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Category Archives: Holiday Films

Holiday Affair

Holiday Affair

Image credit: Holiday Affair, 1949.

Poor Carl. All he wants for Christmas is for Janet Leigh to accept his proposal of marriage. He’s been waiting TWO YEARS, for god sakes. Two years of putting up with her bratty kid, watching her walk around in pointy brassieres, and being treated like the family Labrador. And now, at Christmas, he’s forced to watch his lady fall for the bedroom eyes of Robert Mitchum, an unemployed bum who hangs out in the park and gets arrested for stealing salt and pepper shakers. Holiday Affair (Disc/Download) may be billed as a charming holiday romance, but make no mistake- this film is a sad reminder that nice guys finish last.

I thought I’d seen the pinnacle of annoying child actors in the 1953 western Shane. But then came Timmy. Timmy is the kind of kid who badgers his broke single mom for the most expensive Christmas present on the market, thus making her feel guilty for all of her life choices. Timmy also turns the “poor me” face on Robert Mitchum’s character Steve, convincing this guy who just lost his job to spend a bunch of money on a kid he barely knows. Meanwhile, Carl the Earnest Lawyer wants to give Timmy and his mom a stable home and a hefty joint bank account. Does Timmy want that? No, of course not. He kicks Carl in the leg, screams his head off, and tries his damnest to fix his mom up with the hot bum. I have two words for Timmy’s Mom: Birth. Control.

I’m of the opinion that pretty much every Robert Mitchum film should be watched with Bourbon. This is a man’s man if there ever was one. Because I spent this movie mostly wanting to smash Timmy’s face in, while watching Holiday Affair I recommend drinking a Holiday Bourbon Smash.

Holiday Bourbon Smash

2 oz Bourbon

1 oz Pear Liqueur

2 oz Apple Cider

1 oz Lemon Juice

2 tbsp Cinnamon Pear jam

Club Soda

Cinnamon Stick Garnish

Combine the bourbon, pear liqueur, apple cider, lemon juice, and jam in a shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously until well mixed, then strain into a glass filled with ice. Top with club soda, and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Holiday Bourbon Smash.jpeg

The thing about this film is, I should love it. A single-mom-finding-romance-again is one of my favorite tropes! That Holiday Affair fails to light my yule log might be because I’ve read so many wonderful novels that do a much better job with this story. An old favorite of mine is Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Dream a Little Dream, which features an adorably sweet kid, the feisty widow of a televangelist, and her romance with a hunky drive-in movie theater owner. There isn’t a Christmas tree, but did I mention he owns a movie theater??  Cheers!

Christmas in Connecticut

Christmas in Connecticut

Image credit: Christmas in Connecticut, 1945.

Take a saucy career-minded city gal, put her on a farm, hand her a baby and force her to flip flapjacks, and what do you get? This week’s delightful classic rom-com Christmas in Connecticut (Disc/Download). Though it would later be remade by esteemed director Arnold Schwartzenegger (no, I am not joking), the original Barbara Stanwyck version holds up remarkably well. This is Hallmark Christmas with better clothes, better looking men, and better acting. What are you waiting for?!

The parallels between my life and Elizabeth’s are uncanny.  When I started Cinema Sips over five years ago, I’ll be honest- I had no idea what I was doing. I trusted recipe books and expert advice to get me through, kind of like Elizabeth relies on her Hungarian chef uncle to convince readers she knows her way around a kitchen. Also, we both have no clue what to do with a baby. Literally, none. And most importantly, we strive to be the best-dressed person in any room, meager paychecks be-damned. Therefore, I can really empathize when Elizabeth is forced to pretend to be a domestic goddess for one zany weekend at Christmas, all to impress her publisher and a Navy war hero. Sometimes, a lady doesn’t want to flip flapjacks or give a baby a bath, so back the f*ck off, okay???

