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Category Archives: Dramas

Rain Man

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Rain Man

Image credit: Rain Man, 1988.

If we’re talking about ‘man’ movies, I owe it to all you Cinema Sips readers to throw a little Tommy C. in the mix. But I’m not going to go with the obvious choice, by which I mean any of the two dozen Mission Impossible films he’s done (how many are we up to now- 8? 28?). No, I’m going to feature the movie that proved to me that Tom Cruise is so much more than just a tight butt and Chiclet teeth- the 1987 Barry Levinson classic Rain Man (DVD/Download).

Starring Cruise as a slippery car dealer who discovers he has an autistic brother (played masterfully by Dustin Hoffman), this film has so much heart, humor, and emotional growth that I dare even the biggest cynic to scoff. As Charlie and Raymond Babbitt traverse the USA in a classic convertible roadster, they learn what it means to be a family. In their world, family lets you borrow tighty wighties then fling them onto the highway. Family teaches you how to count cards and make a ridiculous amount of money on the blackjack tables in Vegas. And family gets you a tiny little TV so you can watch Judge Wapner and eat cheesy puffs in the middle of the day. We should all be so lucky to have a brother like that.

Raymond (or “Rain Man” as his little brother calls him) is a man of routine. He likes his apple juice in the afternoon, his orange soda with pizza (pizza on Mondays). Don’t even get him started on Fish Sticks. Frankly, I see nothing wrong with this. I eat the same breakfast every day, Chipotle every Monday, and rosé-all-day on Saturdays. Sometimes it’s easier to not overthink things. In that vein, I’ll be fixing a simple, Raymond-inspired cocktail to drink while I fall deeper in love with the Babbitt brothers. While watching Rain Man, I recommend drinking an Adult Apple Juice.

Adult Apple Juice

1.5 oz Apple Juice

½ oz Cognac

½ oz simple syrup

3 oz prosecco

Green Apple wedges

Combine apple juice, cognac, and simple syrup in a shaker with ice. Shake to chill, then strain into a coupe glass. Top with prosecco. Garnish with small apple wedges.

Adult Apple Juice

Although Dustin Hoffman won an Oscar for his portrayal of autistic savant Raymond, Tom Cruise is no slouch in this film either. It’s through his careful performance as Charlie that we start to empathize with the difficulties and triumphs that families dealing with autism face. In his flashy, big-hearted way, Cruise slowly worms his way into your heart. Tommy, if you’re listening, the world needs more Charlie Babbitt’s and fewer Ethan Hunt’s. Cheers!

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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

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secret life of walter mitty

Image credit: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, 2013

When I started on my journey with Campari, I had no idea where it would take me. But as is so often the case, when you venture into the unknown, great things can happen. Such was my experience watching this week’s film, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (DVD/Download). The classic film fan in me wanted to put this Ben Stiller remake in a large box labeled ‘why???’, but then I sat down and watched it. And loved it.  And wanted to tell everyone I know about it. So here we are.

What The Secret Life of Walter Mitty does so well is incorporate special effects in a way that’s, well, special. Life magazine employee Walter Mitty seems to enjoy a rather mundane existence cataloging negatives, but deep inside his head he’s got the ultimate blockbuster on constant stream. Only within his daydreams do we see buildings blowing up, crazy fight sequences, and luscious Tom Cruise hair. But then slowly, in a way you don’t even notice it’s happening, Walter’s life becomes actually exciting, and magic, and it’s not all a celluloid trick.  It’s real. Ben Stiller does an amazing job both as a director and actor, bringing relatability to this character who has me wondering if maybe I need to take more risks- to see behind walls, to draw closer, to feel.

Taking inspiration from Walter’s mom’s clementine cake, beloved by warlords and Sean Penn alike, this cocktail is the perfect beverage to toast the adventurer’s spirit.  While watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, I recommend drinking a Clementine Negroni.

