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Category Archives: Musicals

Blue Hawaii

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Blue Hawaii

Image credit: Blue Hawaii, 1961

I’ve watched a lot of Hawaiian films this month, so I’m confident in my opinion that I saved the best for last. If there’s any cinematic Hawaii I wish I could transport myself to, it’s the version seen in the classic Elvis Presley picture Blue Hawaii (DVD/Download). Some might call the film dated, but to me it’s a celluloid paradise.

I’ve never considered myself an Elvis fan, and despite my obsession with this movie, I’m still not one. Honestly, Elvis is the least interesting thing about Blue Hawaii. As the heir to a pineapple fortune, he’s somewhat of a jerk to his parents and his long-suffering girlfriend. He gets bonus points for bringing her a cute bikini from Paris, but it doesn’t make up for the time he kissed a flight attendant right in front her. Not cool. If you can stand to look past Elvis Presley The Phenomenon, you’ll see that Blue Hawaii is filled with picture-postcard-perfect Oahu scenery, vintage sundresses designed by Edith Head, and stylish classic cars. And inexplicably, a corgi frolicking in the surf. It’s bizarre, it’s gorgeous, and I can’t look away.

Adding to my love of this movie is a southern accented-Angela Lansbury, who spends most of her time ordering mai tais from her man servant Ping Pong. I’ll be taking my cue from Ms. Lansbury with this “tummy-warmer”. While watching Blue Hawaii, I recommend drinking a classic Mai Tai.

Mai Tai

1 oz white rum

½ oz Orgeat syrup

½ oz Cointreau

2 oz pineapple juice

1 oz orange juice

Dark Rum float (such as Koloa dark rum)

Pineapple spear and lime (for garnish)

Mix white rum, Orgeat, Cointreau, pineapple and orange juices in a shaker filled with ice. Pour drink into a glass with the ice, and float the dark rum on top. Top with pineapple spear and lime wedge.

 

This film gave us two great Elvis songs, “Can’t Help Falling in Love” and “Blue Hawaii”. The iconic singer is certainly charming enough, but even Elvis Presley can’t compete with the beauty that is Hawaii. I may not be able to transport myself back to 1961, but the great thing about cocktails is that they taste the same now as they did then. All I need is that Edith Head sundress and my fantasy will be complete. Cheers!

Grease 2

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Grease 2 pink ladies

Image credit: Grease 2, 1982

Warning: you’re going to want to stock up on alcohol this month. For the next several weeks, I plan on highlighting some fantastic guilty-pleasure film sequels. Yes, many of them fall into the “so bad it’s good” camp, but what’s wrong with that? The way I see it, alcohol can only improve these forgotten gems. First up is my favorite on any terrible sequel list, the 1982 gem Grease 2 (DVD/Download). What- you didn’t know there was a follow up to the classic musical Grease? And that it stars none other than future-Rex Manning, Maxwell Caulfield?? Yes it’s true- this movie exists and it is AMAZING.

Despite being an obvious rush job in an attempt to squeeze a little more money out of the Grease box office juggernaut, this sequel has a lot of things working for it. Number one is Michelle Pfeiffer, in her first starring film role. I would go as far as to say she’s even better than Olivia Newton John, but that’s just my opinion. Next is the cavalcade of 50’s movie stars such as Connie Francis, Eve Arden, Sid Caesar, and Tab Hunter as the substitute Sex-Ed teacher. Let’s just say, there’s a song called “Reproduction” and things get…. weird. Finally the script has traded motorcycles for busted cars, and it is HOT. Here, tight leather pants make sense. In the original Grease– eh, not so much.

One thing that does carry over from the first film is the ultimate girl gang The Pink Ladies. They might be missing the acerbic charm of Stockard Channing, but they’ve gained Paulette the Marilyn Monroe-wannabe, and Sharon (best quote: “We’re gonna die and I’m wearing my mother’s underwear!”). And let’s not forget little Pink Lady-in-training Delores, played by future TV star/Louis CK BFF Pamela Adlon. In honor of this stone cold bunch of weirdos, while watching Grease 2 I’ll be drinking a Pink Lady Redux

Pink Lady Redux

3 oz gin

1.5 oz heavy cream

1 oz applejack

1 oz grenadine

Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously until chilled and thoroughly mixed. Strain into a chilled coupe glass.

True story- the soundtrack to Grease 2 was the first cassette tape I ever owned. Blame it on TV networks who aired this relentlessly on Sunday afternoons in the late 80’s, my love of pink satin, or my pre-teen crush on Adrian Zmed, but I can still recite every lyric by heart. Maybe this is a terrible movie, but it’s my terrible movie. And perhaps, after a few drinks, yours too. Cheers!

 

Singin’ in the Rain

singing-in-the-rain

Image credit: Singin’ in the Rain, 1952

I don’t know about you, but I could really use some cheering up right now.  To that end, I’ll be watching the Gold Standard of movie musicals, Singin’ in the Rain (DVD/Download). From Gene Kelly’s athletic grace to Donald O’Connor’s acrobatic, gravity-defying moves, to cute little Debbie Reynold’s lighting fast tap dancing, this film is serious perfection. Add in a humorous plot about the transition from silent films to talkies and you’ve got a movie that keeps me smiling from start to finish.

