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Category Archives: Dramas

The Revolt of Mamie Stover

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Image credit: The Revolt of Mamie Stover, 1956

It took all of ten seconds to get me hooked on The Revolt of Mamie Stover (Disc), a campy 1950s melodrama directed by Roaul Walsh. As we watch Jane Russell step out of a police car to noirish music, the camera zooms in just as she turns to face the screen with a scowl of defiance. Talk about an entrance!!!!

Set in Hawaii on the cusp of the Pearl Harbor attack, this DeLuxe Color soap opera features strong female characters, romance, tiki drinks, and vinyl records. In other words, just a typical Sunday night in my living room. As sex-worker Mamie Stover, Jane Russell is smart, acerbic, and focused on one thing and one thing only—money. Although tempted into the straight life by writer Jim Blair (Richard Egan), Mamie understands sex is her ultimate weapon. If a guy can’t handle that, then aloha, buddy. Don’t let the bamboo door hit you on the way out. Sure, she makes a legit fortune buying up cheap properties in the wake of the Pearl Harbor attack (shot in an incredibly moving, realistic way), but she still can’t relinquish the power that comes with her regular dance hall gig. Mamie is the star attraction, and club owner Agnes Moorehead (!!!) will stop at nothing to prevent her meal ticket from leaving.

If there was ever a movie that begs for a tiki cocktail, it’s this one. I’m taking inspiration from our red-headed star seductress for this drink, which goes up in flames just like Mamie’s love life. While watching The Revolt of Mamie Stover, I recommend drinking a Flaming Mamie.

Flaming Mamie

3 oz Jamaican Rum

1 oz Brandy

1 oz Lime Juice

1 oz Orange Juice

1 oz Cinnamon Syrup

½ oz Velvet Falernum

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

½ Fresh Lime

1 oz 151-proof Demerara Rum

Combine first seven ingredients in a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Set aside. Fill a scorpion bowl with crushed ice, then strain cocktail into it. Place a hollowed-out 1/2 lime in the center reservoir, fill with 151-proof rum, and light on fire. Serve with two straws.

This spicy cocktail is a lot like Mamie herself- complex, hot-headed, and dangerous if you get too close. As much as I love to think of Mamie in a tropical paradise, cashing those rental checks forever, a part of me is glad she eventually decides to head back to her small, judgmental hometown. It means this revolt isn’t over yet. Cheers!

Steel Magnolias

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Image credit: Steel Magnolias, 1989

This week, I’d like to take the opportunity to pay tribute to one of America’s greatest treasures, Miss Dolly Parton. A ray of sunshine in nearly every movie she’s strutted into, this sassy comedienne even manages to bring humor and wisdom to the tearjerker to end all tearjerkers, Steel Magnolias (Disc/Download).

Despite telling myself I’m not going to cry this time, I inevitably lose that battle and end up reaching for the tissues. But before that switch gets flipped and the onscreen heart monitor flatlines, there’s a lot of laughter. Dolly is the glue holding this small Louisiana town together, and she does it with hairspray, curlers, and a smile that just doesn’t quit. As owner of the local beauty parlor, Truvy knows everybody’s story and is always there to lend a friendly ear along with a hot wax treatment. There are other funny characters in this movie, such as Shirley MacLaine’s “Ouiser” and her mangy St. Bernard, but Dolly just brings so much positivity to the role of Truvy that even when we see her go through marital troubles (helloooooo sexy Sam Shepard) and the death of a close friend, we know she’s going to be okay. Dolly is the true Steel Magnolia of this world.

Although iced tea is considered the “house wine of the South,” these ladies deserve something a little more complex than a cold glass of Lipton. Take some inspiration from Shelby’s wedding colors “blush” and “bashful” while you watch Steel Magnolias, with a Tickled Pink cocktail.

Tickled Pink

1 ½ oz Malfy Rosa Gin

¾ oz Lillet Rosé

¼ oz Aperol

3 oz Prosecco

3 oz Sparkling Water

Grapefruit twist

Build drink in a glass over large ice cubes, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with a twist of grapefruit.

