RSS Feed

Category Archives: Holiday Films

Miracle on 34th Street

Posted on
miracle on 34th street

Image credit: Miracle on 34th Street, 1947

If you haven’t begun your holiday shopping yet, what in the world are you waiting for?? Smart folks like me start in November, but if you still need a little incentive, I suggest watching this week’s film Miracle on 34th Street (DVD/Download) to put you in the gifting mood.

Recently deceased acting legend Maureen O’Hara stars in this classic holiday film about a Macy’s department store Santa Claus who just might be the real deal. O’Hara plays an unlucky-in-love divorcee raising her daughter (played by a very young Natalie Wood) to be skeptical of all things intangible- including holiday miracles. Then Kris K. comes along (that’s Kringle, not Kardashian), and he seems like more than just a kind-hearted old man. Claiming to be Santa Claus, he attracts psych evaluators and small children alike. I love that this film from the 1940’s features a strong independent woman like O’Hara, her character an event director at the flagship store. Heck, that’s an impressive job even now. And the sappy message of the movie (Santa is real if you believe!) gets a much needed boost by terrific acting performances and sharp dialogue. At times, I feel like I’m watching a classic Howard Hawkes film, instead of one of the most beloved Christmas movies ever made.

One of my favorite scenes involves Kris Kringle showing off his impressive Santa skills while talking to a Dutch girl. He speaks to her in Dutch because, of course, Santa speaks the language of all children. This inspired my cocktail this week, using the Dutch spirit Genever, a stronger, early version of the typical gin we know today. While watching Miracle on 34th Street, I recommend drinking a Sinterklaas.

Sinterklaas

2 oz Genever

2 oz Apple Cider

½ oz honey syrup (equal parts honey and water)

1 dash Angostura bitters

Cinnamon stick for garnish

Combine ingredients in a small saucepan, and heat on the stove until it just barely simmers. Pour into a heat-safe glass or mug, and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Sinterklaas

Your current thoughts about Santa Claus are probably dependent on your age (and I doubt I have many 6 year old readers of this blog), but this movie is so great that it makes me want to believe in Santa Claus. At the very least, it makes me long for the days when department stores were classy and sophisticated, instead of overrun with cheap merchandise and bad lighting. Best of luck with your holiday shopping, and if you find yourself in a Macy’s this Christmas, plan on having a cocktail afterwards- you’ll need it. Cheers!

Home for the Holidays

Home for the Holidays

Image Credit: Home for the Holidays, 1995

After a stressful month at work, I am VERY ready to relax with a bounty of food and a pile of movies. I always look forward to Thanksgiving because it means I get to stay home, in the city I love, with my husband and my dog and do absolutely nothing. Christmas can get a little crazy, but Thanksgiving- that’s just for me. Of course it wasn’t always like that. I’ve had my share of awkward relatives and inedible meals, which is why I have such an appreciation for this week’s film Home for the Holidays (DVD). When you find yourself laughing and nodding along, saying, “YES! This is what it’s like!!” you know you’ve found a great movie.

Home for the Holidays was directed by Jodie Foster and tells the story of the Larson family as they come together for one grand Thanksgiving meal. Holly Hunter is as charming as I’ve ever seen her, fleeing her recent unemployment and sexually active teenage daughter to go get criticized by her mother in a big puffy coat. Robert Downey Jr. shines as her younger gay brother Tommy, and together they team up against their bigoted uptight sister Joanna. Anne Bancroft is amazing as the matriarch, and the scenes of her flirting and arguing with her onscreen husband played by the late, great Charles Durning are forever endearing (see my earlier post about 5 Times Anne Bancroft was EVERYTHING). Of course I’m a sucker for a spinster aunt, and it doesn’t get better than Geraldine Chaplin’s Aunt Glady. She hates orange lipstick, she likes to get drunk and tell inappropriate stories, and she keeps her bathroom as clean as a whistle. In short, she’s me in 40 years. Dylan McDermott pops up as a dreamy love interest for Holly Hunter, but really it’s the family dynamics that make this such a joy to watch. As Hunter’s Claudia says, “We’re family- we don’t have to like each other”.

If you want to be as toasted as Aunt Glady on the big T-Day, you’re going to need a tasty cocktail. This year I’ll be making a drink the same color as Claudia’s stylish puffy coat. It pairs nicely with stuffing, mashed potatoes, and snarky comments at the dinner table. While watching Home for the Holidays, I recommend drinking a Cranberry Mule.

