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Category Archives: Dramas

Away We Go

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Film Title: Away We Go

Image credit: Away We Go, 2009

Sometimes travel has nothing to do with business or pleasure, and everything to do with searching. Searching for a person, or a place, or maybe just a feeling. In Away We Go (DVD/Download), two soon-to-be parents embark on a quest across North America to find perhaps the most important thing of all- Home. As it turns out, this is one of the hardest destinations to find.

Directed by Sam Mendes and starring John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph, Away We Go is full of both earnestness and humor. I see myself and so many people I know in these characters, two well-meaning people forced to grapple with this idea of adulthood and finding one’s place in the world. Pregnancy is a catalyst, but don’t mistake this for a She’s Having a Baby type of discourse on parenthood. Instead this is a film about two unique individuals who finally have to grow up and figure out the kind of future they want. Visiting friends and relatives in Phoenix, Madison, Montreal, and Miami, they search for an anchor to tie their boat to. Beautifully shot, with a soundtrack by Alexi Murdoch, this film truly feels like a journey.

Throughout Away We Go, John Krasinski waxes poetic on the allure of the Mighty Mississippi, and wanting to give his child a “Huck Finn” kind of upbringing. It’s a romantic notion, and certainly refreshing in the age of smartphones and videogames. When we finally see the Mississippi in this film, it feels utterly majestic. While watching Away We Go, I recommend drinking a Mighty MissisSip.

Mighty MissisSip

1 ½ oz Light Rum

1 oz Whiskey

3 oz fresh lemon juice

½ oz simple syrup

Lemon Twist

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker full of ice, and shake until combined. Strain into a chilled coupe glass, and garnish with a lemon twist.

I was in the very fortunate position to decide where I wanted to build a future before I got tied down with responsibility. I knew I didn’t like where I was living at the time (sorry DC), so I considered all the places I’d ever been that had felt like home. Austin won out, and not for a clear-cut reason. Nobody can explain why a certain place feels like home, it just….does. And as much as we want to tell ourselves that home is a person, I’m not sure I believe that. There’s a unique sense of purpose and hope that one feels when they look around and realize they’ve discovered the place where they belong. Like the characters in Away We Go, I’m grateful to have found mine. Cheers!

A Bigger Splash

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A Bigger Splash

Image credit: A Bigger Splash, 2016

Cinema Sips travel month moves to Italy this week for the stunning psychological thriller A Bigger Splash (DVD/Download). All I can say about this one is #travelgoals. Well, except for the dead body in the swimming pool. But a sun-drenched Sicilian villa overlooking the ocean? Dior resort-wear? Ricotta-making lessons? Sign me up!

A Bigger Splash was one of those lovely little forgotten gems released during a summer full of blockbuster nonsense. Starring Tilda Swinton as a Bowie-esque rockstar recovering from throat surgery, the film delves into her relationship with a handsome, quiet boyfriend (played by Matthias Schoenaerts), her boorish, live-wire ex (played with hilarious aplomb by Ralph Fiennes), and the ex’s estranged daughter(?) played by Dakota Johnson. While we’re meant to be seduced by Johnson and her mysterious beauty, she mostly gives off a creepy Eurotrash vibe with her see-through tops and bored stares. And really, who can compete with Tilda Swinton and her exquisite Dior wardrobe? I become more and more envious with each passing scene. And Ralph Fiennes- he’s manipulative and loud and obnoxious and just SO fun to watch. Somebody, give this man more comedic roles!!

While on vacation, the foursome wander over to the local unmarked restaurant on the side of a cliff. As you do. With no menu, the undoubtedly delectable food is served on folding tables to the ultra-rich and those locals in the know. And daiquiris! Director Luca Guadagnino takes particular joy in filming the cocktail prep. So icy and tart you can almost taste them through the screen. While watching A Bigger Splash, I recommend drinking a Frozen Lime Daiquiri.

Frozen Lime Daiquiri

3 oz light rum

1.5 oz fresh lime juice

1 oz simple syrup

Shaved ice

Pulse rum, lime juice, simple syrup, and ice together in a blender until slushy. Pour into a chilled glass and garnish with a lime slice.

lime daiquiri

Drinking this cocktail almost makes me feel like I’m laying by that turquoise swimming pool, lazing the day away with the beautiful people, deciding which of them is hiding something. The answer: all of them. Cheers!

Up in the Air

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up-in-the-air

Image credit: Up in the Air, 2009.

When summer break seems too far away, and spring break is oh so short (and expensive), sometimes you have to turn to the movies.  To sooth my wanderlust, all month long on Cinema Sips I’ll be enjoying some travel-focused films. Kicking things off is the George Clooney tragicomedy Up in the Air (DVD/Download). As an HR exec who spends 322 days on the road, he knows a thing or two about air travel. Let’s prepare for takeoff.