I have to admit, I was never big on musicals until I saw Singin’ in the Rain. This one really changed how I viewed the genre. To watch Gene Kelly in motion is to watch a genius at work.  Even if this were a silent picture, I’d still enjoy watching it, if only for the dancing. And damn, Donald O’Connor, dancing up that wall- amazing!!! Actress Jean Hagen provides most of the comic relief as Lina Lamont, the silent film star with a voice that could strip paint. Her diction lessons result in a Lohan-esque accent that’s part British aristocracy, part Bronx, and 100% hilarious.

One of my favorite songs from the film is ‘Good Morning’, sung by Reynolds, Kelly, and O’Connor.  Bright and cheerful, this number is just a little ball of sunshine on a gloomy day. To that end, I’ve decided to set up a mimosa bar- because aren’t mimosas pretty much the best thing about mornings? While watching Singin’ in the Rain, I recommend drinking a Good Morning Mimosa.

Good Morning Mimosa

Sparkling wine or prosecco

Optional Add-ins:

-Orange Juice

-Cranberry Juice

-Pomegranate Juice

-Apple Cider

-Grapefruit Juice

-St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur

mimosa-bar

Gene Kelly made many other musicals with the famed Arthur Freed Unit at MGM, but none as timeless as this picture. I think the reason it endures is because its glee is simply contagious. Kelly spins and twirls his umbrella down a rainy street and he doesn’t care that he’s splashing around in cold puddles- he’s happy in the moment. Sometimes those moments are all too rare in our lives, but when they happen, it makes us want to hop up and yell “Gotta Dance!”  But remember folks- dignity. Always, dignity. Cheers!

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

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willy-wonka

Image Credit: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, 1970.

Happy Halloween to my Cinema Sips readers! I think we can all agree that the best part of this holiday is the candy.  I’ve never been a big fan of scary movies, so this year I plan on stuffing my face full of KitKats and watching the Holy Grail of candy movies, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (DVD/Download). (And of course I’ll be enjoying a chocolate cocktail, but we’ll get to that).

With the passing of legendary actor Gene Wilder, this movie has once again been thrust into the spotlight due to his timeless performance as imaginative candy mogul Willy Wonka. As the enigmatic Wonka, Wilder twirls and softshoe’s his way through a technicolor dreamland filled with rivers of chocolate, Oompa Loompas, and lickable wallpaper. The movie is a visual feast for both children and adults alike, and through the eyes of young Charlie Bucket, we can’t help but feel awed and delighted by literally every frame.

As an adult, I can’t watch this film and not wonder what kind of magical candy cocktails Willy Wonka would have created. Would there be some chocolate liqueur in that river? Perhaps a snozzberry champagne fizzy lifting drink? The possibilities are endless, and as Wonka himself says, “Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker.”  So true.  In the end, I always come back to the chocolate. Plain, simple, delicious. While watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, I recommend drinking a Candy Bar Hot Chocolate.

Candy Bar Hot Chocolate

1/2 oz butterscotch schnapps

1 oz Patron XO Coffee Liqueur

Caramel Hot Chocolate (I use World Market brand)

Sweetened Whipped Cream

Caramel syrup

Prepare hot chocolate according to package directions. Pour into glass mug, then add the coffee liqueur and schnapps, stirring gently. Top with whipped cream and caramel syrup.

candy-bar-hot-chocolate

Although I’d like to think of myself as an optimistic Charlie Bucket, in reality I’m really more of a Veruca Salt (hey- she’s misunderstood!).  And after a bag of Halloween candy, I fall squarely into Augustus Gloop territory.  Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is one of my favorite films, and not just because it promotes sugary treats and pure imagination.  Really, I’m just a sucker for happily ever after. Cheers!

La Bamba

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La Bamba

Image credit: La Bamba, 1987

Sometimes, a girl just needs a good excuse for a margarita. Such is the case with this week’s film La Bamba (DVD/Download). In the pantheon of cheesy musical biopics, this is one of the better ones. Music by Los Lobos, a great cast headed by Lou Diamond Phillips, and of course, those catchy Richie Valens tunes. Do I shed a tear on the Day the Music Died? OK I admit… just one.

Because of La Bamba, the world was introduced to two important things- the history of chicano rock n’ roll, and perpetual People magazine crossword clue Esai Morales.  Despite its 1950’s setting, there’s a definite 80’s sheen to the picture (a la Dirty Dancing). Santana guitar riffs, bad perms, etc. Despite wanting to mock La Bamba, it legitimately sucks me in every time. The story of young, talented Richie Valens (née Valenzuela) who at 17 was killed in a plane crash with Buddy Holly and the Big Bopper, just as his career was taking off- well, it tugs at the heartstrings.

In happier times however, there are some great scenes of Richie learning to play “La Bamba” in a Tijuana whorehouse with his alcoholic brother Bob. In tribute to Richie’s Mexican heritage, while watching La Bamba I recommend drinking a Cerveza-Rita.