Cranberry Mule

3 oz Deep Eddy Cranberry Vodka

1/2 oz Lime Juice

8 oz Ginger Beer

Lime and fresh cranberries for garnish

Build drink in a glass over ice.  Garnish with a lime slice and fresh cranberries.

Cranberry Mule

I don’t want to sound like I don’t look forward to seeing my family. I do, of course. But often people get so tied up in making the holiday great that they forget what’s really important. By important, I of course mean Pillsbury crescent rolls, and the relief one feels at realizing your life isn’t as bad as sad sack Russell Terziak’s. That’s always something I’m thankful for. Cheers!

The Thin Man

Image credit MGM 1934, The Thin Man

Image credit MGM 1934, The Thin Man

This year for New Year’s Eve, I’m taking the advice of one Cinema Sips reader and watching a classic holiday film, The Thin Man (DVD/Download). By enjoying this movie on one of the most celebratory nights of the year, I can feel like I’m attending a fabulous party, instead of sitting at home in my pajamas, trying desperately to make it to midnight.

The Thin Man is based on the Dashiell Hammett novel of the same name, and it follows former detective Nick Charles and his wealthy wife Nora as they get pulled into a murder mystery involving old acquaintances. Myrna Loy plays the lovely, entertaining Nora Charles, always with a highball or martini glass in her hand. Her banter with William Powell as Nick Charles makes you wish that all marriages were like this one. Of course it’s easy to be carefree and relaxed when you have oodles of family money in your bank account, but what makes this couple so unique is that they are incredibly funny, smart, and down-to-earth. Plus, they have the most ADORABLE dog named Asta, and I’m a sucker for a smart, well-trained movie pet.

I know New Year’s is traditionally a champagne holiday (and I’ll of course have a cheap bottle from Trader Joe’s chilling in the fridge) but honestly, you can’t watch The Thin Man without a dry gin martini in your hand. It just can’t be done. I have to think that martinis were served in smaller portions when this movie was made. How else to account for Nora Charles asking a waiter to bring her 6 of them? If I have more than 2 I’m a mess. At any rate, while watching The Thin Man, I recommend drinking a Dry Gin Martini. However many you have is totally up to you.

Dry Gin Martini

2 ½ oz Gin

½ oz Dry Vermouth

Olive

Shake gin and vermouth (to the tune of your favorite waltz) in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with an olive.

Gin-Martini

There’s really nothing I like more than staying home with an old movie and a classic cocktail. So this New Year’s Eve, while other people are paying way too much for their prix-fixe meals and grappling with Uber surcharges, I’ll be sitting at home, warm and cozy, laughing as William Powell delivers pun after delicious pun, and wishing I had Myrna Loy’s fashion sense, wit, and adorable hangover ice pack. I’ll certainly need it Jan 1st. Cheers!

It’s a Wonderful Life

Image credit Liberty Films, 1946, It's a Wonderful Life

Image credit Liberty Films, 1946, It’s a Wonderful Life

As I’ve mentioned a few times on this blog, I had the pleasure/misfortune of growing up in Indiana, PA, hometown of Jimmy Stewart. Every year at Christmas, my little town in Pennsylvania pretty much claimed ownership of Christmas by declaring themselves not only “The Christmas Tree Capital of the World” (doubtful) but also, the real-life version of the town in the Frank Capra/Jimmy Stewart holiday film, It’s a Wonderful Life. Actually, it’s been said that Seneca Falls, NY was the real inspiration, but Jimmy Stewart was quoted as saying that the film’s set did remind him of Indiana, PA. That’s pretty much all the validation that the town needed to start selling gobs of It’s a Wonderful Life memorabilia in the local shops, and this blatant commercialization was all the validation I needed to boycott this movie for most of my childhood and adolescence. Was I wrong? Yes and no. After watching this film again, I still stand by my assertion that I wouldn’t have appreciated it as a child, but as an adult, it’s maybe my new favorite Christmas film.

In the past, I always boiled down It’s a Wonderful Life (DVD/Download) into just that sappy scene at the end where little Zuzu (seriously, who names their kid Zuzu??) says in her annoying baby voice “Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.” That scene is still too saccharine for my tastes, but the rest of the film plays like the best Twilight Zone episode you never saw. George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) dreams of a life of travel and adventure, but is forced to put his dreams aside in order to take over his father’s Savings and Loan. He battles against the rich, money-grubbing Mr. Potter who wants nothing more than to make sure that he himself gets even richer while the poor get poorer. Sound familiar? (I wonder now why the Occupy Wall Street movement didn’t screen this as a propaganda film- a missed opportunity). When his bumbling uncle misplaces the day’s financial deposit, George is in danger of losing the business, going to jail, and losing his family. He contemplates suicide on Christmas Eve, but lucky for him, the angel-in-training Clarence comes down to earth to show him what it would have been like if he’d never been born. Realizing that he’s had an impact on everyone around him makes George see that he’s not the failure he thought he was, and he dashes home through the snow to his family.

