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Category Archives: Musicals

Footloose

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Footloose

Image credit: Footloose, 1984

I recently got an email from a Cinema Sips reader who politely pointed out that I have zero Kevin Bacon films on this website. I thought surely this can’t be true (six degrees, and all) but she was right! All these years I’ve been ignoring this hunky staple of American cinema and drunken party games. Of all the films in Bacon’s canon, nothing says party quite like Footloose (DVD/Download). After all, the ending is basically one big glitter bomb. Of course it needs a cocktail!

I’ll confess, Footloose has never been one of my favorites. Is it a musical? A teen comedy? A discourse on censorship and the rise of evangelicalism in our country? After watching it again, I’m still not sure what this movie is trying to be. However, Kevin Bacon is a joy to watch in just about anything, and his scenes with Chris Penn always make me smile. As the new kid in town, Bacon’s city-slicker character Ren could have gone the tortured artist route, never connecting with anyone. But immediately, he gets his posse together, and they unite under the goal of overturning the dance ban in backwards, rural Bomont. I couldn’t believe there would ever be a ban on dancing anywhere in America, but research tells me that this was once an actual thing in Oklahoma. Remind me never to go to the midwest Bible Belt- when Beyonce comes on the radio I can’t be held accountable for my actions.

Although the kids in this film are more interested in dancing than drinking, I personally think a little party punch can’t hurt.  While watching Footloose I recommend drinking a Ginger Pop Punch.

Ginger Pop Punch

2 cups apple cider

2 cups ginger beer

2 cups pomegranate juice

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup vodka

2 cups Prosecco

Fresh cranberries

Combine all ingredients in a punch bowl with ice. Garnish with fresh cranberries.

Ginger Punch

Footloose is such a celebration of music and dance that despite its shortcomings, it’s easy to see why this film (and its soundtrack) became so iconic. John Lithgow’s conflicted preacher does his best to drag down the entertainment level, but you just can’t stop that music. I know it makes me want to cut loose. Cheers!

 

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Bedknobs and Broomsticks

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Bedknobs and Broomsticks

Image credit: Bedknobs and Broomsticks, 1971.

No matter how many sexy pirate or sexy nurse costumes flood the market in October, to me Halloween will always be a holiday for kids. Sure, I may still put on a funky hat or a fake moustache and eat my weight in fun-sized Heath bars, but I know I’ll never recapture the anticipatory magic of slipping a coat over my Little Mermaid seashell bra and heading out into a chilly Pennsylvania evening, empty plastic pumpkin in hand. Therefore this week on Cinema Sips, I’m closing out a month of witch movies with a childhood favorite, Bedknobs and Broomsticks (DVD/Download).

Many people tend to compare this movie to Mary Poppins, and they wouldn’t be wrong. Both feature beloved British actresses, catchy songs, a bit of magic, dirty London streets, and an unfortunate live action/cartoon interlude. However, Bedknobs and Broomsticks is slightly grittier than Mary and her penguins. This film follows a trio of homeless orphaned children sent to live in the village of Pepperinge Eye during the WWII bombing of London. They wind up in the care of Angela Lansbury, a secret witch-in-training with a surly disposition and an endless supply of tweed skirts, who feeds them grain bowls and can’t ride a broom to save her life. But in the end, they all work together on magic spells to defeat the Nazi’s, and live happily ever after. Because Disney!

Lansbury’s Eglantine Price is a buttoned up lady, whose one indulgence (I like to imagine), is a small glass of sherry and a good book.  Actually, that sounds kind of perfect to me as well.  Let’s celebrate this unlikeliest of witches with a classic EGG-white cocktail, the Sherry Flip.

Sherry Flip

2 oz dry Sherry

1 oz simple syrup

1 egg white

Pinch of nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a shaker without ice and shake well to combine. Then add ice, and shake vigorously to chill. Strain into a small wine glass. Dust with nutmeg.

Although many witches in cinema use their powers for romantic love, I applaud Eglantine on using hers for the good of her country. You see, witches don’t have to be scary. They can be intriguing, intelligent, kind, and pragmatic. They can have a thirst for knowledge that takes them from the bookshops on Portobello Road to a magical undersea dance hall. It’s all in your perception. Cheers!