Steel Magnolias is the kind of movie that brings to mind the trite saying, “They just don’t make ‘em like this anymore.” Movies with such rich character development that you feel like you personally know all these women, experiencing their joys and sorrows right along with them. There may not be such a thing as natural beauty, but from where I’m sitting, these Southern gals sure are gorgeous. Cheers!

A Single Man

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Image credit: A Single Man, 2009

I don’t know what type of movie Tom Ford might have up his tailored sleeve in the future, but consider this my official RSVP. It’s rare to find a filmmaker who can so expertly merge style with substance, but with this fashion designer-turned-director at the helm, I find myself connecting with the the visuals just as much as the drama. He may have shocked and terrified me (in a good way) with Nocturnal Animals, but he truly made me feel with A Single Man (Disc/Download).

Set in my favorite era (the 1960s), this adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s fantastic novel follows Stanford English professor George Falconer (Colin Firth) over the course of a single day as he grieves his deceased lover Jim (Matthew Goode) and contemplates his own suicide. Through flashbacks, we witness George and Jim’s love story, from meeting in a crowded bar, to buying a beautiful mid-century modern home together, to adopting dogs, and all the way to that horrible call with the news that Jim has been in an automobile accident. Deprived of even the smallest dignity of attending the funeral, George’s life has suddenly lost all meaning, and even a sarcastic, gin-swilling Julianne Moore can’t pull him out of his despair. It takes a brazen student (played by Nicholas Hoult in a fuzzy mohair sweater), a midnight skinny dip in the ocean, and several important revelations to make him realize there may be more in store for him than a lifetime of sadness.

Something I particularly love about this film is its use of color. George’s life looks normal at first, until the first time he feels a strong emotion. Suddenly, it’s as if the celluloid gets dunked in a warm Instagram filter, and the hues burst from the screen. As soon as the memory, or sexual desire, or happiness fades, we go back to the original muted tones, and George’s grief is all the more obvious. I thought about joining Julianne Moore in a few Tanqueray & Tonic’s, but that just doesn’t seem bright enough. Let’s bring this drink into full color with the addition of Blood Orange. While watching A Single Man, I recommend drinking a Sunset Tonic.

Sunset Tonic

2 oz Malfy Con Arancia Gin

1 bottle Fever-Tree Mediterranean Tonic

Slice of blood orange

Build drink over ice, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with a slice of blood orange.

A Single Man is the kind of movie that stays with you for days after you watch it. Not only does it make you think about the ones you’ve lost, but it makes you contemplate what kind of future you’ll have now that they’re gone. Is it to be one of sadness and longing, or one of moonlight swims and dancing? What would they have wanted for you? It’s a question a lot of us will ask ourselves one day, and maybe Tom Ford just got me a little closer toward the answer. Cheers!

Magic Mike

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Image credit: Magic Mike, 2012

Living in Austin, it’s hard to escape the name Matthew McConaughey. Our local celebrity keeps popping up everywhere from University of Texas classrooms to the New York Times Bestseller list, and now there’s even talk about seeing him on the ballot one day. This former Dazed & Confused burnout has come a long way, but there is one particular stop along his long and winding journey that was truly unforgettable: the role of Dallas in Magic Mike (Disc/Download).

Say what you want about this crazy Texan, but it takes guts to strut around onstage in nothing but a g-string and cowboy hat. This Steven Soderbergh film about a Tampa male revue club could have easily been swallowed up by campy dance numbers and too many penis jokes (See: Magic Mike XXL). Don’t get me wrong, it still has those. But it also shows us the gritty underbelly of this sex and drug-fueled world. The odd thing about Magic Mike is that for a movie about sexual desire, there’s very little about it that’s sexy to me. So what are we left with? Raw performances, surprisingly beautiful cinematography, and the magnetic screen presence of McConaughey. Like a greasier version of Cabaret‘s Joel Grey, the Master of Ceremonies keeps us engaged, even when we think we’ve reached our limit of screaming women and wet one-dollar bills. Sure, there’s a lot to make fun of in this movie (Channing Tatum’s “furniture line” comes to mind), but this flashy scene-stealer is not one of them.