Clementine Negroni

1 clementine, peeled

3 dashes orange bitters

1.5 oz gin

1.5 oz Campari

1.5 oz sweet vermouth

Clementine Twist for Garnish

Place peeled clementine and orange bitters in a shaker and muddle until clementines are broken down and pulpy. Add gin, Campari, vermouth, and ice. Shake vigorously to chill, then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a clementine twist.

In a way, I often feel like Cinema Sips is my secret life.  Hum-drum publishing accountant by day, mixologist and cinephile by night, this blog has always felt like an opportunity to reveal more of myself; to find the ‘special’.  And maybe, when my readers take the time to watch these films, and enjoy a well-mixed beverage, they’ll find it too.  Cheers!

Waking Life

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Waking Life

Image credit: Waking Life, 2001

Living in Austin, it’s hard not to be a fan of Richard Linklater. So many of his films capture that unique brand of relatable intellectualism  that made me fall in love with my adopted home town. As my husband would say, “It’s just a bunch of people walking and talking.” Yep- and I love it! High up on my list of favorite films is this week’s animation pick Waking Life (DVD/Download).

Although Linklater didn’t invent the concept of rotoscoping (the process of animating over film footage), this was the first computer-aided version I’d ever seen. Waking Life felt so fresh in 2001, and still does today. Even though we’ve come a long way with ambitious animation projects (ie. Loving Vincent), the way Linklater uses all these different visual styles to describe a series of dreams is incredibly unique.  The picturesque realism used for Jesse and Celine’s pillow talk is so different from the crude lines of the angry guy in the bar, which is so different than the Picasso-esque tango orchestra, that you really feel the emotion in every scene.

What I love most about rotoscoped films is the interplay between light and shadow.  Particularly in the scene with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy (giving us a little tease of their Before Sunrise characters’ fates), the light coming through their window gives the whole scene such a romantic glow.  Wouldn’t it be great to capture this same feeling with a classic cocktail?  While watching Waking Life, I recommend drinking a Golden Dream.

Golden Dream

1 ½ oz Galliano

1 ½ oz Cointreau

1 ½ oz Orange Juice

¾ oz cream

Orange twist for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake well, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with an orange twist.

Golden Dream

If someone were to make a movie of my dreams, it would no doubt feature me walking up an endless set of stairs while simultaneously fretting that I’ve forgotten my locker combination.  Riveting, no?  Thank heavens Richard Linklater has enough interesting dreams in his arsenal to make up for all of my mundane ones. Cheers!

Hell or High Water

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Hell or High Water

Image credit: Hell or High Water, 2016

While I was prepping my Top Five Films of 2017 list this year, I took a look back at the 2016 list to see which of those films had the most staying power. I’m definitely guilty of getting swept up in awards season hype, lauding a film then forgetting all about it a month later (cough *Argo* cough). Of any pick from that 2016 list, the one with the best legs is definitely Hell or High Water (DVD/Download). I have watched this movie with a salty Navy vet, several times with my husband, once with my cat-loving mother-in-law, and yet again with my dad (semi-professional “shoot em up” connoisseur). Five stars from everyone, and I’m still not sick of it. I think this one is here to stay.

Hell or High Water is one of those rare films that spans multiple genres, but does it so well that it doesn’t get pigeonholed into any one of them. It could be considered a Western, or a heist film, or even an art-house drama. The story of two brothers robbing small West Texas banks to save the family farm sounds very simplistic, but Taylor Sheridan’s clever script turns this into a complex masterpiece with not a single loose thread left hanging. Chris Pine (sporting the best mustache since Clark Gable swept Vivienne Leigh off her feet) is a revelation as the quiet, thoughtful brother trying to atone for past sins and pull his family out of poverty, and Ben Foster turns in some of his best work as the reckless ex-con who you know right away is too wild to walk away from this unscathed. Jeff Bridges elevates the stereotypical “I’m too old for this shit” Texas Ranger character into an homage to Western cinema heroes- his hotel blanket draped around his shoulders like a serape cape fit for a superhero.