Up in the Air does a great job of showing the perks and pitfalls of business travel, from slow moving senior citizens setting off the airport metal detectors, to quiet, perhaps lonely drinks in a hotel bar. Only Clooney could pull off a character whose main purpose is to be the ultimate jerk. He flies in to Omaha or Tulsa or any other nondescript white-collar business town to lay off employees, but he’s just so charming that they almost thank him for the pleasure. When a young whippersnapper played by Anna Kendrick waltzes in to extol the virtues of firing by videoconference, he has to prove his worth on the road. With an “empty bag” devoid of commitment, attachment, or anything of meaning, he’s free to rack up airline miles and casual sex. But is that really living?

I used to dread airline cocktails, until the magical Carry-on Cocktail Kit was released by the Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. Although they have many varieties, I like to stay loyal to the Gin & Tonic kit. It truly does make flying much more civilized, with a linen napkin and tiny metal jigger. Sure, I get funny looks when I VERY SPECIFICALLY order a can of club soda, a separate glass of ice, a tiny bottle of gin, and a lime, but I figure my annoying order for the flight attendant is revenge for the miniscule bag of peanuts I’m about to be given. Nobody likes peanuts. While watching Up in the Air, I recommend drinking a Carry On Gin & Tonic.

Carry On Gin & Tonic

1 can club soda

1 mini bottle gin

1/2 oz tonic syrup (from Carry On Cocktail Kit)

Wedge of lime

Glass of ice

Pour gin and tonic syrup over ice, then top with club soda. Stir gently to combine, and squeeze/drop the lime in.

carry-on-cocktail-kit

Honestly, I am extremely jealous of anyone who gets to travel for business. Your company sends you on a free trip, puts you up in a hotel where you don’t have to make your own bed or do your own dishes, you get to eat out every night, AND you can put your accumulated frequent flier miles into your own personal account? All without spending a dime of your own money? What’s not to love? Sure, there are lonely nights on the road, and missing your family, but it’s a sacrifice I’d be willing to make for all those miles. Cheers!

The Hateful Eight

hateful-eight

Image credit: The Hateful Eight, 2015

Thank goodness for Quentin Tarantino. Without him, I would have considerably fewer epic moviegoing memories. My first time seeing this week’s film The Hateful Eight (DVD/Download) was during the “Roadshow” screenings. This included a delightful color program, an opening overture composed by Ennio Morricone, and midway through- a much needed bathroom break (the one time in my life the line for the men’s room was longer than the women’s). Why can’t every movie experience be so civilized?

The Hateful Eight is an interesting Western because most of the action takes place in only one room. Set in a stagecoach stop-over in Wyoming during a blizzard, the “Eight” are various lawmen, bounty hunters, criminals, and Civil War generals all trapped together. A mystery unfolds slowly (who poisoned the coffee???) as we hear more about the characters’ backstories, and realize that not everyone is who he appears to be. As usual, we have a strong Tarantino female played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, and many cast members from previous QT films. Props to Kurt Russell for acting around his Yosemite Sam mustache, and Samuel L. Jackson really gives it his all as the blood-drenched FOAB (Friend of Abraham Lincoln). For a 3 hour film, with very little action and A LOT of dialogue, Tarantino has managed to make a hilarious movie that manages to keep me on my toes as an audience member. No easy feat.

As previously mentioned, the big mystery the inhabitants of Minnie’s Haberdashery are trying to solve is who tampered with the coffee. How appropriate then, to have a hot, caffeine-filled drink to enjoy while you watch the action unfold. When viewing The Hateful Eight, I recommend drinking a Poisoned Coffee.

Poisoned Coffee

4 oz strong brewed coffee

1.5 oz bourbon

1 oz cream

.5 oz maple syrup

Whipped cream topping (optional)

Combine coffee, bourbon, cream, and maple syrup in a heat-proof glass and stir gently to combine. Top with whipped cream, if desired.

poisoned-coffee

Although Westerns are definitely not my preferred genre, when Quentin Tarantino makes a movie I know I’ll watch it and love it. Good writing is good writing whether it’s set in the seedy underbelly of LA or a snowy cabin in Wyoming. Sure there’s blood and gore aplenty, but always in the most humorous way possible. It may look like a western, but as we all know- looks can be deceiving. Cheers!

Rebel Without a Cause

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rebel-without-a-cause

Image credit: Rebel Without a Cause, 1955

Every five years or so, I pull out Rebel Without a Cause and take a deep breath. I know what’s coming- a film with so much tension that I feel wrecked afterward. Why do I watch? Because I like to be reminded of the power of cinema, and the actor’s ability to make emotions resonate with a viewer. James Dean was one such prolific actor, and Rebel Without a Cause (DVD/Download) is his enduring masterpiece.

Before the teen films of John Hughes or Amy Heckerling, even before Splendor in the Grass, there was Rebel. This film is important to our cinematic history because it’s one of the first widely viewed films that gives an honest portrayal of teen angst. That restless feeling of being scared even when you’re not sure what you’re scared of, like you’re crawling out of your own skin (what Holly Golightly categorized as “the mean reds”)- that’s the emotion that this film captures so perfectly. By watching a day in the life of these Los Angeles teens, we start to empathize with the hopeless feelings of being misunderstood and judged for reasons beyond one’s control. Rebel may have been made in 1955, but it will never feel dated because those emotions will never stop being real.

