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Category Archives: Dramas

The Dreamers

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The Dreamers

Image credit: The Dreamers, 2003

Prone to expressing themselves through movie quotes, cinephiles are easy to spot. Even when they get into a contest over who has seen which obscure film, you know it’s only due to pure enthusiasm for the medium. Thus when I saw The Dreamers (DVD/Download), these characters instantly felt like kindred spirits. Sure, director Bernardo Bertolucci takes things a little too far with his sexually explicit style, but at the core of the film there is a deep love for all things cinema.

Starring Michael Pitt, Eva Green, and Louis Garrel, The Dreamers is set in Paris during the 1968 student riots. It was this era of turmoil, artistic expression, and youthful energy that fueled a cultish devotion to the Cinémathèque Française, the organization upon which all modern film criticism and preservation is based. Seen through the eyes of an American student, Paris seems exciting, revolutionary, and slightly dangerous. By connecting with two French twin cinephiles, his love of film is fostered even further. There are lengthy debates about Chaplin vs. Keaton, a recreation of the Louvre scene in Godard’s Bande à part, and a rather disturbing interaction with Marlene Dietrich’s Blonde Venus. By the time they start chanting “One of us!” (Freaks), I feel drawn in and consumed every bit as much as the naïve protagonist onscreen. These are my people, too.

For a dangerous, intruiguing, sexy film, only a similar sort of cocktail will do. The Sidecar is one of my favorite classic cocktails, the kind of thing that I could picture Dietrich drinking after a night at the Blue Angel. French liqueur Chambord pairs perfectly with the cognac in this drink, bringing it a lovely raspberry subtlety. While watching The Dreamers, I recommend drinking a Chambord Sidecar.

Chambord Sidecar

1 ½ oz Peach Brandy

¾ oz lemon juice

¾ oz Chambord

¼ oz simple syrup

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

It’s hard not be creeped out by the sexual tension between the two siblings in The Dreamers, and the film’s disappointing second half veers wildly off the rails.  But despite these flaws, the wild, anarchist feeling of Paris in the 60’s remains a constant drumbeat, reminding us that once upon a time, cinema had the power to start a revolution.  Maybe it still does. Cheers!

Peyton Place

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Peyton Place

Image credit: Peyton Place, 1957

I’m a sucker for vintage New England, so naturally this week’s film Peyton Place (DVD/Download) is right up my Episcopalian-and-lobster-roll-alley. Though it would later be turned into a hit TV soap opera, the film adaptation of the Grace Metalious novel is pretty soapy on its own. Teenage sex; adultery; abortion; murder in front of the Christmas tree- pretty scandalous stuff even now, let alone in the 1950s. But what I love about this film (in addition to Lana Turner’s wardrobe) is that it doesn’t feel dated.  Rather, it succeeds in shining a light on social issues we’re still dealing with today.

Set in the sleepy New England town of Peyton Place just before World War II breaks out, the film follows teenage characters as they struggle with the prudish views of their parents. Lana Turner rants about how sex ed shouldn’t be taught in schools, yet she refuses to talk to her own daughter about it at home, thus pushing her away. Cute little Russ Tamblyn plays a Norman Bates-type henpecked boy whose own mother is even worse. Did Hitchcock use Tamblyn’s Norman as inspiration? I have to wonder. The film leaves it to the town doctor and the high school principal to educate the rest of the community on their backwards thinking, and I just want to stand up and cheer anytime these men are onscreen. Finally, someone in this film is using common sense and science to make a compelling argument, societal backlash be damned.

Lana Turner does a brilliant job in her role as a supreme ice queen, causing the men in the town to shy away for fear of “frostbite”. She’s buttoned up, beautiful, and sardonic- a classic film icon if I’ve ever seen one. While watching Peyton Place, celebrate Ms. Turner with an Ice Queen cocktail.

Ice Queen

Cucumber slice

1 1/2 oz light rum

¾ oz lime juice

½ oz simple syrup

1 tsp crème de menthe

2 oz prosecco

Lime twist

Muddle cucumber at the bottom of a cocktail shaker with the rum, lime juice, and simple syrup. Add ice and crème de menthe. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Top with prosecco, and garnish with a lime twist.

Ice Queen

By the end of the film, I’m still marveling to myself that the battles being waged onscreen are still the same ones we’re fighting today. Should sex ed be taught in schools? Should abortion be legal in cases of rape and incest (and any other damn time it’s a bad situation)? Are churches doing a disservice by preaching abstinence-only? The film comes down pretty hard on the left (as do I) but I find it depressing to realize that after 70 years we’re STILL fighting about these things. All I can say is, pass the rum. Cheers!

Pearl Harbor

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Pearl Harbor

Image credit: Pearl Harbor, 2001

“It is hard to remember what we came to remember.”

Joan Didion may have been writing about her own experience visiting the Pearl Harbor memorial, however she may as well have been talking about the Bruckheimer/Bay disaster pic Pearl Harbor (DVD/Download). After 3 hours, only one of which was actually about the attack on Pearl Harbor, I struggled to recall why I’d pressed “play” in the first place.