I could get fancy with a Texas-inspired cocktail, but that’s not what this film is about. It’s about average folks and the lengths they’ll go to protect what’s theirs. It’s a movie about sipping a beer on a ramshackle porch, wondering if there’s even such a thing as right and wrong anymore. While watching Hell or High Water, I recommend getting a Shiner Family Reunion 6-pack, maybe a shot of whiskey, and kicking back with a damn good movie.

Shiner beer

I tend to love films about sympathetic criminals because I think there’s a little part of all of us that can relate to good people doing bad things. Like Tom Ripley, I want the Howard brothers to get away with it. Or at the very least, go out in a blaze of glory. The great thing about Hell or High Water is that we get both, but it still leaves you guessing until the very end. Cheers!

The Bodyguard

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The Bodyguard

Image credit: The Bodyguard, 1992

With awards season ramping up, I can’t help but feel a little “can’t care” about the whole dog-and-pony show. Viewership of the Oscar telecast has steadily declined over the years, likely due to its Groundhog Day-level of sameness. If only award shows could be as exciting as they are in the movies. If only they could be like The Bodyguard (DVD/Download).

If you’re a fan of film noir, you might be disappointed with this loose contribution to the genre.  If you’re a fan of cheesy romance (like I am), prepare to be thoroughly entertained. Although Whitney Houston’s mega-pop star has limited chemistry with her strong, silent bodyguard played by Kevin Costner, that doesn’t stop me from cheering when he picks her up in his arms, rescuing her from wild, handsy fans. Or when he jumps in front of her, literally taking a bullet at the Academy Awards as Debbie Reynolds probably swoons from all the excitement backstage. Or during that ending, which is without a doubt one of the best Hollywood endings a viewer could ask for.   Take all the frustration you’ve ever felt when Audrey Hepburn lets Gregory Peck walk away in Roman Holiday, wrap it up, and toss it out in favor of the planeside kiss between Houston and Costner. THAT’S how you do romance.

Because Costner’s Frank Farmer is almost always on duty, he never gets to let his guard down and have a drink. The man imbibes so much plain orange juice, he’s single-handedly keeping the Florida citrus industry in business. This makes me want to drink a cocktail, if only because he can’t. While watching The Bodyguard, I recommend drinking a Screwdriver. Strong and uncomplicated- kind of like Frank.

Screwdriver

1.5 oz Vodka

3 oz Orange Juice

2-3 dashes Grapefruit bitters

Orange Twist

Screwdriver

Build drink over crushed ice, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with an orange twist.

I’ve never been one for remakes, but I’m just going to throw this out there: Beyonce + Solange + Kevin Costner (yes, the age-defying Costner should ALWAYS play The Bodyguard).  Let’s make this happen.   After all, isn’t it time for a new Queen of the Night? No offense, Whitney- I will always love you. Cheers!

Eyes Wide Shut

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Eyes wide shut

Image credit: Eyes Wide Shut, 1999.

After 3 years of choosing Christmas films for Cinema Sips, I’ve reached my limit on festive family-friendly fare. If you’re looking for It’s a Wonderful Life or Love, Actually, you may want to scroll back a year or two. Since many of us currently feel like we’re living in a bizarre reality of “alternative facts” and a bleak future where The Day After Tomorrow is suddenly not so far-fetched…. Dystopian Christmas seems right. Kicking things off is Stanley Kubrick’s final film Eyes Wide Shut (DVD/Download). I don’t know which aspect of this disturbing movie makes my skin crawl more- the weird underground world of extravagant masked orgies, or a brief glimpse into the bedroom of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman (*shudder*).

I think Stanley Kubrick himself must have been second-guessing Eyes Wide Shut as a Christmas movie. Why else would such a master of visual style put a garish Christmas tree in LITERALLY EVERY SCENE? Maybe that’s a good drinking game- take a sip every time you spot a tree with colored lights.  Too often, the dialogue between Cruise and Kidman seems to drag, like that fight you’ve had with your spouse that lasted about 2 hours longer than it should have. You know you’ve been saying the same thing for the last 45 minutes, but you just can’t stop. Maybe that’s both the problem, and point of this movie. Tom Cruise’s character stumbles onto a hidden Manhattan sex ring, tempting him away from his beautiful wife and child, but even after things turn sour, even after it becomes dangerous, he can’t quit his obsession. Kubrick was notorious for being a slowpoke auteur, and one wonders what changes he might have continued to make to the final cut of this film had he not died before its release. In the end we’re left with a powerful, beautiful, flawed product that’s just weird enough to be brilliant.