Now, I have a theory that Dallas is the original “Florida Man”, giving rise to a whole subgenre of trashy urban legends. Can’t you just see him pulling a gun on a McDonald’s employee because the McFlurry machine was broken? Let’s channel some of that Florida energy with a cocktail fit for your girlfriend’s bachelorette party at Xquisite, the Strawberry Mojito.

Strawberry Mojito

3 Fresh Strawberries

1 oz Simple Syrup

2-3 sprigs Fresh Mint

1 oz Lime juice

2 oz Light Rum

3-4 oz Club Soda

Muddle strawberries and mint with simple syrup and lime juice. Add Rum and ice to the shaker, and shake until chilled. Double strain into a glass filled with ice, and top with club soda. Stir gently to combine, and garnish with mint and lime twist.

As someone who has been to an all-male revue exactly one time (shout out to Thunder From Down Under!!!), I can say that the real thing is every bit as cringe-inducing as it looks in this movie. If your friends try and convince you it’ll be fun, just politely sit them down and suggest watching Magic Mike instead. You’ll save your eardrums, and your dignity. Cheers!

Dangerous Beauty

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Image credit: Dangerous Beauty, 1998

If you’re looking for a movie that features all the heart, heat, and feminist energy of a romance novel, then look no further than this week’s pick Dangerous Beauty (Disc/Download). Based on the biography of 16th century Venetian courtesan and poet Veronica Franco, this will leave you swooning over sumptuous costumes, moonlit canals, and a powerful woman who chooses learning above all else.

Made during the late 1990s, when small-budgeted, female-centric pictures still had a place within the cinema landscape, Dangerous Beauty stars Catherine McCormack as the beautiful young Veronica who falls in love with Marco, a man far above her social status. Unable to afford the dowry it would take to marry him, and unwilling to settle for a loveless marriage to someone else, she is instead schooled in the ways of seduction by her mother (Jacqueline Bisset), a former courtesan herself. Veronica agrees to this arrangement because being a courtesan means having access to great libraries and learning institutions. Blossoming as a poet and a woman of intellect, she finds success in her profession, never settling for the easy option. Yes, this is a love story between Veronica and Marco, but it is also a story of a woman claiming her power during a time when women didn’t have many options. As she says, “an education is a woman’s greatest and most hard-won asset.” Not marriage.

Beautifully directed by Marshall Herskovitz, this movie will have you longing for romantic rides in a gondola, followed by drinks on a balcony overlooking the canal. Maybe if you’re lucky, someone will drop off a peacock or drunkenly serenade you. While watching Dangerous Beauty, I recommend mixing up a classic Venetian Spritz.

Venetian Spritz

1 ½ oz Aperol

3 oz Prosecco

1 ½ oz Soda Water

Green Olive

Orange slice (garnish)

Build drink in a glass over ice, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with an olive and orange slice.

Of course, all good times must come to an end, and in Veronica’s case that means plague, war, and the Spanish Inquisition. But even when confronted with so much darkness, she never loses sight of who she is and what she wants. It sounds weird to say it, but as a teenager watching this movie, I totally wanted to be like Veronica when I grew up. Hell, I still do. Cheers!

Fight Club

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Image credit: Fight Club, 1999

You can tell a lot about a person by the kind of movie art they hang on their walls. Back when I was in college, the girls (and a few sensitive guys) tended to have Audrey Tautou’s precocious Amélie face holding court over their dorm rooms, while the “bros” opted for a variety of Tarantino titles. If you walked into a room and saw Adam Sandler’s Waterboy hanging over the bed, you knew to run. Oh, but then there were the Fight Club (Disc/Download) posters. As a female, they made me think, okay, this guy is probably not my soulmate. But do I really want to turn my back on Brad Pitt’s face right now? Women have stayed for a lot less. And, at least it wasn’t Boondock Saints (*shudder*).

I’ll be honest, it’s still not a love match between Fight Club and I. While I appreciate the taste of Chuck Palahniuk’s prose, it tends to get buried within the presentation. David Fincher is a master craftsman of mental illness and anarchy on celluloid, but once again I can’t help feeling (as I do with most of his films) that the editor took a lunch break one day and never came back. I love the hook of a man so dissatisfied with his consumer-driven life that his mind takes a sledgehammer to it, but do we really need so many stomach-turning scenes of violence, filth, and decay? That house on Paper Street may contain the incredibly ripped bodies of Edward Norton and Brad Pitt, but it’s so dirty I can’t even appreciate the hot men. And so then what’s the point??