Another reason I’m convinced we’re sorta the same person is because this columnist loves a good martini.  The holidays are a great time to make festive martinis, so while you’re watching Christmas in Connecticut, I recommend drinking this Sleigh Ride Martini.

Sleigh Ride Martini

2 oz Peppermint Twist vodka

0.5 oz Vanilla vodka

0.5 oz White crème de cacao

Combine ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake until very cold, then strain into a chilled glass. 

Sleighride Martini

BTW, the Smirnoff Peppermint Twist bottle is scratch-and-sniff!!!!  What a time to be alive!

If I had to pick a modern Hollywood equivalent of Elizabeth Lane The Domestic Goddess, my mind goes immediately to Reese Witherspoon. From hot rolling your hair to whipping up a batch of fluffy biscuits, her new book Whiskey in a Teacup is Elizabeth Lane’s column for a new audience. It may be more Mint Juleps than Martinis, but hey- I applaud any lady who enjoys a good cocktail and also tells me how to make it. Cheers!

The Bishop’s Wife

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The Bishop's Wife

Image credit: The Bishop’s Wife, 1947.

Who’s ready for an old-fashioned Christmas? This year, Cinema Sips will be highlighting  holiday films of the 1940’s, guaranteed to make you smile and long for the days when women wore hats and men dressed up to have breakfast. Kicking things off is the 1947 charmer, The Bishop’s Wife (Disc/Download).

Although it would later be remade with Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston, the original film stars Cary Grant as the winsome angel Dudley, sent down to Earth to give guidance to a conflicted bishop and his neglected wife (played by David Niven and Loretta Young, respectively). You’d think this would be a sermon-filled snooze-fest, but in reality it’s a delightful Mary Poppins-esque film about tolerance, empathy, and the magic of the holidays. Plus, there’s Cary on Ice, Cary decorating a Christmas Tree, and Cary in a polka dot scarf. This is all the incentive I need to watch.

So apparently, angels have no problem with our holiday indulgences.  When Dudley counsels a failing writer, he also keeps refilling his empty bottle of booze with a sneaky little finger trick. I’m pretty sure I could also use some spiritual guidance like that right about now (*looks skyward*).  While watching The Bishop’s Wife, I recommend drinking a Bishop cocktail.

Bishop

3 oz Rum

1 oz Red wine

1/4 oz Simple syrup

3/4 oz Lime juice

Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a wine glass.

Bishop

As part of my holiday posts this year, I’ll also be recommending some books that would make great gifts for the cinephile in your life. For fans of The Bishop’s Wife, be sure and check out Adriana Trigiani’s All the Stars in the Heavens, an engrossing novel about Loretta Young’s relationships with Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable, her rumored Hollywood scandals, and fun escapades with pal David Niven. You’ll see the bishop and his wife in a WHOOOOOLE new light. Cheers!

While You Were Sleeping

While you were sleeping

Image credit: While You Were Sleeping, 1995.

Before I dive into a month’s worth of classic Christmas films, I’m easing into the holiday spirit with the movie that probably inspired countless contemporary romance novels and Hallmark productions. (Let’s pause to write the producers a thank-you note).  While You Were Sleeping (DVD/Download) is the Christmas movie for lonely hearts, the siren call for every schlubby transit worker who dreams of the guy in the suit, only to realize the guy in the Carhartt jacket is way sexier. Trust me- you want the guy who can build you a chair, not the one who can buy it for you.

Starring Sandra Bullock as a single, cat-owning, Oreo-eating heroine, While You Were Sleeping is a film not just about romance, but about family connection. After she saves her crush from being hit by a train, his family mistakenly believes she’s their future daughter-in-law, and she goes along with it because it kinda sucks to be alone at the holidays. But then she meets her faux-fiance’s brother played by Bill Pullman (honestly I was always more of a Paxton girl myself, but Pullman makes it work), and realizes he’s maybe kinda sorta her soul mate.  Hijinks ensue, Christmas trees are bought, presents are unwrapped, and Chicago looks really f*cking cold. Pass the eggnog!

