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Category Archives: Dramas

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!

 

 

 

 

Rome Adventure

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Rome Adventure

Image credit: Rome Adventure, 1962.

I’ll say one thing about Troy Donahue—he’s a unique kisser. Whether it’s on the beaches of California in A Summer Place, or in a carriage pulled through the streets of Rome in this week’s Rome Adventure (Disc/Download), he pretty much swallows his partner whole. I can’t know how it feels to be on the receiving end of one of these melodramatic lip attacks, but if Suzanne Pleshette married him three years after filming wrapped, it must have left an impression. She said arrivederci soon after the wedding vows, but… we won’t get into that.

If you love Roman Holiday and Three Coins in the Fountain, I urge you to check out this romantic drama. Suzanne Pleshette stars as a disgraced librarian Prudence (she rec’d a romance novel to teens! The horror!!!) who flees to Rome in search of love and La Dolce Vita. She lands a sweet gig in an American bookshop just off the Piazza Navona, owned by a funny, sexy ex-pat (Constance Ford in a MUCH more appealing role than the racist mom in A Summer Place). There’s even a cute bookshop dog! Prudence falls for a charming American architect (Donahue), already under the spell of she-wolf Angie Dickinson and her fabulous silk evening gowns. Meanwhile an older man Prudence met on a cruise is still trying to seduce her, and a square student (who bears a remarkable resemblance to Beto O’Rourke) carries an unrequited torch. Let’s just say, this librarian goes looking for love and gets more than she bargained for.

The movie makes a bold case for the Italian aperitif Strega, a new-to-me spirit. As Prudence likes to say, it “turns the world gold”. While watching Rome Adventure, I recommend drinking this Strega Sunrise.

Strega Sunrise

2 oz Strega

1 oz Fresh orange juice

1 oz Lime Juice

1 tsp honey syrup

Orange Bitters

2 oz Club Soda

Orange Twist

Combine first five ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until well chilled, then strain into a glass filled with ice. Top with club soda, and a twist of orange.

Strega Sunrise

If you want to make your viewing even more fun, take a drink every time someone says “Arrivederci!”  And now you’ll have to excuse me—I’m off to go fantasize about working in a Roman bookshop with a saucy broad and her sheepdog. Cheers!

Farewell to the Summer Light

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Farewell to the Summer Light

Image credit: Farewell to the Summer Light, 1968.

For fans of Wong Kar-wai and Richard Linklater, I present to you the 1968 gem, Farewell to the Summer Light (avail. on YouTube). A love story featuring two Japanese expats walking and talking about nothing and everything, this movie hits me right where it matters. Watch it, but be warned- this one will stay with you.

Beautifully shot in Lisbon, Paris, Madrid, Scandinavia, and Rome, Yoshishige Yoshida’s film is a tapestry of European cities. Kawamura is searching for a mythical church when he meets Naoko, a married furniture/art buyer, still traumatized by the loss of her family to the Nagasaki atomic bomb. Kawamura and Naoko relate to one another initially through their heritage and the displaced feeling of being foreigners in a Western world, but eventually, their friendly wandering turns into attraction. In a constant push/pull, we feel the disappointment each time they leave one another, then the heart-lifting triumph when they find each other in a new city. It’s a love grounded in fate, but stymied by circumstance.

This gorgeous film deserves an equally lovely cocktail pairing with Japanese and European influences. While watching Farewell to the Summer Light, I recommend drinking this Low Tide cocktail.

Low Tide

1 ½ oz Sake

3-4 oz Dry Cava

½ oz Lime Juice

½ oz Mint Simple Syrup

Lime Twist

Combine Sake, Lime Juice, and Simple syrup in a shaker over ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a or flute. Top with Cava, and garnish with a twist of lime.

Low Tide

I’ll admit, my 1960s international film tastes have largely skewed toward the French and Italian, but Farewell to the Summer Light makes me want to learn more about what was happening in Japanese cinema. When Naoko and Kawamura kiss in front of a cathedral built on the beaches of Normandy, you realize what their love truly is—a beautiful sandcastle not meant to last. There’s such poetry in the way it’s shot; a desperation that practically tears through the screen. I may still look the same on the outside, but inside I’ll be carrying that scene with me forever. Cheers!

Model Shop

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Model Shop

Image credit: Model Shop, 1969

When I found out that two of my favorite movies of last year, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Echo in the Canyon, were reportedly influenced by Jacques Demy’s 1969 film Model Shop (Disc/Download), I needed to see what all the fuss was about. If you’re searching for a slice-of-life ride through ‘60s Los Angeles, look no further than this gorgeous film about love, mortality, and the mistakes of youth.