Teen Witch

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Teen Witch

Image credit: Teen Witch, 1989

I’m not sure whether the How Did This Get Made? podcast is the greatest thing to happen to my Netflix queue, or the worst. It has shined a light on so many terrible (but somehow great?) movies I’d missed over the years, prompting me to turn off my normal taste barometers and see what all the fuss was about. Such was the case with this week’s film Teen Witch (DVD/Download).

Starring Robyn Lively as a teenager who discovers she has magical powers on her 16th birthday (which happens to coincide with Friday the 13th), this movie is half-John Hughes/half-80’s music video. Think sax solos, dry ice, teased hair, etc. I thought the weird musical number would be limited to just the opening credits, but no- it’s the whole damn thing (including one bizarre rap song “Top That” which I don’t totally get, but can’t look away from). Lively’s Louise is the classic smart, social reject yearning to be popular, and she achieves this goal by putting a spell on her high school classmates and wearing tighter clothes. Where Teen Witch really surprises me is with the character of her jock-hero obsession, who turns out to be a surprisingly good guy. Sure, he takes her to a sketchy abandoned house to fool around, but let’s not hold that against him. She seemed into it, rusty floor nails and all. Let’s just hope he came prepared with a CONDOM!

One of my favorite things about this movie is Zelda Rubenstein’s Madame Serena, the fortune teller/witch-guru. Totally adorable, she guides Louise through spells and potions, eventually helping her realize that she doesn’t need powers after all- she’s already pretty great. If I could be anywhere on Friday the 13th, it would be in Madame Serena’s lounge, mixing up something potent. While watching Teen Witch, I recommend drinking a Top That!

Top That!

1 oz Club Soda

2 oz Gin

¾ oz Lemon Juice

¾ oz Simple Syrup

¾ oz Blue Curacao

1 egg white

Fill a Collins glass 1/3 full with crushed ice, top with club soda, and set aside. Pour remaining ingredients into a shaker with no ice and shake vigorously for about 10 seconds. Add ice cubes and shake again until well-chilled and frothy. Strain into the prepared glass.

Top That

I know I shouldn’t like this movie, and yet, I totally do. It’s cheesy and dated and trite, but somehow that just makes it better. There’s enough romance and hormone jokes to appeal to my teen-movie sensibilities, and the out-of-focus, badly choreographed, slow-motion dance sequences are basically what’s been missing from my life. I dare anybody to top that. Cheers!

Across the Universe

Across the Universe

Image Credit: Across the Universe, 2007.

As a teenager I was largely obsessed with everything Beatles-related (who am I kidding- I still am), so it comes as no surprise that I would adore Across the Universe (DVD/Download). Using the songs of Lennon and McCartney to tell the story of 1960’s-era star crossed lovers? Genius. Tapping director Julie Taymor to bring her signature visual-wonderland style to the project? Transcendent.

Across the Universe is essentially a patchwork quilt woven from Beatles song lyrics.  Heartsick Jude pines for Lucy, they survive the turbulent 60’s with a little help from their friends, dear Prudence sneaks in through the bathroom window, and in the end they realize that love is all you need. Through superbly choreographed songs, wildly creative set pieces, and heartfelt acting, the music of the Beatles truly comes alive. I feel every note, from Joe Cocker belting “Come Together”, to T.V. Carpio singing her heart-wrenching version of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”. It makes me understand the songs like never before.

One of the strongest symbols in the film is the strawberry, used to represent both the overt sexuality of the era, as well as the bloodshed of Vietnam. It’s a powerful and striking visual element. While watching Across the Universe, I recommend drinking a Strawberry Fields Martini.

Strawberry Fields Martini

1/4 cup strawberry juice (I used Naked Strawberry C Monster™)

1 oz cake vodka

Pink champagne

Fresh strawberry (for garnish)

Mix the strawberry juice and vodka over ice in a cocktail shaker, stirring until chilled. Strain into a martini glass, and top with pink champagne. Garnish with a strawberry.

strawberry fields

 

Despite an awful Mr. Kite musical number in the middle (honestly- wasn’t it bad enough we had to suffer through it on the Sgt. Pepper album??) Across the Universe is simply magical. So turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream- it is shining.  Cheers!

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!