows what an important role a great teacher can play in one’s life. At the end of it all, you might not remember what a quadratic equation is, or who wrote the words, “O Captain! My Captain!” but you’re damn sure going to remember the person who encouraged you to be curious about the world, and fearless in the face of adversity.

Because this movie gives me all the cozy New England vibes, I’ll be drinking a nice, warming apple brandy cocktail, perfect for poetry readings in caves. While watching Dead Poet’s Society, I recommend drinking this Captain’s Mule.

Captain’s Mule

1 ½ oz Calvados Apple Brandy

½ oz Lime Juice

3 dashes Angostura Bitters

6 oz Ginger Beer

Dried Apple for garnish

Place first three ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a copper mug filled with fresh ice. Top with ginger beer, and garnish with dried apple.

There have been a lot of great teachers in cinema, but out of all of them, John Keating is the one I most wish I’d had the pleasure of knowing. Someone to tell me that words are important, and to not be so afraid that my thoughts are worthless or embarrassing. If Cinema Sips is my barbaric YAWP!, then let it be heard. Cheers!

Summertime

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Summertime

Image credit: Summertime, 1955

It’s official- the summer doldrums are here. Every July, I become a thoroughly unpleasant person to be around as I slog through a Groundhog Day existence of air conditioning and double showers. But this year, I made the wise choice to take a short jaunt to Venice with Katharine Hepburn in the lush 1950s drama Summertime (Disc/Download). And cookie, I’m glad I did.

When this film begins, Hepburn’s character Jane is excited about her trip to Venice. She’s saved up for it, made all the arrangements, and idealized the Italian city in her mind. She knows it’s a place for romance, but she doesn’t even dare hope for that. She’s been single a long time, and well…it’s enough just to see the beautiful canals. That’s what she tells herself, anyway. But then she actually arrives and discovers that Venice is THE WORST place to go if you’re single. I should know—I went there alone in 2002 and it was the loneliest trip of my life. Thankfully, she meets a charming antiques dealer, who may or may not be trustworthy, but still manages to pull her out of her shell and turn this trip from depressing to romantic. It’s here that Hepburn makes you feel what it is to fall for someone. To hope, but not let yourself hope too much, then to take that first tentative step before rushing in with open arms and saying “I love you” on the first date. She may get her heart broken, but oh, that first, initial joy is worth it. To truly live, is worth it.

Aside from my admiration for this character’s wardrobe (an enviable mix of shirt dresses and plucky hair bows), I also love that Jane travels with her own bourbon. You just can’t count on a foreign country to have all the comforts of home. Lucky for Jane, her pensione has all the ingredients on hand to turn that bourbon into a classic Boulevardier.

Boulevardier

1.5 oz Bourbon

1 oz Campari

1 oz Cinzano Sweet Red Vermouth

Orange Twist and Cherry garnish

Combine first three ingredients in a shaker with ice. Stir until chilled and combined, then strain into a glass filled with a large ice cube. Garnish with a twist of orange and Luxardo cherry.

Boulevardier

Cousin to the more popular Negroni, I actually prefer a Boulevardier if I’m going to commit to a heavier, alcohol-forward cocktail. And really, that’s what this movie needs. Something a little bitter, a little sweet, and very strong, just like Jane’s heart. Cheers!

Parasite

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Parasite

Image credit: Parasite, 2019

I’ve already included Bong Joon Ho’s Academy Award-winning masterpiece Parasite (Disc/Download) on my Top 5 list for 2019, but the film is so good, so memorable, that I think it deserves its own cocktail pairing. Fair warning- make your drink before the movie starts, not during, because you won’t want to miss a second.

Kill-and-eat-the-rich is a compelling theme not just in cinema, but in a lot of different art forms. While we might enjoy the temporary window into “how the other half lives”, it’s equally gratifying to watch the wealthy suffer the consequences of callous obliviousness. In Parasite, I get to spend time in a gorgeous modern home, every inch designed for stylish comfort, while also getting the satisfaction of a bloody denouement. But the incredible thing about Parasite is that nobody comes out looking great. Both the rich and the poor have their flaws, existing together in this strange co-dependent world of master and servant.  It really makes you wonder who’s actually in control here. The person writing the checks, or the person actually doing the work? Which one is really the parasite?

There’s a great plot twist involving the skin of a peach, and while I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen the movie, just know that it makes for wonderful cocktail inspiration. While watching Parasite, try this simple Peach Fuzz cocktail!

Peach Fuzz

1.5 oz Peach Vodka

.5 oz Lemon Juice

.5 oz Pineapple Gum Syrup

2 oz Prosecco

Fresh pineapple or peach for garnish

Peach Fuzz

Combine vodka, lemon juice, and pineapple syrup in a shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a martini or coupe glass. Top with Prosecco, and garnish with pineapple or peach.