Watching this movie again through the lens of a cocktail connoisseur, I can confirm that beautiful, complex drinks have no place in Fincher’s wasteland. This is a beer picture, through and through. Playing off the theme of dudes who enjoy a good toxic masculinity break, while watching Fight Club I recommend drinking this Paper Street Punch.

Paper Street Punch

3 cups Beer (I used a Mexican lager)

2 cups Lemon Soda

1 cup Ginger Beer

Lemon Wedge

Ice

Combine Beer, Lemon Soda, and Ginger Beer in a pitcher, stirring gently to combine. Pour into glasses filled with ice, and garnish with a fresh lemon wedge.

Although it might seem like I really dislike this film, rest assured that I don’t. I love the performances, especially Brad Pitt (and not just his abs, though they are quite spectacular). Plus, any cast that includes Meatloaf gets my seal of approval, forever and always. Now, if you’ll excuse me I need to go scrub myself down with a very astringent soap, while trying not to think about how it was made. Cheers!

In the Mood for Love

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Image credit: In the Mood for Love, 2000

Get ready to have your goddamn heart ripped out this week with Wong Kar-wai’s timeless masterpiece In the Mood for Love (Disc/Download). I’m sorry to do this to you, but it can’t be helped. I can’t NOT talk about one of the greatest romances in cinema history—even when I know it’s going to hurt all over again.

I first saw this film in 2000 when it came to my town’s tiny little art house theater, and I remember being overwhelmed by its style and emotional punch. Because the story takes place in 1960s Hong Kong, viewers are treated to colorful mod wallpapers and gorgeous mandarin-collar dresses worn by lead star Maggie Cheung (and believe me, this woman has a lot of beautiful dresses). In the Mood for Love is so undeniably sexy, with its sultry Latin Nat King Cole tracks, dark alleyways, and longing looks shared between the film’s protagonists, that by the end you feel like you need the lipstick-covered cigarette left behind in Chow’s apartment. It’s an impossible romance between two married neighbors whose spouses are sleeping with one another, and for the briefest of seconds you start to believe that a happy ending is possible for these star-crossed lovers. Surely, the perfect soul mate doesn’t just slip right on by, like a noodle off a chopstick. Surely fate isn’t that cruel.

Although this is by no means a cocktail-heavy film, that doesn’t mean we can’t draw inspiration from some of the amazing dishes prepared and consumed onscreen. Food becomes a conduit for the love between the two characters, and we see it clearly when Mrs. Chan makes Chow sesame syrup while he’s fighting a cold. You might not think sesame could be used in a cocktail, but I’m open to experimentation this week. While watching In the Mood for Love, I recommend drinking a Sesame Highball.

Sesame Highball

3 slices cucumber, plus a cucumber ribbon for garnish

¾ oz lemon juice

¼ tsp. toasted sesame oil

Pinch of kosher salt

2 oz Vodka

1 oz Simple Syrup

3 oz Club Soda

Line a highball glass with cucumber ribbon, fill with ice, then set aside. Muddle cucumber slices in the bottom of a shaker with lemon juice, sesame oil, and salt. Add vodka, simple syrup, and ice. Shake until chilled, then double strain into prepared highball glass. Top with club soda and stir gently to combine.

In the Mood for Love is a movie about destiny, love, missed connections, and secrets, with not a single inch of wasted celluloid. Told in a very precise manner, the brisk story pacing forces the viewer to search for a place to rest—often finding it in the brush of a sleeve against a hip, the cloudy exhalation of smoke, or the reflection of a street light on wet pavement. If it sounds dreamy and otherworldly, it is—because that’s what falling in love feels like. Cheers!

Cocktail

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Image credit: Cocktail, 1988

It’s finally happened– at long last, I have given in to the rallying cry of readers begging for a Cocktail cocktail. Or maybe I just got tired of having this 1988 cult classic reappear like a bad penny every time I type “movie cocktails” into Google. It should be Cinema Sips that comes up, goddamn it! So on a particularly uninspired week, I picked the lowest hanging fruit and gave Cocktail (Disc/Download) a shot. Verdict? Full of flair, with very low risk of hangover.