The true star of this film (in my opinion) is Nicole Kidman. Her character Alice is a complicated mess, torn between her desire for a stable family life and her illicit desires. Only when she becomes drunk or stoned do we see the real Alice emerge. Lit from behind in Kubrick’s indigo blue light, her pale skin seems otherworldly. While watching Eyes Wide Shut, I recommend drinking a Midnight Kiss.

Midnight Kiss

1oz Vodka

¼ oz Blue Curacao

1 tsp lemon juice

Champagne

Combine first three ingredients in a shaker filled with ice.  Stir until chilled, then strain into a champagne flute.  Top with chilled champagne, and garnish with a lemon twist.

Midnight Kiss

During this movie, Tom Cruise has quite possibly the longest night in the history of nights. He goes from fighting with his wife, to comforting a dead man’s family, to flirting with a beautiful prostitute, to having a drink in a jazz club, to buying a costume, to crashing an orgy, to hiding the evidence back home- all before sunrise. After awhile, you wonder how far past midnight, and normalcy, he’s ventured. Whether you view it as a dream or a nightmare, Eyes Wide Shut will make you realize that there are many things in life we’ll never fully understand.  The fun, and the frustration, is in the trying. Cheers!

The Witches of Eastwick

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witches of eastwick

Image credit: Witches of Eastwick, 1987

You know that feeling you get when the end credits are rolling on a particularly bizarre film, and you just sit, unblinking, trying to make sense of the last two hours? Such was my experience with The Witches of Eastwick (DVD/Download). Not having read any Updike before, including the novel this film was based on, I was wholly unprepared. What started out as a promising rom-com slowly morphed into a special-effects laden horror-fest, with a dash of surrealism. This one definitely needs some unpacking.

For the first twenty minutes, my take on The Witches of Eastwick was, “where has this movie been all my life???” Cher, Michelle Pheiffer, and Susan Sarandon sitting around, drinking martini’s, complaining about how there are no good men anymore- let’s just call this my ideal Saturday night.   They wish hard for the man of their dreams, not knowing that they’re actually a coven of witches.  Soon after, this mysterious stranger actually appears in the form of Jack Nicholson. And he’s a creep. And he has a teeny-tiny ponytail that’s distracting as hell. And he may or may not be the devil. But he has a mansion with an indoor pool, a healthy sexual appetite, and bowls of fresh cherries (we’ll get to that in a minute). So the three women do what dozens of Playboy Bunnies have done before and move in with the morally bankrupt old charmer. Despite a meandering plot and lack of character development, the performances of these three powerhouse actresses and the great Jack Nicholson basically playing Jack Nicholson, keep me watching long after the movie has gone down the proverbial drain.

One of the spells cast by the witches is a strange revenge on the local town prude. Instead of just poisoning her outright, Jack Nicholson urges his three girlfriends to eat pounds of cherries. Somehow this sanctimonious woman ends up with the cherry guts in HER stomach and well- things get messy. You’d think this would turn me off cherries for good, but I can’t resist that tart, sweet taste. Even better with some activated charcoal to make this the perfect Halloween cocktail. While watching The Witches of Eastwick, I recommend drinking a Black Cherry Martini.

Black Cherry Martini

1 ½ oz Vodka

½ oz Maraschino Liqueur

1 1/2 oz POM Cherry Juice

1/4 oz Lime Juice

1/4 tsp Activated Charcoal Powder

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

There’s definitely a lot to like about The Witches of Eastwick, and if you’re looking for a fun adult Halloween movie this year, this one is close to the top of my list. Despite the truly weird final act, it’s still fun to watch three women take a dance with the devil in the pale moonlight*. Cheers!

*wrong movie, still applies!