As the sun rises on a rundown LA bungalow, we meet George Matthews, a former architect at a crossroads in his life. His girlfriend’s got one foot out the door, his car’s about to be repossessed, and he doesn’t know what he wants to do ten minutes from now, let alone ten years. But then he spots a mysterious woman (Anouk Aimée) on the Sunset Strip and follows her up into the hills in his little MG. She goes into a house, he looks out over the city that doesn’t feel like home anymore, then turns around and leaves. But fate forces their paths to cross again, and this time he follows her into a Model Shop.  In this strange make-your-own-porn business that could have only existed in the 1960s, men pay to take pictures of women in their underwear, eventually leaving with negatives and a sweaty brow. For George, this sets off a Before Sunrise-esque 24hr love affair, fueled by the looming threat of a Vietnam draft notice which just arrived in the mail. That’s the thing about the ’60s—things happened fast because they had to.

Even though George’s model strips down for his camera, it isn’t until they’re back at her place that she really starts to reveal herself (a good drink will always get you talking well into the night). Equal parts sweet and bitter, while watching Model Shop, I suggest drinking this Sunset Stripped cocktail.

Sunset Stripped

1 oz Brandy

1 oz Lillet Blanc

¼ oz Honey Syrup (Equal parts honey and water boiled together, then cooled).

Dash of Angostura Bitters

Dash of Orange Bitters

Orange peel or dried orange slice

Combine Brandy, Lillet, honey syrup, and bitters in a shaker with ice. Stir until well chilled, then strain into a tumbler with a fresh cube of ice. Garnish with an orange peel or dried orange slice.

Sunset Stripped

For anyone wanting to see what Los Angeles looked like in the late 1960s, this movie is a perfect time capsule. The cars, the signage, the mini-skirts, the tanned pre-cancerous skin—Model Shop places you right in the center of it all. Sure you could watch someone else’s modern interpretation of this time period, but isn’t it more fun to go straight to the source? Cheers!

Revolutionary Road

revolutionary road

Image credit: Revolutionary Road, 2008.

There are some on-screen pairings that are so good, so real, you become desperate to believe the chemistry continues off-screen as well. We saw it more recently with Bradley Cooper & Lady Gaga in A Star is Born, but my personal favorite movie couple will always be Leonardo DiCaprio & Kate Winslet. It would shock you to know how much time I’ve spent daydreaming about these two. Fantasizing about a world where they finally, after all these marriages and models, finally end up together IRL. Picturing the secret tears poor Leo must have shed walking Kate down the aisle at her latest wedding, wishing it were him waiting at the altar. It’s true, I have a very active, misguided imagination. Or maybe, they were just too convincing as a married couple in this week’s film Revolutionary Road (Disc/Download).

With any other actors, this film would have been a depressing two-hour slog through 1950s suburbia. Cheating husband, frustrated housewife, unwanted pregnancies—this is what happens when you force people to live in cramped 1950s housing. You think it’ll be all mid-century glamour and kitsch until you realize the bathrooms are the size of a postage stamp. Having to share a tiny pedestal sink—that’s enough to drive any marriage to its breaking point. I say this as someone who lives in a mid-century modern house, and who has actively chosen to remain child-free. Honestly, kids just wouldn’t fit. But Frank and April Wheeler didn’t get the memo. They procreate, and live to regret it. Constantly bickering, trading withering looks and baiting insults, their marriage is a pressure cooker waiting to explode. But the thing is, these two have such great chemistry that even when they’re fighting, you want to watch every second. They may not be a real-life couple, but they’ve managed to generate some of the hottest, most passionate scenes in movie history.

Midway through the film, in a desperate attempt to break them out of their suburban prison, April hatches a plan to move the family to Paris. With her little white gloves and expertly tailored dress, she’s a lady on a mission at the passport office. [Spoiler Alert] She never makes it to Paris, but you sure can with this classic beverage. While watching Revolutionary Road, I recommend drinking a Parisian martini.

Parisian

2 oz Gin

3/4 oz Dry Vermouth

3/4 oz Crème de Cassis

Combine all ingredients in a shaker over ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon.

parisian

As with most Sam Mendes films, the cinematography and level of acting achievement are unparalleled. Watching Revolutionary Road, you feel transported to 1955 through the costumes, the styling, and yes, those tiny rooms. It’s claustrophobic and electric all at once, making you feel like an uncomfortable participant in the marriage. This may not be a happily-ever-after love story, but I’m still madly in love with it. Cheers!