You may not look at It’s A Wonderful Life as a particularly boozy Christmas film, but it totally is. George Bailey drinks bourbon, gets into fights, and hangs out at the local watering hole Martini’s. My favorite scene is early on when Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed do the Charleston at the school dance as the dance floor splits open and they fall into the swimming pool below. They walk home, singing the tune that was playing, “Buffalo Gals”. It’s such a sweet scene, and as with everything else he was in, Jimmy Stewart plays it brilliantly. Before watching It’s a Wonderful Life, I recommend buying yourself a bottle of Buffalo Trace bourbon (it is my favorite brand after all) so that you can make this week’s cocktail, the Moon Lasso.

Moon Lasso

2 oz Apple Cider

1 oz Buffalo Trace Bourbon

½ tsp Allspice

½ tsp Nutmeg

Rosemary for garnish

Add apple cider and bourbon to a glass filled with ice. Sprinkle with Allspice and nutmeg, and garnish with rosemary.

 

moon lasso

After revisiting this film again, I think it’s almost a shame that it gets limited to Christmas viewings. Christmas is such a small part of what it’s about. To me, it’s about appreciating your life just as it is, and if that means putting your youthful dreams aside, don’t worry- you’ll make new dreams. My life is a million miles away from where I thought it would be growing up in Indiana, PA. Not better or worse than I pictured, just unimaginably different. After all, I’ve suddenly fallen in love with It’s a Wonderful Life. Now who would have ever seen that coming? Cheers!

Bridget Jones’s Diary

Image credit Miramax Films, 2001, Bridget Jones's Diary

Image credit Miramax Films, 2001, Bridget Jones’s Diary

Last weekend I was invited to an ugly sweater Christmas party, and to get inspiration for my costume, I decided to watch a film featuring the ugliest of Christmas sweaters, Bridget Jones’s Diary (DVD/Download). While Bridget Jones isn’t totally a Christmas movie throughout, it does feature Colin Firth in some very festive holiday sweaters and ties. Plus, a movie starring Colin Firth AND Hugh Grant- well, Merry Christmas to me!

Bridget Jones’s Diary was adapted from the entertaining book by Helen Fielding, which loosely borrows the plot from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. This was the novel that launched a thousand Chick Lit ships (my own book included), wherein smart but insecure 30-something women live in a city, date inappropriate men, go out drinking with their friends, have fabulous careers, and worry about dieting and finally finding “the one”. I have to say, this is one of the better books (and films) in the genre, and although there was a great deal of outcry over American Renee Zellweger playing beloved Londoner Bridget Jones, I think she did a great job. Plus, she’s never looked better than she did in this film, causing me to wonder what other stick-figure actresses would look like with a little meat on their bones. Probably, greatly improved.

One of my favorite scenes in the film is when Colin Firth and Hugh Grant get into a fist fight outside Bridget’s apartment. Thus my cocktail this week is inspired by Colin Firth’s fists-o-fury, and is a great addition to any holiday party. While watching Bridget Jones’s Diary, I recommend drinking Darcy’s Milk Punch.

Darcy’s Milk Punch

1 oz brandy

1 oz dark rum

½ oz simple syrup

4 oz whole milk

Dash of vanilla extract

Whipped Cream

Grated Nutmeg

Combine brandy, rum, simple syrup, milk, and vanilla extract in a glass with ice.  Stir to combine, and top with whipped cream and nutmeg.

milk-punch

I love to watch this movie around the holidays because, like Bridget, it’s around this time of year that I tend to take stock of my life and figure out what my resolutions should be for the New Year. Like her, my list usually includes dropping a few pounds and cutting back on alcohol units. At least I don’t have to worry about pressure to find a nice, sensible boyfriend- I already have a nice, sensible husband to sport that tacky Christmas tie I’m making him wear. Cheers!

The Hudsucker Proxy

Posted on
Image credit PolyGram Entertainment, 1994, The Hudsucker Proxy

Image credit PolyGram Entertainment, 1994, The Hudsucker Proxy

Every year in December, I get out my boxes of ornaments and the plastic Christmas tree and put on that classic holiday record by Alvin and the Chipmunks. You know the main song, where Alvin longs for a hula hoop? Well, the hula hoop inspired this week’s Cinema Sips pick, an underrated Coen Brothers gem The Hudsucker Proxy (DVD/Download).