If the filmmakers were trying to capture a Casablanca tone of romance during wartime, I’m not sure they succeeded. Same goes for accurately conveying the story of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. But if the goal was to create a showcase for pyrotechnics, special effects, and cheesy lines, consider this film a rousing success. I’m not sure that I expected much, given that it stars a very tan, blonde Ben Affleck before he got his sh*t together, but still- his tepid love triangle with Kate Beckinsale and Josh Harnett was pretty disappointing. Nevertheless, I enjoyed seeing the cavalcade of cameos by actors who are SO much better than this movie. Michael Shannon! Alec Baldwin! Ewen Bremner! Cuba Gooding Jr.! (well, okay maybe Cuba belonged in this).

One thing that makes the long flight to Hawaii worthwhile is the fresh pineapple waiting on the other end. Well, that and all the tiki drinks. I’ve already featured Midori and vodka in another post about a doomed ship, so this week I’m putting a Honolulu spin on it. While watching Pearl Harbor, I recommend drinking a Tiki-tini.

Tiki-tini

1 ½ oz vodka

¾ oz Midori

4 oz chilled Pineapple juice

Pineapple chunk

Shake well over ice to chill, then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with pineapple chunk.

I can say without a doubt that this historic tragedy deserves a lot better than a Michael Bay schlock fest. Luckily, we have Tora! Tora! Tora! and that really great pilot episode of The Twilight Zone (“The Time Element”) to fill in the gaps. I encourage you to check out these titles, and if you have the means, go see the Arizona Memorial in person. But, to quote Alec Baldwin, “Leave your goddamn hula shirts at home.” Cheers!

The Descendants

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the descendants

Image credit: The Descendants, 2011

Hawaii Month continues with a modern look at island culture, the 2011 Alexander Payne film The Descendants (DVD/Download). Shot on Oahu and Kauai, and starring George Clooney as a man trying to hold his family together, this film leaves you with a sense that you just saw Real Hawaii, and not the postcard version.

Based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings, The Descendants weaves a tale about family drama past and present. Matt King is a descendant of Hawaii’s Royal Family, and just as he and his cousins prepare to sell off the last of their ancestral land for major profits, his estranged wife slips into a coma following a boating accident. Through it all, Clooney is a simmering cauldron in Hawaiian shirts, and I spend the movie waiting for him to blow. Nobody does a withering take-down like Clooney, and his skewering of his wife’s lover, played by Matthew Lillard, (*side note: HOW did Matthew Lillard land an Alexander Payne film??) is classic. Also, I’m not sure what to think about a woman who cheats on George Clooney with Matthew Lillard. While I buy a lot of the “real Hawaii” in this film, I don’t buy that.

As we all know by now (or maybe just those of us who read People magazine), George Clooney has gone from Hollywood actor to tequila mogul. He and his BFF Randy Gerber make one hell of a spirit, so I think it’s high time we feature it on Cinema Sips. While watching The Descendants, I recommend drinking an Añejo Old Fashioned*.

Añejo Old Fashioned

3 oz Casamigos Añejo tequila

1/8 oz agave nectar

4-5 dashes Mole bitters (I used Fee Bros. Aztec Chocolate bitters)

Orange peel

Combine liquid ingredients in a glass over ice and stir gently to chill. Strain into a glass with a large ice cube.  Run a flame over the peel of an orange to release the oils, and drop into the glass.

*Recipe adapted from the fabulous book, Tequila Cocktails.

Anejo Old Fashioned

While I don’t love this movie as much as Payne’s other films such as Sideways and Election, it definitely grows on me with repeat viewings. I notice the subtlety of Clooney’s performance, and the beautiful way in which the script celebrates old and new Hawaii. So many of the islands’ traditions have been lost in the face of progress, but the bond of family isn’t one of them. In The Descendants, we’re reminded of what ties us to a place, and to each other. Cheers!

Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights

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Dirty Dancing Havana Nights

Image credit: Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, 2004

I’m not going to pretend that this sequel holds a candle to the original Dirty Dancing. I don’t care what re-makes or sequels come down the pipeline, there will never be another Patrick Swayze. However- if you’re looking for a fun film with fabulous vintage clothes, gorgeous Cuban aesthetic, and the ever-adorable Diego Luna, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (DVD/Download) has you covered. Plus- bonus Swayze cameo!

In the same spirit of the original, Havana Nights follows a “good girl” who falls in love with a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Katey can’t stand the entitled American jerks of her own social set, so when a cute Cuban waiter rescues her from the mean streets of Havana, she jumps at the chance to befriend him and spice up her ballroom dancing with some Latin moves. Even Patrick Swayze pops up as the hotel’s dance instructor, in a strange Johnny Castle time-warp. But even 17 years later, he’s still got the moves.

I’ve already featured the recipe for a classic mojito with the much-more-authentic revolution film I Am Cuba, as well as a watermelon sandia with the original Dirty Dancing. So why not combine the two? While watching Dirty Dancing Havana Nights, I recommend drinking a Watermelon Mojito.