What do I mean by flair? I mean that Tom Cruise is juggling bottles and shakers like a circus performer in order to distract from the fact that this movie’s script is bananas. There is not one character to root for, and yet I can’t look away. I must know if “Cocktails & Dreams” will ever become a reality. I must try to understand why the lovely Elisabeth Shue would waste her time on a sleazy bartender in Jamaica. And above all, I must learn what the hell happened to TGI Fridays to turn it from New York craft cocktail hot-spot to airport den of desperation. Not all of these questions get answered (I’m still scratching my head about the Fridays thing), but that’s okay. It becomes clear early on that this movie isn’t interested in making sense, and we should just have a drink and enjoy the ride.

Perhaps the most puzzling aspect of all is that for a movie about cocktails, this one features a truly disgusting signature drink. The “Red-Eye” gets made frequently on screen, but fear not- I refuse to subject you to this concoction of tomato juice, beer, vodka, and a raw egg. Instead, I’m focusing on Tommy C’s time in Jamaica with a tropical drink that’ll make you feel like you’re saddled up to the wooden bar of your neighborhood Fridays. While watching Cocktail, I recommend drinking a Frozen Strawberry Daiquiri.

Frozen Strawberry Daiquiri

1 1/2 cups Crushed Ice

2 oz Rum

1 oz Lime Juice

1 oz Strawberry Simple Syrup (boil 8 oz strawberries with 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar until softened, then strain out solids).

1/2 oz Coconut Cream

Combine all ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth. Pour into a hurricane glass, and garnish with a fresh strawberry and paper umbrella. Then sit and think about the guy who invented the paper umbrella, and how rich he must be by now.

Typically, I would not include coconut cream in a daiquiri, however for home blending, I find it helps with frozen drink consistency (and you can’t even taste the coconut). If you’re a longtime reader of this blog, you should be able to shout out the ingredients of all the drinks Tom Cruise has to master at the beginning of the movie. Nobody will have to tell YOU that a Cuba Libre is just a rum & Coke. And if you’re still learning, that’s okay. Cinema Sips is my Cocktails & Dreams, and it never closes. Cheers!

*For more Tom Cruise, be sure and check out the Tommy C Appreciation Club on moviejawn.com! Cinema Sips is proud to be a member :-).

A Streetcar Named Desire

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Image credit: A Streetcar Named Desire, 1951

There isn’t much in this world we can count on, but at least I know I can always rely on Tennessee Williams to give me stories of hot, sweaty men and a lot of alcohol. I’ve already discussed the sex appeal of Paul Newman in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, but running a close second is Marlon Brando in this week’s film A Streetcar Named Desire (Disc/Download). I think Vivien Leigh’s face speaks for all of us when he removes his shirt for the first time- Yowza.

As we’ve seen in other works by Tennessee Williams, this play-turned-film features an unhappy family trying to imbibe their way through the drama of life. Disgraced southern belle Blanche DuBois seeks refuge with her sister and brother-in-law in their derelict New Orleans apartment, becomes the world’s worst house guest, and watches an already-volatile marriage disintegrate. Would Stella and Stanley have lasted if Blanche had never graced their doorstep? I doubt it. Stanley was always a powder keg ready to blow. But throw in a mentally unstable woman who is the exact opposite of everything Stanley stands for, have her drink all his liquor and take baths all day to calm her nerves, and the fuse is officially lit. Honestly, I almost didn’t mind that Stanley and Blanche destroyed one another– they’re both kind of horrible human beings to begin with. Who I truly feel for is Stella, poor Stella, who now has to live with the knowledge that her husband is a brute, her sister is a mid-century Mary Kay Letourneau, and she and her baby aren’t getting air conditioning anytime soon. Somebody get this lady a drink.

Speaking of drinking, these characters only have to step outside their front door to find some of the finest watering holes in the French Quarter. I want to pay homage to a great drink I had at Galatoire’s a few years ago, the Ramos Gin Fizz. Someday, post-COVID, I look forward to having another one there. But until then, give your arm a nice workout with this tasty concoction.

