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Category Archives: Top 5 Lists

TCMFF 2022 Top Five Moments

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CinemaSips at TCMFF 2022

This past week, I had the pleasure of attending my first Turner Classic Movies film festival at the corner of Hollywood and Highland. It was intense, it was magical, and it was everything I hoped it would be. After two years of mostly solitary movie watching, it felt great to be in a theater again, surrounded by other people who love classic films as much as I do. The kind of people who would gladly give Richard Benjamin a standing ovation for the weird and wonderful The Last of Sheila, and who, like me, were incredibly stressed about getting in line early enough to make it into a Pre-Code screening. For four days, I lived on Gardetto’s snack mix and popcorn, trying desperately not to collapse before the last movie of the day. It’s also worth noting, some nights I didn’t even get back to my hotel room until 11:30pm- who even am I??? TCM Liz, that’s who. She’s wild and she doesn’t even need dinner.

Because I believe in positivity, I won’t go into too much detail about my least favorite things about the fest. The Hollywood Roosevelt hotel certainly topped that burn list, and if (when) I go back, I won’t be staying at the place that lost my luggage and served me a margarita instead of the gimlet I ordered, then took the bold stance that gimlets are often served on the rocks.

Reader, they are not.

I’ve had better service at a La Quinta. Plus, I’ve never had to wait 25 minutes for an elevator at a Marriott. But I digress. This post is about positivity!!! So here they are, my top five moments of TCMFF 2022.

  1. Cocktail Hour Screening
Image credit: Cocktail Hour, 1933 Poster

Before the fest, I didn’t know much about Pre-Code films, and I was grateful for the fabulous intro by historian Cari Beauchamp to explain the kind of freewheeling depictions of women and sexuality that were taken from us by Joseph Breen and his censorship office. Cocktail Hour (1933) was a delightful romantic comedy starring Bebe Daniels and Randolph Scott, in an enemies-to-lovers plot about a free spirited artist not wanting to be tied down to any man, even one who’s madly in love with her. She leaves on a cruise, where she unwittingly becomes the third party in an open marriage, before arriving in Paris and getting involved in a murder scandal. This was not even the first movie I saw at the fest where someone fell out a window, but it was certainly the most enjoyable. My only complaint- the TCL Multiplex bar had a paltry list of cocktails to choose from, so I watched with a Mai Tai instead of the French ‘75 I should have been sipping. Oh well. This film is a new favorite, and I never would have been able to see it outside of the fest.

Mai Tai (meh)

2. Jane Seymour Q&A

Jane Seymour Q&A with TCM Host Alicia Malone

I’ve seen the 1980 time-travel classic Somewhere in Time before (and paired it with a cocktail!), but never on the big screen, and never with Jane Seymour discussing how she and Christopher Reeve fell madly in love during its production, and would ultimately be torn apart by a cruel twist of fate. It was obvious to everyone in the audience that Seymour’s love for Reeve endures to this day, and when she said she hopes to see him again “somewhere in time,” I swear there wasn’t a dry eye in the theater. I’m still getting a little misty just thinking about it.

3. Houseboat Screening

Image credit: Houseboat, 1958 movie poster

Not being a morning person, my 9am screenings were very rare at TCMFF. But for Cary Grant, I’ll put some pants on and leave the hotel room. I’d never seen Houseboat before, so I didn’t expect to receive such an utterly charming and poignant film experience. Although filled with beautiful dresses and chipper songs (including a Sam Cooke single!), I was caught off-guard by the frank and lovely discussion about death between Cary and his on-screen son. Having just lost my dad last year, I kind of needed this fatherly movie icon to tell me it was going to be okay. Houseboat was the warm hug I never knew I needed.

4. The Hollywood Legion theater

Stand-in bar for The Shining’s Overlook Hotel

I went into this festival really looking forward to being inside the big TCL theater (formerly Grauman’s Chinese), so imagine my surprise to discover that the best movie experience was actually found at the Hollywood Legion! I waited until the last screening of the fest to make the trek over (for Jewel Robbery, another delightful Pre-Code romantic comedy), but it was well worth the extra steps. Gorgeous architecture, cocktails in the basement, and the best surprise of all- a hidden Shining bar! That’s right, this replica of the Overlook Hotel bar was used in pick-up shots for The Shining, and if you’re really nice, a delightful old employee of the Legion will show it to you. Also, three cheers for the free popcorn and chocolate covered pretzels handed out by HBO Max. All the better to soak up that night’s gimlet.

