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Category Archives: Dramas

Sliding Doors

Sliding Doors

Image credit: Sliding Doors, 1998

On the cusp of a new year and a new decade, it’s natural to think about the choices we’ve made over the last twelve months. Did we pick the right mate or perhaps dodge a bullet? Are we where we expected to be in our careers, or could we have done something a little bit different to change the trajectory? In the film Sliding Doors (Disc/Download), Gwyneth Paltrow gets to experience both sides of life’s coin to see what a difference one tiny twist of fate can make.

When we meet Anna, she’s a successful PR exec with a boyfriend and very few cares in the world. But when she gets fired for “borrowing” vodka from the company stash, she retreats to the London Underground to catch a train home.  Here’s where the film splits- in one narrative she catches the train, and in the other she doesn’t. If she catches it, she arrives home in time to find her boyfriend cheating on her, setting off a domino effect of smart, brave career choices, a new Scottish love interest, and a fetching short haircut. If she doesn’t, she’s stuck with the philandering boyfriend, multiple crappy waitress jobs, and a long brunette ‘do that does absolutely nothing for her skin tone. But just when it seems like life is just a game of random luck and misfortune, the filmmakers throw us a curve ball and Anna finds herself in exactly the same situation in both narratives. You can miss the train, but you can’t escape fate.

I applaud Sliding Doors for giving us a lot of great alcohol moments. Getting fired will drive anybody to drink, bad boyfriend or not. But my favorite scene is when Gwyneth plays detective with a brandy glass she finds in the laundry basket. Let’s ring in the new year with a festive brandy cocktail, perfect for celebrations and sorrow-drowning alike. While watching Sliding Doors, I recommend drinking a classic Between the Sheets.

Between the Sheets

1 oz Brandy

1 oz Light Rum

1 oz Cointreau

1/2 oz Lemon Juice

Lemon Twist

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

Between the Sheets

No matter what your opinion is on Ms. Goop, you have to admit that she gives us one of the greatest hair moments since Audrey chopped her locks off in Roman Holiday. When her stylist spins the chair around and we see blonde, bright-eyed Gwyneth with the short cut, you instantly know this girl is going to pick herself up from whatever dragged her down. I’ve had two haircuts like this in my life (one just six months ago), and I’m sure I’ll have more in the future. But for right now, on the eve of 2020, my hair is short, and my gaze is hopeful. Cheers!

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner

Image credit: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, 1967.

This week marks yet another Thanksgiving for Cinema Sips, and although in the past we’ve covered cinema feasts such as those in The Godfather and Giant, I really don’t feel like cooking this year. Luckily, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (Disc/Download) features no actual dinner; only cocktails.  In other words, my kind of party!

Made in 1967 during the height of the civil rights movement, this final Katharine Hepburn/Spencer Tracy film collaboration features Sidney Poitier as the fiancé of a white, upper-class daughter of two liberals who have difficulty practicing what they preach.  Sure, they proudly proclaim that African Americans should have equal rights, but when their daughter gets off a plane from Hawaii with a handsome black doctor, those beliefs become complicated.  Directed by Stanley Kramer, this richly drawn film presents all sides to the debate of love vs. societal prejudice.  The daughter (played by Hepburn’s niece Katharine Houghton) comes across as naïve, but with a pure heart untouched by prejudice and hate.  And isn’t that what we all wish for?  That kids would never have to hear ugly racist words, and never be faced with a “pigmentation problem” as Tracy puts it. This girl has found the perfect man, one who’s handsome, smart, and respectful, and looks ever-so-charming with a daisy behind his ear.  I’d say that’s worth fighting a few bigots for.

As this dinner party at a San Francisco mansion grows to include the bride’s parents, the groom’s parents, the central couple, and a priest, the bar cart gets some heavy use. Meanwhile, the sassy maid is hiding in the kitchen with her cauldron of turtle soup, wondering why these crazy people won’t sit down and eat something.  Let’s take our lead from the moms in this movie, those sensible moms with a preference for sherry and young love.  While watching Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, I recommend drinking a Sherry Cobbler.

