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Category Archives: Musicals

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!

Valley of the Dolls

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Patty Duke in Valley of the Dolls, 1967.

Image credit: Valley of the Dolls, 1967.

It was only a matter of time before I got around to this booze and pill-laden masterpiece of 1960’s camp. Valley of the Dolls (DVD/Download) is that special film that becomes even more enjoyable the more you drink. The crappy dialogue just SPARKLES, I tell you. But beyond the pills and swimming pools and teased hair, there are simply three gorgeous ladies trying to make it in the cutthroat business of Hollywood.

Valley of the Dolls stars Barbara Parkins, Patty Duke, and Sharon Tate as three friends looking for love and fame. Based (perhaps a little too loosely) on the fantastically trashy Jacqueline Susann novel of the same name, the film version is a musical featuring rather forgettable songs by Andre Previn (most of which I find skippable). Give me scenes of Patty Duke in her underwear emptying a bottle of scotch into the deep end of her swimming pool. Sharon Tate looks lovely as always and is relatively believable as Jennifer North, star of nudie French “art films” and Barbara Parkins, well, she knows how to pull off a lot of eyeliner and frosted lipstick. Special congrats to Richard Dreyfuss, who scored his first-ever film role in this. Way to start at the bottom.

As I said, there’s a lot of alcohol and pills in both the book and the movie. “Dolls” is short for dolophine, a popular narcotic at the time. I like to substitute Hot Tamales for the pills, and luckily Fireball Whiskey pairs quite well with this candy. Obviously this drink needs to be strong enough to put you into a stupor, but pretty enough to be held while you sit in your nightgown wearing false eyelashes (don’t mock the way I spend my Saturday nights). While watching Valley of the Dolls, I recommend drinking a Burning Doll.

Burning Doll

1.5 oz Fireball Whiskey

3 oz champagne

Splash of orange juice

Combine chilled ingredients into a coupe glass and enjoy!

burning doll

There’s a lot of sarcasm in this post, and much of that comes from jealousy. I mean, who wouldn’t want to take a fistful of barbiturates and wander around the beach all afternoon? And how about having a husband who’s a fashion designer named Ted Casablanca? Now that sounds genuinely fabulous. This week, come drink with me, and be my love. Cheers!

White Christmas

White Christmas

Image credit: White Christmas, 1954

In a complete 180 from last week’s Die Hard post, this week I’ll be watching the Bing Crosby holiday classic White Christmas (DVD/Download). If I had to describe this with one word I’d say it’s utterly delightful! In the way that It’s a Wonderful Life has a lot going for it aside from Christmas schmaltz, this classic musical is like On the Town with a big Christmas extravaganza plopped down like a cherry on the sundae.

Starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye as a couple of Broadway producers putting on an impromptu show at a floundering Vermont inn, White Christmas also features lovely performances by Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen as their respective love interests. Obviously everyone knows the title song “White Christmas”, as sung by Bing Crosby. Mellow and yearning, it speaks to recapturing the holidays of our youth. I certainly prefer a sunny and warm Christmas to a White Christmas (it’s a very good year if I never have to see a flake of snow), but I still appreciate the sentiment. Luckily there’s enough humor, slapstick, and eye-popping dance numbers to keep this film from being weighed down with nostalgia, and the Edith Head costumes are definitely swoon-worthy.

My favorite number in this film is “Sisters”, a cheeky song performed first by Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen, then later lip-synched by Crosby and Kaye. The men can barely keep a straight face during their performance, which makes it even funnier. In homage to the bright blue Florida costumes and my own excitement over a non-white Christmas in the Sunshine State, this week I’ll be mixing up a Sister Sipper.

Sister Sipper

2 ½ oz Pisco

¾ oz blue curacao

1 oz lime juice

1/2 oz simple syrup

1 egg white

Combine all ingredients over ice in a chilled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously until thoroughly chilled and frothy. Pour into a coupe glass.

sister sipper

Whether you long for cold snowflakes or warm tropical breezes, White Christmas has you covered. Besides, the holiday season is really about being with the ones you love, whether it snows or not. From Cinema Sips, I’d like to wish my readers happy holidays, safe travels, and of course, Cheers!