5. The Closing Party

Although I love throwing parties, I don’t always love attending them. I was not expecting a poolside soiree at the Roosevelt to be worth my time (although literally, the only good thing about this overpriced establishment is the heated David Hockney pool), but between bites of hors d’oeuvres and sips of an HBOMax-tini, I found myself talking to other reviewers, TCM hosts, and all the internet friends I’ve made over the last two years of isolation. To have the opportunity to meet these people in person, trading laughs and movie recommendations, hatching plans for the next time we’ll all see each other, made the fest worth every penny for me. It was the perfect ending to a fabulous weekend, and when it comes to me and TCMFF, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Pictured: Liz Locke, Rosalie Leonard, Fiona Underhill, Oriana Nudo, Kerrington Fier, Maureen Lee Lenker

Top Five Holiday Heroines

This holiday season, I’d like to draw your attention to some truly fabulous on-screen heroines. These are women who eschew an apron and gingerbread house in favor of a glamorous party dress and strong cocktail.  If I could, I would toast them all with this festive drink I whipped up with my favorite spirit Goodnight Loving Vodka (because every great heroine should have a favorite vodka), and I would tell them, “Thank You.” Thank you for being an inspiration to me and all the other women who view the holidays as a time to look fabulous, to have that second or third cocktail, and to never apologize for one’s domestic shortcomings. This year, even if you’re staying home, I encourage you to put on a nice outfit, mix the following drink, and watch one of the five films listed below. Leave the baking to somebody else. Cheers!

Hollywood Holiday Martini

2 oz Goodnight Loving Vodka

¾ oz Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur

1 oz Pomegranate Juice

½ oz Cranberry Juice

½ oz Lime Juice

Dried pomegranate or lime for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a dried pomegranate or lime.

1) Carol Aird, Carol

Image credit: Carol, 2015

I’ve often said that nobody drinks a martini like Cate Blanchett, and this film is no exception. With Carol’s effortless style and seductive gaze, that cute shopgirl never stood a chance.

2) Gillian Holroyd, Bell, Book and Candle

Image credit: Bell, Book and Candle, 1958

Is she a witch? Or just a cat-loving Greenwich Village gallery owner with a penchant for spells and backless cocktail dresses? Come for the dark/quirky love story, stay for Gillian’s mid-century modern apartment. THAT COUCH.

3) Elizabeth Lane, Christmas in Connecticut

Image credit: Christmas in Connecticut, 1945

Throw a city-dwelling, child-free writer into a country home with rotating babies, a dreamy war hero, a clueless “fiancé”, and a meddling Hungarian chef, and see if she can learn to make pancakes. From one Liz to another, “Pass the vodka, please.”

4) Fran Kubelik, The Apartment

Image Credit: The Apartment, 1960

The epitome of Complicated Female, Miss Kubelik hides her inner demons behind a smile and crisp white gloves. But when confronted with a charming Jack Lemmon at the office Christmas party, she must decide who she wants in her life come New Year’s Eve—the womanizer at the downtown tiki bar, or the sweet man and his tennis racket full of spaghetti.

5) Mame Dennis, Auntie Mame

Image credit: Auntie Mame, 1958

The only thing that changes more frequently than the décor of Mame’s apartment is the liquor in her glass. Even during the Great Depression, Mame never sacrifices when it comes to her personal style. No money for a fancy hat? Grab some Christmas decorations, put ‘em on your head, and walk with confidence!

2020 Holiday Gift Guide

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Look, we all know 2020 is the year from Hell. If you put your Christmas tree up in September, you’ll get no judgement from me. We need the holidays right now. And more important, we need to show the people we love what they mean to us by sending thoughtful gifts or a kind note. This year, I’m doing my best to shop small, but if you absolutely must order from one of the bigger retailers like Amazon*, here are some great gift ideas. They all brought a smile to my face in a year when I didn’t think that was possible. Cheers!