One fun thing I discovered on a recent re-watch of this film is that the grandma-with-a-heart-problem (because of course) is played by none other than Glynis Johns, aka. Mrs. Banks from Mary Poppins. Grandma Elsie mixes up a mean batch of eggnog, meant to be sipped slowly. So while watching While You Were Sleeping, let’s join in the fun by drinking Elsie’s Eggnog:

Elsie’s Eggnog

4 oz Store-bought eggnog

1 oz Rumchata

1 oz Southern Comfort

1 oz Bourbon

Whipped Cream and cinnamon for garnish

Stir together eggnog and other ingredients in a shaker with ice. Stir until chilled, then strain into a chilled glass. Top with whipped cream and cinnamon.

eggnog

This movie is especially endearing because it’s not just a film about a girl trying to get a guy at Christmas. It’s about a girl trying to connect with a family, one that comes with drunk relatives, ugly furniture, and the kind of mom who will put up a stocking for someone she barely knows. And that’s what makes the holidays so great, when you stop to think about it. Well, that and boozy eggnog. Cheers!

Bell, Book and Candle

Bell Book and Candle

Image credit: Bell, Book and Candle, 1958

For all you Vertigo fans out there, consider this my Cinema Sips Christmas gift to you. Maybe you’ve longed for more of Kim Novak’s eyebrows. Or an aging, tan Jimmy Stewart. Or that weird hypnotic lighting. Bell, Book and Candle (DVD) covers all the bases. Plus, there are the added bonuses of a beatnik Jack Lemmon playing the bongo drums, and a very expressive Siamese cat. Happy Holidays to all!

Although the film starts on Dec. 24th and stars Mr. Christmas himself, Jimmy Stewart, It’s a Wonderful Life this is not. Kim Novak plays a witch who falls for a book publisher (Stewart), and she must decide whether to give in to love and become mortal, or keep her powers and lose him. The pair’s onscreen chemistry is every bit as sizzling as it was in Vertigo, and even though this is meant to be a romantic comedy, there’s something dark and powerful between these two actors. They’re sexy without even trying to be, and I am totally under their spell.

The movie takes a strange turn when Jimmy Stewart’s publishing house courts an expert on Mexican witchcraft. While it seems like an unnecessary plot element, I still love Ernie Kovacs in this role. (Let’s face it, I love Ernie Kovacs in any role). While watching Bell, Book and Candle, I recommend drinking a Mexican Séance.

Mexican Séance

1 ½ oz Patron XO Coffee Liqueur

1 ½ oz Chameleon Cold Brew Coffee- Mexican flavor

1 ½ oz Egg Nog

¾ oz Crème de Cacao

2-3 dashes chocolate bitters

Orange twist

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a twist of orange.

Mexican Spell

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the production design and costuming. Bell, Book and Candle is a perfect time capsule of 1960’s Greenwich Village style, from capri pants to mid-century modern furniture. Jimmy Stewart’s office, covered in floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and featuring a gorgeous vintage couch, is the stuff of book lovers’ dreams. Witchcraft never looked so appealing. Cheers!

Gremlins

gremlins

Image credit: Gremlins, 1984

Full confession: I was a child of the 80’s, there was a stuffed Mogwai in my house, yet I’d never actually seen Gremlins (DVD/Download). Or if I did see it, I kept my eyes closed through the scary parts. I don’t know what I was picturing before my recent viewing, but WOW- this was not it.