The film opens with a scene of James Dean rolling around drunk on the sidewalk. Eventually his public display of disorderly behavior lands him in a jail cell where he meets fellow delinquents played by Natalie Wood and Sal Mineo. I’m not saying you should drink enough to find yourself in the same boat, but if there was ever a movie that needed to be chased with a cocktail, it’s this one. While watching Rebel Without a Cause, I recommend drinking a Toreador.

Toreador

1 part Spanish red wine (such as Tempranillo)

1 part lemon-lime soda

Slice of lemon

Build drink in a glass over ice, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with the lemon slice.

toreador

This cocktail reminds me of that iconic jacket James Dean wears- a fire-engine red number that’s slightly geeky by today’s standards, but on him, with that popped collar, looks effortlessly cool.  The color symbolizes the fire and passion churning under his skin, and as bullies and thugs taunt him, he actually becomes that toreador, wielding his switchblade like a spear.  Rebel Without a Cause gained notoriety due to Dean’s untimely death just before the picture’s release, but even without the backstory, the film itself is Shakespearean in its tragedy.  You might need that full bottle of wine tonight.  Cheers!

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

benjamin-button

Image credit: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 2008

Greetings from New Orleans! I’m off on a little sojourn in the Big Easy, taking in the sights and doing some much-needed cocktail research (very important business). To prepare for my trip I’ve been watching some New Orleans-set films, including this week’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (DVD/Download). Some star-crossed romance and beautiful Garden District scenes are just what I need to kick off this week of bon temps.

Based on the story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button stars Brad Pitt as a man who ages in reverse. Fate intervenes and brings him together periodically with his true love Daisy, played by Cate Blanchett. We know going in that this can’t be a story with a happy ending, though there are some beautiful scenes of the two lovers “meeting in the middle” of their lives. What Benjamin’s tale teaches us is that backwards or forwards, life is a long journey that we’ve just got to make the best of. Also, we learn that Brad Pitt will one day be a very adorable old man.

Part of my excitement over a trip to New Orleans is that this was the city that launched SO MANY cocktails. The Hurricane, the Ramos Gin Fizz, the Vieux Carré- I could go on and on. But for this film, I’ll be drinking perhaps the most iconic NOLA cocktail- the Sazerac.

Sazerac

Absinthe

1 sugar cube

2 ½ oz Cognac or rye whiskey

3 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters

Lemon twist

Rinse an old-fashioned glass with absinthe, discard, then fill the glass with crushed ice. Muddle the sugar cube with a few drops of water in another old-fashioned glass, and add a few large ice cubes.  Add in the cognac or rye, and bitters, and stir gently to combine.  Discard the ice in the first glass, then strain the cocktail into this prepared glass. Add a twist of lemon.

sazerac

Although the concept of reverse aging is something the beauty industry has been chasing for decades, Benjamin Button shows us how futile it all is. Eventually we all end up in diapers. Until then, I plan on making the most of every day that I find myself in the middle, and appreciating this random collision course that we call life. Cheers!

Carol

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carol

Image credit: Carol, 2015

This is serious folks- I’ve been writing Cinema Sips for three years, and I’m starting to run out of Christmas movies! Next year we might be down to The Gremlins.  It’s bad. Thankfully, last year’s masterpiece Carol (DVD/Download) has delayed the inevitable just a little bit longer. Featuring 1950’s holiday dysfunction, beautiful vintage clothes, and classic cocktails, this is the perfect thing to kick off a season of overindulging.

Based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith (a personal favorite author of mine), Carol tells the unlikely love story between glamorous suburban housewife Carol, and bohemian shopgirl/photographer Therese. Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara portray these characters so beautifully, and I find myself rooting for their impossible romance with all my heart. Director Todd Haynes has made what feels like a classic film in modern times, and this quiet story that happens to be set at Christmas is just the reminder I need that despite the tinsel and holiday music and greeting cards, real life is still happening too.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- nobody drinks a martini like Cate Blanchett. She’s in rare form here, ordering a lunch of dry martinis and poached eggs with creamed spinach. I’m not sure this combo is the best (or most appetizing) food pairing, it is the best cocktail choice for this movie. While watching Carol, I recommend drinking a Dry Martini (with an olive).*

Dry Martini

2 ½ oz Gin

½ oz Dry Vermouth

1-2 Olives

Stir gin and vermouth in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with an olive.

dry-martini

I’ll always love my old Christmas stand-bys like The Holiday, Love Actually, Little Women, etc, but it feels good to add a new classic to the mix. Sipping a martini in a Sandy Powell dress while 1950’s New York buzzes around you? Sounds like a perfect holiday fantasy to me. Cheers!

(*Note: I made this same cocktail selection two years ago for The Thin Man.  Perhaps a double feature is in order!)