  1. Fancy Sprinkles Prism Powder

If you feel like your beverages need an extra bit of sparkle to combat the dull sameness of life in lockdown, give this edible glitter a try. I started mixing a tiny spoonful into my cocktails a few months ago and never looked back. Glitter is here to stay.

2) Telescoping Straw

This portable metal straw is particularly useful now that so many establishments are offering cocktails to-go, but even post-pandemic, you’ll find yourself reaching for it when some bartender hands you a frozen beverage with a compostable paper straw. Just… no, dude.

3) Alright, Alright, Alright: The Oral History of Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused by Melissa Maerz

As soon as I heard about this book, I knew it would be going on my wish list. I’m dying to know who hooked up with who, and was that really paint they dumped on Ben Affleck??? BURNING QUESTIONS.

4) Soludos Smoking Slippers

These espadrilles are comfortable, stylish around the house, and best of all, they come embroidered with a variety of cocktails. I have the tequila and rosé versions, but I think I need to add another pair!

5) Tiki: Modern Tropical Cocktails by Shannon Mustipher

After a year of no travel, give yourself or someone you love the gift of exotic cocktails. January seems like a fine time to mix up a spicy rum beverage in a pineapple husk while watching Castaway, don’t you think?

*Cinema Sips is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Top Five Films of 2019

With only a few hours left on the 2019 clock, I’m finally tackling the difficult job of making my annual best-of list. If you were a politically-disheartened person with a deep love of 1960s period pieces, you probably spent a lot of time at the multiplex in the last twelve months.  I know I did. As usual, when I make my selections, I pick the films I want to watch over and over, set in worlds I wish I could step into. Here they are, my Top Five Films of 2019 in ranking order:

1. Long Shot

Long Shot

Part political satire, part romantic comedy, Long Shot demands repeat viewing. The second the credits roll, I yearn to press play again. I want to watch a movie where a strong, fierce woman leads our country, champions the environment, and stands up to corrupt narcissistic men. I want to root for a heroine who’s vulnerable enough to let a kind, funny, unexpected hero crack through that tough exterior. I want to believe in a world where anything still seems possible. I want to believe we’re going to be okay.

 

2. Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

This film combines three of my biggest pop-culture obsessions: 1960s Los Angeles, the Manson Murders, and a shirtless Brad Pitt. This is a love letter to a world that maybe never existed, or if it did, only existed in a drunken fantasy. California Dreamin’, indeed.

 

3. Parasite

Parasite

This film about class conflict nearly gave me a heart attack almost a dozen different times. I can tell you nothing else about it, other than you need to watch it. With a peach cocktail and a defibrillator.

 

4. Knives Out

Knives Out

I’m including Knives Out mostly for the stellar production design. If only I could live in this mansion full of dollhouses, books, weird ephemera, and secret passages. Yes, the whodunnit script is marvelous, and the cast is incredible, but let’s be clear- I’m here for the house.

 

5. Ford v Ferrari

Ford V Ferrari

Hot cars, hot men, and an impressive array of 1960s sunglasses. I’m sold.

 

*Honorable mention goes to the following films, all of which I also loved:

Jojo Rabbit / Dolemite is my Name / Echo in the Canyon / Joker /  Yesterday /  A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood / Marriage Story / Uncut Gems

2019 Holiday Gift Guide

Still searching for the perfect gift for a movie/cocktail-lover? Or maybe you just want to treat yourself? Check out my picks below, and get shopping.*  Cheers!

1) Diamond Drinking Glasses

Perfect for the next time you watch Uncut Gems, your favorite jewel heist movie, or Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.  Marilyn said it best: “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.”

2) Traveling Cocktail Case

This goes with me on every road trip because nothing beats a well-crafted cocktail after a long day in the car. I also break it out any time I watch Two For the Road!

3. Waiting for Tom Hanks

This delightful book by Kerry Winfrey is the perfect gift for fans of romantic comedies. If you can quote every line from You’ve Got Mail and have a thing for houseboats, you will love this novel too!

4. Echo in the Canyon Soundtrack

Echo in the Canyon was my top documentary of the year, and the soundtrack does not disappoint! Songs of the 1960s Laurel Canyon music scene sung by an amazing roster of current artists- you need this for your next party.