Sherry Cobbler

3 ½ oz Sherry

½ oz simple syrup

2 orange slices

2 lemon slices

Cranberries for garnish

Combine simple syrup and one slice each of orange and lemon in the bottom of a shaker.  Muddle oranges, then add sherry and ice.  Shake well, until chilled.  Strain into a Collins glass filled with crushed ice, then garnish with a fresh orange slice, lemon slice and fresh cranberries.

Sherry Cobbler

As I write this post, many dinner tables across America are still deeply divided.  There is a chasm between young and old, liberal and conservative, much as there was over fifty years ago in this movie.  Equal rights are still a dream we’re fighting for, but as this movie shows us, it’s worth fighting for.  It’s worth it to stand up to your elders and say love is all that matters; hate has no place at the table.  Cheers!

Zodiac

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Zodiac

Image credit: Zodiac, 2007.

I’ve already discussed my love of true crime on Cinema Sips, but in case you missed it, I have a thing for serial killers.  Especially serial killers of the 1960s-70s.  While I’m still awaiting that big-budget Richard Speck biopic (somebody PLEEEEAAAASE make this movie), I have to tide myself over with David Fincher’s Zodiac (Disc/Download).

After watching Fincher’s recent television project Mindhunter, it’s very clear that Zodiac should have been a mini-series. I personally split it up into two nights of viewing, because let’s face it, two hours and thirty-seven straight minutes of police procedurals can be a bit fatiguing.  But even with this lengthy run-time, it still felt like crucial details were missing. With crimes taking place over several years, the film often skips ahead, which is great for the case, but not so great for character development.  Jake Gyllenhaal is married after one bad date?  Robert Downey Jr.  went from ace reporter to alcoholic houseboat dweller?  When did all this happen?  But where the film truly shines is in the actual murder depictions, and in the questioning of potential suspects.  Fincher amps up the tension like a pro, making you wonder what sort of sick turn he’ll take next.  Will the couple make it out of this picnic alive?  Will Ione Skye and her baby escape from the car?  Is Jake Gyllenhaal about to be murdered in the basement of a San Francisco cinephile?  Is the weapon of choice an old Buster Keaton reel??  I CAN’T LOOK AWAY.

I’m a sucker for good production design, and it’s clear that this film was painstakingly researched. When Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr. settle into a leather booth in a dim San Francisco joint, you can almost smell the cigarettes and aftershave.  Gyllenhaal’s character orders an Aqua Velva cocktail, so let’s stay movie-appropriate and follow his lead.

Aqua Velva

1 oz Vodka

1 oz Gin

½ oz Blue Curacao

Sprite

Lemon Slice, Maraschino Cherry for garnish

Combine vodka, gin, and blue curacao in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a rocks-filled glass.  Top with Sprite, and garnish with a lemon slice, maraschino cherry, and drink umbrella.

Aqua Velva

While this film certainly has its flaws, it’s still a thrilling step back in time to a frightening period of American history.  The term serial killer hadn’t even been invented yet, but nevertheless, they were out there.  Taunting us. Watching us. Waiting for their lives to be immortalized on celluloid…

Monster

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Monster

Image credit: Monster, 2003

It’s Halloween this week, and perhaps you were expecting a monster movie—the kind with Boris Karloff in heavy makeup, maybe some weird lighting and a spooky soundtrack.  But I’ve got something even scarier for you: Charlize Theron, sans eyebrows, in a film about a woman on the edge.  Monster (Disc/Download) isn’t for the faint of heart, but if you can handle the intense drama, it offers a rare glimpse into the fear and violence of life on the streets.

Newscasters love to talk about how rare the female serial killer is, like a strange unicorn in a world of Dahmer’s and Gacy’s.  But similar to some of these higher-profile men, Aileen Wuornos has been abused most of her life, driven to a kind of madness that makes her actions almost inevitable. Her first killing is in self-defense, but the rest are portrayed by Theron as a sort of PTSD.  Like the collective trauma of being a woman in a world dominated by depraved men is simply too much to handle.  In contrast to all the other films of prostitute-as-“Party Girl/Model/Call Girl”, with their impeccable grooming and charming romantic subplots, Monster takes a hard look at the reality of prostitution.   Maybe she was always a cold-blooded killer, maybe she became one out of necessity. But when Aileen snaps, she SNAPS. Honestly, I wish she’d snapped a little more and killed her annoying, lazy girlfriend (played by Christina Ricci), but that’s a complaint for another day.