Cerveza-Rita

1 bottle Mexican beer (such as Dos Equis)

2 oz tequila

1 oz lime juice

2 oz orange juice

1 oz Cointreau

Simple syrup (to taste)

Blend tequila, lime juice, orange juice, Cointreau, and simple syrup in a blender filled with crushed ice until a smooth frozen consistency. In a chilled glass, pour beer 2/3 of the way up. Top with margarita mixture.

Cerveza- rita

One can’t help but wonder what would have happened to Valens had he not died so young. Would he have become the Latin Elvis? Married Donna and pissed off her racist father even more? We’ll never know. One thing is for certain though- because of his music, and this film, Richie Valens has become immortal. Cheers!

Cinderella

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cinderella

Image credit: Cinderella, 2015

As a general rule, I usually avoid all live-action fairy tale adaptations because they tend to be CGI-laden cheese-fests (ahem, Alice in Wonderland). But since it’s Cocktails-and-Corsets month, and since there was quite a bit of drama last year over the corset in Cinderella (DVD/Download), I decided to give this Kenneth Branagh adaptation a shot. And wow- I’m really glad I did!

First of all, just the fact that Cate Blanchett co-stars in this means a 99% chance that it’s good. Her portrayal of the Evil Stepmother Lady Tremaine is masterful, and as always, she wears a costume like nobody’s business. Her long 1940’s Dior-inspired gowns are true works of art, and it makes me wish she and designer Sandy Powell would release a documentary where Blanchett just tries on Powell creations, one after another. Of course there’s the ubiquitous scene of Cinderella (played by Lily James) trying to squeeze her former Downton Abbey co-star into a bone crushing corset (literally, there’s a bone cracking sound effect), whereas Cinderella herself waltzes along with the teeniest waist in the land, nary a broken rib in sight. See, she is princess material!

As always, it wouldn’t be Disney without an ear worm of a song that works its way into your brain and stays for days.  As an ode to this film’s haunting lullaby “Lavender’s Blue”, while watching Cinderella I recommend drinking a Lavender Gin Fizz.

Lavender Gin Fizz

2 oz gin

1.5 oz Royal Rose Lavender Lemon simple syrup

¾ oz lemon juice

Club Soda

Lemon twist

Combine gin, simple syrup, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass filled with ice. Top with club soda, stir gently, and garnish with a twist of lemon.

Lavender Fizz

I think I’ve always loved the Cinderella fairy tale, mainly because of my spirit animal Gus Gus. He and I share an unparalleled love of cheese. That scene in the animated Disney version where he’s trying to balance all the cheese cubes? Me after a trip to the fridge at night. Happily, his modern CGI doppelganger is still a fan of cheddar. Overall, I was extremely pleased with this adaptation. The film kept in all the things I loved about the classic animated Disney tale, and added in stunning costumes and a little more backstory. Combined with a cocktail, it’s perfection. Cheers!

Moulin Rouge!

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moulin rouge

Image credit: Moulin Rouge!, 2001

 

Truth, Beauty, Freedom, Love. Such are the tenants of the Parisian bohemian crowd in this week’s film Moulin Rouge! (DVD/Download). Since we’re celebrating great love stories on Cinema Sips this month, I had to include it. Power ballads and absinthe- now that’s a fantastic combination.

Moulin Rouge! was directed by splashy-extravaganza master Baz Luhrmann, who always manages to put layer upon layer of pop references and glitter into his films. This musical is no exception, drawing on modern and classic pop tunes for the songs, all collaged together to tell the story of Satine the showgirl and her penniless writer-love Christian. I never thought I’d see “Smells Like Teen Spirit” used in a frenetic musical can-can number, but there we are. Ewan McGregor is utterly charming as Christian, but where the movie falls flat to me is with Nicole Kidman’s performance as Satine. It may not be politically correct to say this, but to me, she just seemed too old for the part. And, not a terribly strong singer. Luckily the movie is rescued by the always-entertaining John Leguizamo as Toulouse-Lautrec. Is there anything this man can’t do?

As is so weirdly highlighted in the film by the appearance of Kylie Minogue as the Green Fairy, absinthe was the beverage du jour among the Parisian bohemian crowd.  I’m definitely a fan, and honestly a little wormwood goes a long way toward improving my opinion of Nicole Kidman. While watching Moulin Rouge!, I recommend drinking a Spectacular!Spectacular!

Spectacular!Spectacular!

1 ½ oz gin

½ oz absinthe

¾ oz lemon juice

¾ oz simple syrup

1 ½ oz champagne

Mix all ingredients except champagne in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a flute or coupe glass. Top with champagne.

Spectacular

Despite my opinion that Kidman comes off as an over-the-hill courtesan instead of the tragically young ingénue, I still root for Satine and Christian. I want love to lift them up where they belong! For one brief moment it does, and then… she coughs. Party over. This week, raise a glass to truth, beauty, freedom, and above all things- love. Cheers!