An homage to so many wonderful films of the 1930’s and 40’s (His Girl Friday, It’s a Wonderful Life, Sullivan’s Travels, etc.), The Hudsucker Proxy follows everyman Norville Barnes (played by Tim Robbins) on his journey from Muncie, Indiana to New York City circa 1958. He gets a job in the mailroom of Hudsucker Industries, but dreams of bigger things. His dream includes a piece of paper with a circle on it, which would later turn out to be the hula hoop. Through a complicated series of events, Norville finds himself promoted to CEO of Hudsucker, where he takes the company to great heights with the hula hoop idea. Eventually, things spiral out of control as his ego gets larger and larger, until he finds himself on the ledge of the forty-fourth floor of the Hudsucker building on New Year’s Eve, ready to jump. Unfortunately this film was a box office flop when it was released, but I still love it for the amazing production design (think Art Deco meets Bauhaus), fabulous costumes, and sparkling script. Plus, any film featuring Paul Newman is okay by me.

My drink this week is inspired by Norville and his lady love Amy Archer’s love of martinis. A great festive version of the classic martini is the pear martini. I like to dress it up with a little fresh pear and cranberries to give it a holiday feel.  When watching The Hudsucker Proxy, I recommend drinking a Holiday Pear Martini.

Holiday Pear Martini

1 ½ oz Vodka

3/4 oz Pear liqueur

3/4 oz St. Germain

1 oz lemon juice

Fresh Pear and cranberries for garnish

Combine vodka, St. Germain, lemon juice, and pear liqueur over ice in a cocktail shaker and shake until chilled. Strain into a chilled martini glass, and garnish with fresh pear and cranberries.  Bendy straw optional.

holiday-pear-martini

The Hudsucker Proxy is classic Coen Brothers holiday fun, and I’m so excited to watch it again this year. It makes me wish that women still wore hats and talked like Rosalind Russell. As the stress of the holiday sets in, remember to take a two-hour break with this film and a tasty cocktail, and maybe even put on that old Alvin and the Chipmunks record. You know, for kids ;-).

Home Alone

Posted on
Image credit 20th Century Fox, 1990, Home Alone

Image credit 20th Century Fox, 1990, Home Alone

Now that the Thanksgiving leftovers have been totally consumed, I can move on to more pressing matters- Christmas movies! And even more importantly, Christmas cocktails!! This week, I’m featuring one of my favorite childhood movies, Home Alone (DVD/Download). I have to admit, I watched this with some trepidation, worried that it would no longer appeal to my adult brain. I’m here to say, worry not- it’s still funny. Yes, Macaulay Culkin is pretty corny, but the chance to see Joe Pesci again in, well, anything, plus the late, great John Candy, PLUS comedic genius Catherine O’Hara outweighs the massive eye roll I have for Culkin’s trademark scream.

For anyone who has been living under a rock for the last twenty years, Home Alone tells the story of a young boy (played by Macaulay Culkin) who accidentally gets left behind at home while his family travels to Paris for the Christmas holiday. At first he revels in the freedom he has to eat junk food, watch violent films, and go through his siblings’ personal belongings. But eventually, loneliness sets in right around the time some petty thieves try to rob his home. He cleverly booby traps the house against the bumbling burglars, but in the end, it takes the help of an unlikely friend to really save him (like George Costanza, the old man gets to me too).

For my pairing, I’m going to pretend to be Kevin McCallister for a day. That’s right, I’m drinking sugary/chocolate-y cocktails and watching Home Alone, thus rotting my teeth and my brain. While watching Home Alone, I recommend drinking a Chocolate Peppermint Martini.

Chocolate Peppermint Martini

2 oz Godiva chocolate liqueur

2 oz vodka

1/2 oz peppermint schnapps

1 tablespoon half-and-half

Candy Cane and red decorating sugar

Combine liquid ingredients over ice in a cocktail shaker and shake until chilled.  Meanwhile, rim your martini glass with a little bit of the peppermint schnapps, and dip into the red sugar.  Strain your cocktail into the prepared glass, and garnish with a candy cane.

chocolate-peppermint-martini

As we decorate our homes for Christmas, buy the presents, and make the travel plans, it can be tempting to throw our hands up and say, “Forget all of it, I’m staying home this year.”   This movie reminds me that despite the enormous headache that is Holiday Travel, I would really miss my family if I didn’t get to see them on Christmas.  However, if you are traveling this season, remember to come up with a plan of defense for your home- you never know when Joe Pesci will stick his head through the doggie door.  Cheers!