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Category Archives: Dramas

Out of Sight

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out of sight

Image credit: Out of Sight, 1998

I tend to spend a lot of time explaining the romance genre to people.  The books I read (and attempt to write) usually feature intelligent, capable heroines who find love in unexpected places, and never compromise their own integrity for a roll in the hay.  Elmore Leonard and Steven Soderbergh tackled romantic suspense with this week’s film Out of Sight (DVD/Download).  And the weird thing is, they got it SO RIGHT.

I’m going to warn all you ladies who are still mourning the loss of bachelor George Clooney- he is at absolute peak sexiness in this film. As Jack Foley, the bank robber with a heart of gold, he’s charming, a little dangerous, and oh so chivalrous. When he meets-cute with Jennifer Lopez’s federal marshal Karen Sisco, sparks fly along with bullets. They’re trapped in the trunk of a car together, and instead of copping a feel, he banters with her about old movies. Be still my heart! Karen follows him from Miami to Detroit, Jack gets caught up in a burglary gone bad, and even when things get dark (as they always do in an Elmore Leonard novel), Lopez and Clooney still share a crackling chemistry.

One of my favorite scenes is when these two star-crossed lovers pretend to be strangers in a bar, just for one night. With the snow falling outside, they’ve got bourbon and a steamy attraction to keep them warm. Let’s keep this cocktail simple with just a dash of ginger liqueur.

Bourbon & Ginger

2 oz Bourbon

.75 oz Ginger Liqueur

Combine bourbon and ginger liqueur over a large ice cube. Stir to chill.

Out of Sight is smart, sexy, and everything I love about romance. As Jack says, you’d be surprised what you can get when you ask for it the right way. Hollywood- I’d like more films where love is inconvenient, yet unavoidable. I want an intelligent script, and I want the heroine to be a total badass. And if it’s not too much to ask, I would like more Don Cheadle. Is that clear enough?  Cheers!

Shampoo

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shampoo

Image credit: Shampoo, 1975

In 1960’s-era Beverly Hills, the hairdresser was king. Back then, women didn’t have all the handheld home gadgets we have today. No straightening irons, fancy ionic hairdryers, or texturizing sprays. It was aquanet and curlers, and if you were really brave, an actual clothes iron. So of course, any heterosexual man who could make a woman’s hair look like a million bucks would have been the natural recipient of a casual sex buffet. In Shampoo (DVD/Download), that man was Warren Beatty. Outside of Shampoo, that man was still Warren Beatty.

I like to think of this Hal Ashby-directed gem as American Graffiti meets Dazed and Confused meets the French New Wave. The story unfolds slowly, letting the audience experience a typical day in the crazy life of a popular, promiscuous hairstylist. Warren Beatty’s character George doesn’t end the film much further than where he started, but our own perception has shifted. His metamorphosis from sexy cad to sad hustler occurs once  Julie Christie and Goldie Hawn show him the consequences of his actions, and it’s worth watching just for their performances alone. This film isn’t for everyone, but I’ve always been a fan of slice-of-life stories. And wow, there’s a lot of life in this slice.

All you regular Cinema Sips readers know I love a good party scene, and Shampoo does not disappoint. There’s a celebratory dinner for Republicans (picture stuffed shirts glad-handing each other over Nixon’s presidential victory), and then there’s a wild, acid-fueled counterculture party at a Hollywood mansion. While I’d probably rather be with the hippies, I can’t deny that Republicans know how to make a lethal cocktail. Goldie tries to order a Stinger, which prompted me to ask, what’s a Stinger? Apparently, a drink that died out in the 1970’s. Let’s celebrate 1968 with this slow sipper. It certainly makes me feel like I’m drinking in another era.

Stinger

1 ¾ oz Cognac

2/3 oz White Crème de Menthe

Pour Cognac and Crème de Menthe in a cocktail shaker with ice, and stir to combine. Pour entire contents of shaker into a rocks glass.

Stinger

What I find fascinating about this movie is that it was made just after Nixon’s resignation, yet takes place on the night he was elected president in 1968. Such a short number of years in between, but what a difference those years make both in hair, and in politics. I wonder, will we be seeing movies set on 11/8/16 at some point? If the answer’s yes, I’d just like to say: I was a shell-shocked mess, but I think my hair looked pretty good. Cheers!