5. Moviejawn Subscription

MovieJawn

If you wish you had more Cinema Sips content in your life, then consider subscribing to this quarterly zine! In it, you’ll find bonus movie/cocktail pairings, wonderful articles on your favorite films from talented critics, and lots of fun goodies. It’s a very happy day when this arrives in the mailbox!

*Cinema Sips is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

Top Five ’90s Throwbacks in ‘Swingers’

1.  Answering Machines

Swingers answering machine

Hands up if you ever felt that wave of disappointment when the blinking light yielded just one “Hi, it’s Grandma” message.

2.  Wallet Chains

Just… why??

3.  Swing Music

big bad voodoo daddy

Admit it, you had a Big Bad Voodoo Daddy CD in your collection.  But just one.

4.  Grainy Video Games

hockey

How did we even see what was happening??  A Sixth-Sega Sense?

5.  The Club

 

Honestly, this thing did a pretty good job of protecting our crappy Toyota Corolla on the mean streets of Washington DC.  However it did nothing to prevent my Bill Withers CD from being stolen.

Top Five Films of 2018

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Here’s the thing:  I’m in love with love.  Lucky for me, 2018 was a banner year for romance at the multiplex.  From rom-coms to dramas to YA adaptations, this was the first year in a long time where it felt like movies were being made for a 35-year old woman raised on John Hughes and Meg Ryan, and not teenage boys raised on video games and comic books.  Sure, those movies were there, but for once it felt like women had been given a seat at the table.  Most of my favorite movies will probably not make it onto any other critic’s best-of list.  And that’s okay with me.  But if you’re really into romance, great storytelling, and cool set design, you’ll be happy with these picks.  Let’s raise a glass to my Top Five Films of 2018!

1.  A Star is Born

A Star is Born

Image credit: A Star is Born, 2018.

Never in a million years did I think this movie needed to be remade.  Judy and James did it perfectly, Barbra and Kris stunk the place up, and….I’ll admit to never seeing the very first one.  But Bradley and Gaga-  WOW.  So much romance, so much great music, so much tragedy- even the large man behind me in the audience let out a heaving sob.  My favorite movie this year (perhaps in several years).

2.  Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Image credit: Can You Ever Forgive Me?, 2018

This picture says it all.  Literary forgeries, Melissa McCarthy in her bravest role to date, and a sad, touching friendship with the most charismatic man in New York City.  Perfection from the very first word.

3.  Crazy Rich Asians

Crazy Rich Asians

Image credit: Crazy Rich Asians, 2018.

Kevin Kwan’s book trilogy was one of my favorite literary joys of the past decade, so let’s just say my expectations for this film were high.  I’m happy to report that I loved every second of this frothy cocktail of a film, and can’t wait for the sequel.  More Kitty Pong!!

4.  Bad Times at the El Royale

Bad Times at the El Royale

Image credit: Bad Times at the El Royale, 2018.

Not much romance here, but the mid-century sets more than made up for it.  I want to check into the El Royale and stay awhile.  Particularly if shirtless Chris Hemsworth is there trying to sign me up for his cult. I’m in!

5.  To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

to all the boys i've loved before

Image Credit: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, 2018.

This YA adaptation gave me all the feels, proving to Netflix that the market for romance is alive and well.  Plus, Noah Centineo pretty much made my year when he saved that bowl of popcorn.  Swoon!

 

Top Five Films of 2017

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Was it just me, or were movies REALLY good this year?  Maybe filmmakers are finally realizing that people want to watch unconventional love stories, fabulous 1950’s clothes, and exotic locations.  Maybe writers are realizing that everybody’s mad, and it’s time to say something about it.  Whatever happened in Hollywood to make such an incredible year of pictures, I say keep it up.  As hard as it was to narrow down my list of favorites, I’m finally able to settle on my Top Five Films of 2017.  Cheers!

  1.  Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

Image credit: Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, 2017.

Take all the rage I feel about social injustice/violence against women/police misconduct, bottle it up, and give it to Frances McDormand to turn into a Molotov cocktail of a film. This is the movie I desperately needed this year.

2.  Call Me By Your Name

Call me by your name

Image credit: Call Me By Your Name, 2017.