Before the blood spatter, the film showcases the tender romance between Aileen and Selby, two women both looking for a little comfort in a cold, hard world.  All they want is some beer, maybe a little whiskey, and a warm place to sleep that’s free of judgement.  While you’re watching Monster, pretend it’s ladies night at the local dive bar and cozy up with this Blood Orange Shandy.

Blood Orange Shandy

6 oz Budweiser beer

2 oz Ginger beer

1 oz Pomegranate juice

1 oz Blood Orange juice

Orange Twist

Combine ingredients in a chilled glass.  Stir gently to combine, and garnish with an orange twist.

Blood Orange Shandy

The thing that makes Monster so scary is that this story could conceivably happen to anyone.  Maybe I have some devastating medical expenses, my husband dies, parents are gone, I lose my house, my job, my skin cream, and I’m on the streets.  What would I do to survive?  It’s this thought sending shivers up my spine because the simple answer is: I don’t know (cue spooky music).  Cheers!

BUtterfield 8

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Liz Taylor Butterfield 8

Image credit: BUtterfield 8, 1960.

The 1960s were an interesting time for the subject of sex workers in cinema.  The words ‘party girl’, ‘call girl’, and sometimes even ‘model wink-wink’, got thrown around, leaving modern audiences to decipher what was really going on when Holly Golightly received $50 for the powder room, or when Liz Taylor had that mysterious answering service in this week’s film BUtterfield 8 (Disc/Download).  Was there a grey area when it came to sex work vs. relationships?  According to the tragically wild Gloria Wandrous, the answer is yes.

Earning Elizabeth Taylor her first academy award, BUtterfield 8 is the story of a promiscuous Manhattan “party girl” who falls in love with a feckless married man. The story opens with Gloria waking in his apartment to find $250 on the nightstand, but instead of taking the money, she scrawls “no sale” on his mirror in pink lipstick, steals his wife’s mink coat, and walks out with a bottle of scotch.  I love her instantly.  Taylor brings such depth to the role, forcing the audience to empathize with this woman who seems strong and confident on the outside, but inside is struggling with the trauma of childhood sexual abuse and the fear that she’ll never be loved.  She has some chaste scenes with  real life husband-of-the-moment Eddie Fisher, but ultimately can’t move on from rich lover Weston (played by Ewan McGregor look-a-like Laurence Harvey). There are moments where you think maybe, just maybe, this will turn into a Pretty Woman situation, where he’ll rescue Gloria and she’ll rescue him right back, but fair warning:  BUtterfield 8 is no fairy tale.

There’s a lot of booze in this movie, but one of my favorite lines is when Elizabeth Taylor claims she was “soaked through with gin.”  Been there, doll.  While watching BUtterfield 8, pour yourself this gin-based Honey Trap cocktail.

Honey Trap

2 oz Gin

1 oz Lime Juice

¾ oz Honey syrup (3tbsp honey + 1 tbsp water)

Lime twist

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine honey and water. Once it’s just barely boiling, remove from heat and let cool.  In a shaker with ice, combine gin, lime juice, and honey syrup.  Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a twist of lime.

In a weird way, this film feels almost Hitchcockian.  Like Gloria is a mystery we’re trying to unravel within this world of dim lighting, stylish sets, and lush orchestral scores.  Is she a prostitute, or just a girl who got her heart broken one too many times?  And does it even matter?  You be the judge.  Cheers!

Klute

Klute

Image credit: Klute, 1971

Cinema Sips is exploring a set of films over the coming weeks which feature some incredible female performances.  The subject of sex workers is a complex one, but for the purposes of this blog, we’ll just be talking about the movie portrayals (while enjoying copious cocktails of course).  Kicking things off is Klute (Disc/Download), a 1970s thriller starring Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland.