I expected goo, claws, teeth, and big ears. What I didn’t anticipate was the sheer level of camp within this bizarre neo-Pleasantville, where Phoebe Cates plays the youngest bank teller in history, and her cute co-worker looks like he should be studying for his SAT’s next year. His worthless but well-meaning dad gives him a Mogwai for Christmas, because that’s what every kid wants- a strange creature picked up in a Chinatown basement. And dang if “Gizmo” isn’t the cutest thing ever. Those big eyes! The weird singing! The fact that he’s smart enough to turn down a snack after midnight! I’m not even smart enough to turn down a snack after midnight. Of course Corey Feldman has to screw it all up and accidentally dump water on him, causing Gizmo to birth a quintet of demon gremlins, who break all the rules and terrorize the town. The film takes a turn into horror-ville after the gremlins start multiplying, but with the terrible special effects, it’s more funny than scary.

Gremlins is so weird that it deserves a cocktail that’s as unexpected as creepy creatures popping out of a douglas fir. Gizmo and I share a fear of illumination (me due to retinal problems, him because he’s got a lot of strange rules), so while watching Gremlins, treat yourself to a shiny Bright Light.

Bright Light

1.5 oz Pear Vodka

.5 oz Lemon Juice

Sparkling wine

Rosemary Sprig

Shake vodka and lemon juice over ice to chill.  Strain into a flute, and top with sparkling wine.  Garnish with a rosemary sprig.

Bright Light.jpeg

This movie spawned countless sequels, and I have to attribute its enduring popularity to the fact that somebody finally made a holiday movie that wasn’t all carol singers and egg nog. It depicts crazy, scary things happening in a small town because yes, even at Christmas, bad things can happen. At least there’s alcohol to get us through. Cheers!

Go

Go

Image credit: Go, 1999

Looking back, I think my love of dystopian Christmas films originated with this week’s pick Go (DVD/Download). For a sullen girl in the 90’s, this film about drug dealers, burnouts, and Timothy Olymphant’s upper body was everything I could ever want. Watching it now, as a semi-jaded adult who still questions the “magic” of the holidays among traffic jams, retail spam, and airline price gouging, it still resonates.

Told in a series of vignettes centered around a drug deal gone bad, we see the Christmas holiday from multiple points of view. There’s the entrepreneurial, desperate Ronna (played wonderfully by Sarah Polley), who’s just trying to keep a roof over her head by selling counterfeit Ecstasy to unsuspecting teens at a rave (so 90’s). Then there’s hot drug dealer Todd, played by a very young Timothy Olymphant, who gets screwed over by Ronna, but still wants to seduce her friend Claire (played by fresh-off-the-Creek Katie Holmes). Todd loans his credit card to Simon, who works with Ronna and Claire, for use on a wild Vegas getaway where he ends up stealing a car with Taye Diggs and shooting up a strip club. Then there’s Scott Wolf and Jay Mohr, a couple of TV actors participating in a failed drug bust who later run Ronna over with their Miata. As the plots all intersect and the characters find themselves converging at a warehouse rave on the outskirts of LA, we almost forget that it’s Christmas. Most of these people had given up on the idea of a jolly holiday years ago.

Although there isn’t much alcohol in this movie (save for some strip-club champagne), there are drugs.  Specifically Ecstasy.  And what goes with Ecstasy better than orange juice? (Not that I would know from experience or anything. I definitely don’t….). While watching Go, dive right into the Christmas underbelly with a Xerxes X-mas cocktail.

Xerxes  X-mas

1 ¼ oz Orange Juice

1 oz Vodka

¾ oz Grand Marnier

¼ oz Lime Juice

4 oz Champagne

Pour orange juice, vodka, Grand Marnier and lime juice over ice in a cocktail shaker. Stir to combine and chill, then strain into a chilled coupe glass. Top with champagne, and orange twist.

Superdrink

It’s really easy to be cynical around the holidays because, well, not much is actually different. The money woes you had in November are still there in December, you’re continuing to clock in at a job that may or may not be of the dead-end variety, and all the mistletoe in the world doesn’t necessarily equate to true love. But for one crazy night, sometimes it’s OK to just Go. Whatever that word may mean to you, wherever it may lead, just GO. Cheers!