Watermelon Mojito

2-3 Fresh watermelon cubes

2 oz white rum

Fresh mint leaves

2 tsp sugar

1 oz lime juice

Club Soda

Muddle watermelon, sugar, lime juice, and mint in the bottom of a glass. Add rum, then top with club soda. Stir gently to combine.

Watermelon Mojito

I’ll admit, this movie is mainly just a great excuse to ogle Diego Luna and drink mojitos. And damn if that Wyclef Jean song isn’t just as catchy as “Time of My Life”. Now that Americans can finally visit Cuba again, it might be time to dust off my Spanish and figure out the visa situation. But only if I can dance like a gringa and yell “Cooba!”  Cheers!

Return to the Blue Lagoon

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return to the blue lagoon

Image credit: Return to the Blue Lagoon, 1991

Remember when movie studios used to wait over 10 years to make a movie’s sequel, rather than 10 months? Maybe they thought audiences forgot about the original by that point, clearing the way for a nearly identical plot structure. How else to explain Return to the Blue Lagoon (DVD/Download), technically a sequel to the Brooke Shields/Christopher Atkins romance classic, but in my mind more of a reboot. Do I care that they’re basically the same movie? Of course not!

I actually saw Return to the Blue Lagoon years before The Blue Lagoon, and I gotta say- I prefer the sequel! Mainly because I never found Christopher Atkins remotely attractive with his labradoodle perm, but also because these new kids seem to have a better handle on thatched hut engineering. Milla Jovovich is abysmal in Return, but hey, what do you expect when her biggest task is to hide her nipples behind her long hair and feathery jewelry?  And Brian Krause looks like a blonde Taylor Kitsch in minimal clothing, so that’s just all kinds of irresistible.

Although these teens didn’t need alcohol to loosen their inhibitions and relax (being naked all the time tends to do that anyway), I still prefer watching this with a tropical tiki drink. While viewing Return to the Blue Lagoon, I recommend drinking a Blue Beachcomber.

Blue Beachcomber

2 oz light rum

1 oz blue curaçao

1 oz lime juice

.5 oz maraschino liqueur

.5 oz simple syrup

Shake all ingredients together in a cocktail shaker with ice, then strain into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with an umbrella.

Blue Beachcomber

For anybody who fears that this is just a romance novel in cinema form, let me re-assure you- it’s actually Jaws with better looking actors.  There are some serious close calls with a hungry shark, and this one actually looks like a real predator (as opposed to Spielberg’s mechanical version).  But I admit, there’s also a lot of butt and side boob action.  Have I convinced you to yet to give this one a chance??  Cheers!

Nocturnal Animals

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Nocturnal Animals

Image credit: Nocturnal Animals, 2015

“Revenge is a dish best served cold.”

I can think of no better phrase to sum up the stunning Tom Ford film Nocturnal Animals (DVD/Download). From the shocking opening credits to the final drink in a hip Los Angeles restaurant, I found myself mesmerized by the visual storytelling. Sometimes hard to watch, but nevertheless hypnotic, this is a film that stays with the viewer long after it’s over.

My confusion and revulsion over the opening sequence (to quote my husband, “What the f*ck are you watching??”) made me wonder what I’d gotten myself into. But then, all became clear as the beautiful people wearing beautiful Tom Ford clothes came on the screen. Amy Adams is cold and distant as the wealthy art gallery owner, startled by a ghost from her past in the form of a manuscript written by her ex-husband Edward. The film simultaneously tells the story of their doomed young marriage, and Edward’s reactionary revenge manuscript.  Jake Gyllenhaal is quickly becoming an actor I will watch in just about anything, and he’s perfect as both the fragile writer, and tortured subject of his own story. Aaron Taylor Johnson and cinema MVP Michael Shannon round out the cast in Nocturnal Animals’ movie-within-a-movie, in which every scene of West Texas hell looks like a painting.

Texas is such a strong presence in this film, simultaneously the dangerous setting of Edward’s story and also the real-life setting of his failed marriage. Watching Michael Shannon’s character step over dusty scrub brush is like watching the sheriff in an old John Wayne film. While viewing Nocturnal Animals, I recommend drinking an Old Fashioned Texan.

Old Fashioned Texan

2 oz Red Handed Bourbon (from Treaty Oak distillery in Dripping Springs, TX)

½ oz simple syrup

2-3 dashes angostura bitters

Orange peel

Pour bourbon over large ice cubes in a rocks glass, and add the simple syrup and bitters. Stir gently to combine. Run the orange peel over the rim of the glass, and drop in the drink.

Old Fashioned Texan

This film spoke to me not only as a lover of cinema, but as a writer. As Edward says, “If I write it down, it will last forever.” With his manuscript, he’s expelled all of his love and pain and anger onto his alter ego in the story. It’s a very personal tale and also…. not.  I can’t wait to see what Tom Ford has up his perfectly tailored sleeve next because whatever it is, I’ll be there.  Cheers!