RSS Feed

Category Archives: Dramas

Waking Life

Posted on
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

Posted on
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

Posted on
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.


1.5 oz Vodka

3 oz Orange Juice

2-3 dashes Grapefruit bitters

Orange Twist


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

Posted on
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


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

Posted on
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!

The Dreamers

Posted on
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

Posted on
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!