Ramos Gin Fizz

2 oz Gin

3/4 oz Simple Syrup

1/2 oz Heavy Cream

1/2 oz Lemon Juice

1/2 oz Lime Juice

3 dashes Orange Flower Water

1 egg white

Club soda

Orange twist

Combine gin, simple syrup, lemon juice, lime juice, orange flower water, and egg white in a shaker. Shake for about 10 seconds, then add ice. Shake again vigorously for 30 seconds, then strain into a glass. Pour some club soda into your shaker, slosh it around to collect the remaining egg whites, then pour it over your drink. Garnish with an orange twist.

If done correctly, this drink will look as frothy as one of Blanche’s party dresses. It’s fun to see Vivien Leigh in another southern role, and I can’t help feeling that Scarlett O’Hara has really let herself go. Brando was perhaps never as electric as he was in the role of Stanley Kowalski, and no matter what your thoughts are on the man or the movie, you owe it to yourself to watch him scream STELLAAAAAA at least once in this lifetime. Cheers!

Meet Joe Black

Image credit: Meet Joe Black, 1998

They say nothing is certain in life but death and taxes. Having dealt with the loss of my father over the past few weeks, only to come home to a slew of W-2 and 1099 forms piled up in the mail, I can affirm this is true. After struggling to find a film that represents the impact my dad has had on my movie-going life, I wound up back here– in 1998, with a fully-highlighted, fully bonkers Brad Pitt, in this week’s pick Meet Joe Black (Disc/Download).

The thing about my dad was that he was up for anything as long as it meant he got to spend time with me. After I turned full “surly teenager”, he saw the writing on the wall. The late ’90s would be one of Lilith Fair concerts, swing dance classes (because Swingers), and movies. Dozens and dozens of movies. Without fail, every other Friday night we had a date to watch whatever celluloid scraps the film gods dumped upon middle-America. Meet Joe Black was such a scrap. At three hours long, this drama about a New York media tycoon (Anthony Hopkins) playing host to the grim reaper (Pitt) feels a bit like that long march to the grave. And yet… when the end finally comes, I’m not ready. I want more of the Brad we see in his first scene, before he gets clobbered (twice!) by a car. The Brad who knows how to sit in a goddamn chair and not look like a lost, mentally disabled twelve-year old at every turn. The Brad who is SO DAMN CHARMING in his meet-cute with Claire Forlani that I’ve moved my VHS copy of this movie through five households because I can’t bear to say goodbye to that scene. And reader, it was a two-tape movie.

Once Death decides to inhabit the body of Brad Pitt (because why not pick our finest living specimen?), all training goes out the window. The thing is, Brad is currently one of my favorite working character actors. But knowing what he’s capable of now only makes the scenes of him eating peanut butter that much worse. This week, let’s drown our sorrows in a cocktail Joe would thoroughly approve of. While watching Meet Joe Black, I recommend drinking this Peanut Butter Man cocktail.

Peanut Butter Man

1.5 oz Peanut Butter Whiskey

.75 oz Rye

3-4 dashes Angostura Bitters

Luxardo Maraschino Cherry

Orange twist

Combine peanut butter whiskey, rye, and bitters in a glass over ice. Stir until chilled, then garnish with a cherry and orange twist.

Brad’s acting aside, the main problem with this film is pacing. Many parts seem to drag on for an eternity, however this is actually a good thing when it comes to the few love scenes we’re given. You see, Death falls for the daughter of the man he’s come to claim, and before his vacation is over, he wants to have one final roll in the luxury high-rise hay. This scene is incredibly well shot, and could be a lesson to future romance films (not that these are even being made anymore, but I digress). The simple fact that my dad and I watched this together without a troubling amount of awkwardness speaks to its tastefulness. There’s a lot to mock about Meet Joe Black, but beneath the highlights, beneath the funny accents, lies a movie with a strong heartbeat. It’s a love story between man and woman, and father and daughter. It’s a story of Death yes, but also a celebration of life. And it’s the reminder I need that someday, “Everyting gwarn be iree.” Cheers!