If anybody wonders why Parasite swept the Oscars, it’s because this film is storytelling at its finest. Every second, from the editing, to the direction, to the performances, to the script, is tight as a drum, with not an inch of wasted celluloid to be found. In fact, when I saw this in the theater, I’d made the mistake of having a couple cocktails before the show. Halfway through… I needed a bathroom break. I kept waiting for a slow moment, which never came. Eventually, I just had to give up and run like hell to the ladies room. When I returned, not two minutes later, I asked my husband what I’d missed. He answered: Everything.

Cheers to home viewing, and the pause button!

 

Key Largo

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Key Largo

Image credit: Key Largo, 1948

Consider this my pick for a classic lockdown screening. Whether it’s a virus or a natural disaster that has you stuck inside your home, you can watch Key Largo (Disc/Download) and feel a little bit better about your current situation. One, if you’re reading this, then you probably have easy access to alcohol. Two, you’re most likely not trapped inside the house with a murderous band of gangsters. And three, air conditioning is now standard in a way it wasn’t in the ‘40s. Score one for the present day.

I’ll admit, it was a catchy yacht rock song that drove me to watch this film. Bertie Higgins’ ‘Key Largo’ always puts me in the mood for frozen drinks and a captain’s hat. Havin’ it all, like Bogie and Bacall sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? Well, after watching this film, I’m going to label the song false advertising. 1940s Key Largo does not look like a place I want to sail away to. Humphrey Bogart spends most of his time under a fresh slick of forehead sweat, as he tries to be the smart, capable hero in a hotel held hostage. Lauren Bacall is there to make heart eyes at him, which is sweet, but ultimately unhelpful. Truly, it’s only the drunken gangster’s moll (Academy Award-winner Claire Trevor) who shows any real gumption. Somebody get this lady another drink please!

Speaking of drinks, the Hotel Largo has a pretty paltry cocktail list. We’re talking scotch and… scotch. Just watching them drink it WITH NO ICE makes me hot. Let’s cool off with this Key Lime Colada.

Key Lime Colada

2 cups ice

2 ½ oz dark spiced rum

1 ½ oz Key Lime Juice (From 3 key limes)

1 ½ oz Pineapple Juice

3 oz Cream of Coconut

Combine all ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth. Pour into a hurricane glass, and garnish with a slice of fresh lime.

Key Lime Colada

Tropical film noir is a new genre for me, and I really thought I’d miss seeing the gorgeous colors of the Florida Keys. But as the movie progressed, I started to enjoy the shadows of the palmetto leaves on the curtains, the black, menacing ocean, and the reflection of light on the bar glasses. Lockdown never looked so sexy. Cheers!

 

Somewhere in Time

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Somewhere in Time

Image Credit: Somewhere in Time, 1980.

Of all the movies I was supposed to see at TCMFF2020, I was most excited for Somewhere in Time (Disc/Download). An underappreciated romance starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, it can best be described as Outlander-meets-Anne of Green Gables, with a dash of Moulin Rouge. Set in Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel, watching this makes me feel like I just took a trip somewhere fabulous without having to leave my living room.

More often than not, cinema time travel happens through some sort of gadget or external magic. But in Somewhere in Time, time travel is a mental state. Christopher Reeve’s character Richard Collier hypnotizes himself into believing he’s going from 1980 back to 1912. Why does he do this? Because he knows he’s been there before. When he sees a picture of a radiant Jane Seymour’s Elise McKenna, he can’t shake the feeling that this once-famous actress was someone special to him. Then he realizes she’s the same old woman who gave him a pocket watch in 1972; a watch that he would give back to her in 1912. This sets off a chicken-and-egg paradox in my mind of who actually had the watch first, for it can’t exist in the past without first existing in the present (and round and round we go). In many ways it’s a reflection of their love, traveling through time, unchanged and constant.

As mentioned, the Grand Hotel of Mackinac Island plays a central role. Because the island allows no motor vehicles even to this day, it’s the perfect location to set a story from the past. I can almost imagine myself in a wicker chair on the hotel’s wide veranda; sipping cocktails and watching the horse-drawn carriages go by. Hypnotize yourself into thinking you’re relaxing at a luxury hotel with this Grand Tonic. (hey, it’s worth a shot!)

Grand Tonic

1 1/2 oz Grand Marnier

3/4 oz Tonic Syrup (I used Bradley’s Kina Tonic, with notes of spiced orange).

Club Soda

Orange slice

Strawberry slices

Fill a glass with ice, and pour in a shot of Grand Marnier. Top with tonic syrup and club soda, and stir gently to combine. Garnish with orange and strawberry slices.

Grand Tonic

Christopher Reeve plays a dashing hero who puts himself through hell to reach the love of his life, and it makes me a little sad that he didn’t have the chance for a lengthy career of roles like this. Knowing what we do now about his tragic injury, it makes Somewhere in Time feel even more urgent. Richard, and Christopher, are both running out of time. It’s up to us movie fans to give them more of it. Cheers!