Something I’ll never understand is the popularity of Fonda’s 70s haircut.  It’s almost as though her character Bree thinks this unflattering shag can protect her from even further mistreatment by the men in her life.  There’s the pimp, played by Roy Scheider, plying her with drugs and lies.  There’s the cop, played by Sutherland, who could maybe be a love interest, if he had any kind of personality or charm whatsoever. There’s the stalker, who likes to play tape recordings of their “session” and creep on her throughout the film. Honestly the only decent guy in this is the little old man who wants her to dress in a sparkly evening gown and drink wine.  Klute is an interesting time capsule of Manhattan in the 1970s, and you really feel Bree’s struggle as an actress and model, professions where success seems largely arbitrary.  At least with her other job, she has some control.

But let’s go back for a second to that scene with the sparkly evening gown.  In sequins poured over her body like a second glove, Jane Fonda looks fierce, formidable, and sexy as hell.  This is a woman of power.  Let’s celebrate her with this Ruby Manhattan.

Ruby Manhattan

2 oz Bourbon

3/4 oz Ruby Port

1 bar spoon Maple Syrup

Dash of Angostura Bitters

Luxardo Maraschino cherry

Combine first four ingredients in a mixing shaker with ice.  Stir until chilled and combined, then strain into a glass. Garnish with Luxardo Maraschino cherry.

Ruby Manhattan

Jane Fonda’s research with actual sex workers comes through in this Academy Award-winning performance, one full of both vulnerability and strength.  I’m still not sure why the film was called Klute; clearly it should have been Bree.  After all, it’s her world– the rest of us are just lucky to visit. Cheers!

The Last of Sheila

The Last of Sheila

Image credit: The Last of Sheila, 1973.

This week heralded a lot of firsts for me.  It was the first time I saw James Coburn in drag.  The first time I had impure thoughts about Ian McShane.  And the first time I saw this many pairs of white pants in one movie.  The Last of Sheila (Disc/Download) is a forgotten gem of the 1970s, and as a connoisseur of mid-century weird, I am here for it.

Equal parts Clue and The Cat’s Meow, The Last of Sheila is a Hollywood murder mystery set aboard a yacht in the south of France.  Based on the real-life parlor games staged by the film’s screenwriters Anthony Perkins and Stephen Sondheim (yes, THAT Anthony Perkins, and THAT Stephen Sondheim), the plot follows a group of Hollywood players who have all agreed to spend a week on James Coburn’s yacht one year after the mysterious death of his wife Sheila Green.  Once aboard, they’re told they’ll be playing the Sheila Green Gossip Game, competing to discover one another’s secrets.  Alas, the game turns deadly, and it’s a booze-filled struggle to make it out alive.  With a cast that includes Richard Benjamin, Dyan Cannon, James Mason, Raquel Welch, and a sexxxxxy young Ian McShane, this film combines my three main interests in life: big hair, alcohol, and murder.  It’s weird, it’s wild, and it should absolutely be watched with a cocktail.

Leave it to James Mason—this man epitomizes classy drunk.  With the amount of bourbon he throws back, you’d think he’d be dead or passed out halfway through the movie.  But (spoiler) James hangs on till the bitter end, glass in hand, ready to solve this thing once and for all.  Let’s toast James with the boat’s signature alcohol brand in a Jim Beam® Smash.

Jim Beam® Smash

2 oz Jim Beam® Bourbon

2 lemon wedges

1 oz mint simple syrup (or muddled mint and simple syrup)

Club Soda

Fill a glass with ice and lemon wedges.  Pour bourbon and mint simple syrup into a shaker, and gently shake to combine. Pour into prepared glass, and top with club soda.  Stir gently.

Jim Beam Smash

Having fallen in love with Richard Benjamin in Goodbye, Columbus, it’s odd to see him in this creepier role.  His Freddie Mercury-mustache, tight white pants, and turtleneck are…. not a good look.  And don’t even get me started on the puppets.  Luckily there are a lot of other charming, beautiful people to balance out the sinister elements on this boat.  After all, you gotta have friends.  Cheers!