*Ironically, Beatty’s character has THE WORST haircut I’ve seen on a man. Where do the sideburns begin and end? Where are his ears? I have no idea!!!!!

I Shot Andy Warhol

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I Shot Andy Warhol

Image credit: I Shot Andy Warhol, 1996

As research for another project I’m working on, I’m going down the rabbit hole of Andy Warhol’s Factory to discover the good, the bad, and the just plain sad. I’ve already listed off my Top 5 Andy Warhols on Cinema Sips, but this week I’m ready for a deeper look at my favorite Warhol, Jared Harris in I Shot Andy Warhol (DVD). Of any portrayal, this one gets closest to the voyeuristic creep I believe the artist to be. Was he on the spectrum? Probably. Did he ruin a lot of lives? Yep. Did he change the way we think about art and popular culture? Absolutely. Was the famous shooting by violent feminist Valerie Solanas karmic payback? You be the judge.

Directed by Mary Harron, I Shot Andy Warhol is a gritty look at the 1960’s Factory scene and all its periphery misfits. Valerie is a damaged, deranged writer who has some radical feminist ideas, but is so unlikable that nobody is willing to pay attention. She flirts with various paths to fame (a book deal with Lolita publisher Maurice Girodias, a movie deal with Warhol), but sabotages it all with her acute paranoia. And yet- she’s not entirely unsympathetic. When Valerie sits next to Andy on his famous velvet couch and strikes up a conversation, it feels like these are two weird peas in a pod. One is violent, the other voyeuristic, and both struggle to find a place in the outside world. But then the tides turn, and as we see the cold, detached Warhol shun her like he did so many vulnerable people, you can’t help but feel like his reckoning was bound to happen sooner or later.

Despite my love for Jared Harris as Warhol, the real star of this film is Stephen Dorff as Candy Darling. This portrayal is done so well that Candy, the trans-pioneer/Chelsea Girl/Superstar, comes off as the only normal person on the island of misfit toys. Let’s celebrate Ms. Darling with a cocktail worthy of her- the SuperStar-burst Martini.

SuperStar-burst Martini

5 pink Starburst® candies, unwrapped

¾ cup vodka

1 oz lime juice

1 oz Cointreau

Place Starburst® candies in a mason jar with lid, and pour vodka over the candies. Replace the lid, and shake vigorously. Let sit overnight to infuse the vodka. Once the vodka is ready, pour into a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add lime juice and Cointreau. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass. Garnish with a Starburst®.

Starburst martini

Watching this film, I can’t help but be envious of the people who lived to see The Factory in all its glory. It was a place where creativity flourished; a place where the avant-garde could find a home. But it’s easy to see why this eden never could have lasted. Eventually every bright star burns out. Cheers!

The Door in the Floor

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the-door-in-the-floor

Image credit: The Door in the Floor, 2004

I’d like to give a shout-out to summer beach read season, or what I like to call, “that time of year magazines say it’s acceptable to read the books I actually read all year long.” One book that has found its way to the bottom of my beach bag multiple times is the John Irving classic A Widow for One Year, set in a Long Island seaside hamlet thick with privets and scandals. Although several Irving books have been adapted to the big screen, this one, and its film adaptation The Door in the Floor (DVD/Download), will always be my favorite.

Although this movie only covers the first half of the novel, it does this small bit exceptionally well. With Jeff Bridges as eccentric children’s book author Ted Cole, and Kim Basinger as his damaged wife Marion, the performances in this film are gut-wrenching and powerful. After losing their teenage sons in a tragic car accident, the couple struggle with being parents again to their young daughter Ruth (played by Elle Fanning). Marion starts sleeping with Eddie the intern, Ted continues sleeping with everyone, and little Ruth accepts it all with unnerving maturity. There is sand, there are waves, and there are cedar-shingled mansions. But there are also secrets, monsters, and stories best told in the dark.

For the record, Ted Cole is my hero. The man waltzes around in caftans (even on the squash court!) and a Van Gogh straw hat, just not giving a f*ck. His glass is always full, his barbs always the sharpest, and his squid-ink drawings like something out of a mental hospital. Enjoy this Ted Cole-inspired cocktail while you fantasize about afternoons dozing in an Adirondack chair, and nights drunk-peddling your bicycle home. While watching The Door in the Floor, I recommend drinking an Ink Well.