Jules and Jim

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Jules and Jim

Image credit: Jules and Jim, 1962.

Leave it to the French to shock me. Here I was, thinking of polyamory as a concept not fully embraced until the swingin’ ‘70s, but as Jules and Jim (Disc/Download) would suggest, throuples have been around long before Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice; long before that “groundbreaking” episode of House Hunters. Apparently, Paris was a hotbed of free love, even before the Great War.

Directed by Francois Truffaut, Jules and Jim is really about Jules and Jim and Catherine—the free-spirited girl at the center of this complicated love triangle. When we meet them, Jules and Jim are carefree writers who share good times and the occasional woman. But Catherine is something different. Jules stakes a claim early on, even though we can see there’s a strong attraction from Jim as well. She flirts, Jim pines, then Jules marries her and everyone goes off to war. Jules fights on the Austrian side, Jim for the French, and both are afraid of inadvertently killing their best friend on the battlefield. Coming home, Jules settles into an unhappy marriage with Catherine, though both realize something is missing. Eventually, Jim steps in to help right the balance. Despite turbulent times ahead, for a short while in the Black Forest, this throuple is undeniably, unexpectedly happy.

Watching this gorgeous movie at home makes me wish I were instead watching it on the big screen at one of my favorite cinemas, the Austin Film Society* . They have a special gin & tonic on their lobby menu that pairs perfectly with this angsty French love story. While watching Jules and Jim, I recommend drinking the AFS Gin & Tonic.

AFS Gin & Tonic

2 oz Dry Gin

¼ oz Lillet Rose

½ oz Lime Juice

4 oz Elderflower Tonic (I use Fever Tree)

Lime Wheel/Juniper berries for garnish

Combine Gin, Lillet, and lime juice in a shaker filled with ice. Stir to combine and chill, then strain into a glass filled with ice. Top with Elderflower tonic, garnish with lime wheel and juniper berries.

Lillet Gin & Tonic

As with most French New Wave films, lead actress Jeanne Moreau is sexy, cool, funny, and real. Jules and Jim are somewhat forgettable, but Catherine is a woman ahead of her time. This film was made in the 1960s, takes place in 1914-1920s, but feels completely relevant to the 2020s. Let’s touch toes and toast to this unconventional, enduring masterpiece. Cheers!

*If you’re a supporter of indie film, please consider donating to the Austin Film Society so we can all enjoy films and cocktails after the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us.

Doctor Zhivago

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Doctor Zhivago

Image: Doctor Zhivago, 1965 (Also: The Great Coronavirus Quarantine 2020)

Unlike Doctor Zhivago’s runtime, the following post will be brief. I had enormously high hopes for this film (Disc/Download), thinking it would be hot men in the snow, meets three-and-a-half hours of Julie Christie looking sad and gorgeous. I took advantage of the orchestral overture to mix a cocktail and settled in to be transported to glamorous Moscow. Expecting snow-covered romance and emotional angst, imagine my shock upon realizing I’d committed to watching an extremely tedious episode of Little Kremlin on the Prairie.

I won’t bore you with all the reasons why this movie failed me. As any writer of romance can affirm, we’re told to show, not tell. Well, I was told that Omar Sharif and Julie Christie were hopelessly in love with each other; I just wasn’t shown it. Every time even a whisper of passion came across the screen, the film made an abrupt cut. I couldn’t understand why poet/physician Zhivago would wander through the barren frozen wasteland of Russia in search of his former nurse (and patient?) Lara, when they’d shared only about 20 minutes of screen time thus far. Was it just that she was so beautiful? I’m honestly still confused.

The one bright spot in my three-and-a-half hour trip to Cinema Siberia was the cocktail pairing I chose. As previously mentioned, grand epics are tailor-made for drinkers because the lengthy overture and intermission give you plenty of time for mixing. While watching Doctor Zhivago, replicate the feeling of walking through snow and ice to kiss a girl you kinda, sorta once knew with this Russian Frostbite cocktail.

Russian Frostbite

1½ oz Vodka

¾ oz Brandy

1 oz Coffee Liqueur

1 oz Cold Brew Coffee

1 oz Rumchata

1 ½ oz Half-and-Half

Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice, and shake until mixed and chilled. Strain into a glass filled with fresh ice.

Frostbite

It’s not a coincidence that this cocktail has coffee in it; you’ll need it to stay awake. While I loved the visuals of an ice-covered onion dome, Julie Christie’s shiny coif, and Omar Sharif’s forearms (!!!), Doctor Zhivago ultimately didn’t move me. It didn’t even nudge me. In the future, if I ever find myself in the mood for impossible love in the middle of a communist revolution, I’ll stick with the book. Cheers!