Ink Well

2 oz Dark Spiced Rum

1 oz Chambord

¾ oz Simple Syrup

¾ oz Fresh lemon juice

½ oz egg white

1 tsp activated charcoal

2-3 dashes Angostura bitters

In a cocktail shaker, add all ingredients except bitters, and give it a dry shake. Add ice, then shake vigorously until egg white is foamy. Strain into a glass, and garnish with bitters.

I have incredibly high hopes that there will one day be a film sequel covering the second half of the book, wherein young Ruth is grown up and experiences the sound of someone trying not to make a sound. Jeff Bridges- you better stick around for that one. It’s a doozy of a story. Cheers!

My Girl

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My Girl

Image credit: My Girl, 1991

This week, I really had a hankering for a classic Bee’s Knees cocktail. And really, what better movie to watch with this honey-laden beverage than My Girl (DVD/Download).  After all, it’s the film where Macaulay Culkin kicks the bucket after a severe bee attack. As Dan Aykroyd tearfully informs us, “There were just too many…..” I could say the same about cocktails after a wild Saturday night.

I’m not sure if I should admit this, but my love of 60’s pop music originated from the My Girl soundtrack (on cassette, which I would play in my purple Casio while sitting on the cement stoop of our apartment. All. Summer. Long.) As a pre-teen bookworm living in Pennsylvania when this film came out in 1991, I strongly identified with Vada Sultenfuss. If you’ve ever been teased by mean girls, and/or had a weird relationship with the nerdiest kid in the class, and/or were oddly close to your English teacher (the only person who really gets you), then you understand the character of Vada. She’s dealing with the death of her mom, her dad’s remarriage to a free-spirited makeup artist (hey Jamie Lee Curtis, where ya been?), and the fact that she lives in a funeral parlor. It’s a lot for anyone. Luckily, she has a mood ring, Macaulay, and a showtune-singing grandma to ease the pain.

Perhaps it’s in bad taste to reference poor Thomas J’s bee allergy, but how can something bad taste this good? While watching My Girl, I recommend drinking a Bee’s Knees.

Bee’s Knees

2 oz gin

¾ Fresh Lemon Juice

½ oz Honey Syrup (equal parts honey and water, boiled then cooled)

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

Bees Knees

What’s the one soundtrack I loved more than My Girl? The My Girl 2 soundtrack. Elton John, Jackson Browne- it was the musical education I needed. I’m a little amazed that we haven’t had a My Girl 3 yet, since all the actors are still around, but maybe Dan Aykroyd is too busy making vodka to bother with playing an aging funeral director. I mean, I know which career I’d rather have. Cheers!

Hugo

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Hugo

Image credit: Hugo, 2011

There are few things I love more than movies about movies, so imagine my delight when I first realized Martin Scorsese’s Hugo (DVD/Download) was a love letter to the works of silent cinema artist/pioneer/magician Georges Méliès. I went into this film thinking I’d be watching an Oliver Twist-like tale about an adorable Paris street urchin; I left gutted, and enthralled by the magic of the cinema.

Based on the graphic novel about young orphan Hugo Cabret, this film takes the viewer on a journey from a bustling train station all the way back to the earliest days of silent cinema. Stealing random parts to fix an automaton his deceased father left him, Hugo serendipitously meets the aging Georges Méliès, brought low after interest in his beautiful films like A Trip to the Moon has faded. In fixing the automaton, Hugo finds a connection to his father, to Méliès, and to his dreams. And as this story lovingly points out, that’s what silent cinema was- our dreams come to life.

As a tribute to Georges Méliès and his awe-inspiring A Trip to the Moon, I’ll be mixing up a moon-inspired cocktail. Crème de Violette gives it such a pretty color, almost like the hand-painted celluloid from those early Méliès films . While watching Hugo, I recommend drinking a classic Blue Moon cocktail.

Blue Moon

2 oz gin

½ oz Crème de Violette

½ oz lemon juice

Lemon twist

Mix gin, crème de violette, and lemon juice in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Blue Moon

When you get into the business of film criticism (even boozy, lighthearted film criticism), you sometimes forget about what drew you to the medium in the first place. Hugo is the reminder I needed that movies really are magic. In the right hands, they have the ability to delight, inspire, and transport. And sometimes, like this week, they even bring tears to your eyes when you realize just how much they’ve shaped your life. Cheers!

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!