Is there anything more beautiful than summer in Italy? Maybe this love story.

3.  Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread

Image credit: Phantom Thread, 2017.

1950’s couture gowns, Daniel Day Lewis, and the sexiest breakfast order ever.

4.  The Shape of Water

Shape of Water

Image credit: The Shape of Water, 2017.

I didn’t expect to fall for a slimy underwater creature, but damn it Guillermo Del Toro- you got me. More Douglas Sirk-inspired romances and six-pack abs please!!!

5.  The Florida Project

The Florida Project

Image credit: The Florida Project, 2017.

This film still haunts me, months later. If you’re not angry about the state of poverty and child welfare in America, you obviously haven’t seen tiny masterpiece yet.

*Honorable Mentions: Dunkirk (sound editing like WHOA), Good Time (um, hello Robert Pattinson, can you please be in all the movies now?), and Baby Driver (that soundtrack!!).

Top Five Holiday Gifts for Movie/Cocktail Aficionados- 2017 edition

Maybe you have a friend who likes movies and cocktails.  Maybe you have no friends and want to drink alone while mainlining Scorsese films.  Either way, Cinema Sips has your back with this handy gift guide.  Cheers!

1. I Lost It at the Video Store: A Filmmakers’ Oral History of a Vanished Era by Tom Roston (forward by Richard Linklater)

Top filmmakers reminisce about the halcyon days of video rental.  Essential reading for anybody who remembers the phrase “Be Kind, Rewind”.

2.  Set of Coupe Glasses

You’ll be styling like Myrna Loy with these vintage-inspired glasses!

3.  Road Soda: Recipes and Techniques for Making Great Cocktails, Anywhere by Kara Newman

If you love to travel like I do, you know that trips can only be improved with the right cocktail. Whether you’re glamping in the desert or just can’t take another mediocre glass of chardonnay at the hotel bar, this book has you covered.

4.  Outdoor Movie Projector

Ever dream of watching Moonrise Kingdom under the stars? Or maybe Cinema Paradiso in a rainstorm? You need this projector (and a date).

5. Ice Ball Mold

Exactly what your old-fashioned has been missing. Cubes are so 2016.

High Fidelity

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High Fidelity

Image credit: High Fidelity, 2000

True story- the one and only time I’ve ever been carded and turned away from a movie was High Fidelity (DVD/Download) in April 2000. I was 16 years old, a recent transplant to Central Pennsylvania, and stunned to find myself smack dab in the Bible Belt. For months afterward, I waited impatiently to see what erotic, taboo tales awaited me in the R-rated and undoubtedly-risque High Fidelity.  Imagine my surprise and outrage that not only was there nothing “R” about it, but also that I was unnecessarily delayed from seeing what would become one of my all-time favorite films.

My Top 5 lists on Cinema Sips are a direct homage to this comedic gem, so in lieu of a proper plot description I think it’s more appropriate to list off my Top 5 High Fidelity Scenes:

  1. When John Cusack plays the new Beta Band LP in his niche Chicago record shop, causing all the customers fall under its spell. Perfect music moment.
  1. Lisa Bonet sings “Baby I Love Your Way” by Peter Frampton. I too, always hated that song. And now I too, kinda like it.
  1. Jack Black berating a customer for wanting to buy a copy of Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You”. In answer to his subquestion, it is definitely better to burn out than to fade away.
  1. The making of a Top 5 List of songs about death. This is absolutely a conversation I want to be a part of.
  1. Barry Jive and the Uptown Five singing “Let’s Get it On”. And just like that, Jack Black the Movie Star was born.

Although the Nick Hornby novel this film was based on is set in London, I love the decision to set the movie adaptation in Chicago. The city itself becomes like another character in the film, so to that end we should definitely celebrate this midwestern metropolis with its namesake drink. While watching High Fidelity, I recommend drinking a classic Chicago Cocktail.

Chicago Cocktail

2 oz Brandy

Dash of Triple Sec

Dash of Bitters

1 oz Champagne

Stir Brandy, Triple Sec, and Bitters together in a shaker filled with ice. Strain into a chilled coupe, and top with champagne.

If you happen to find yourself celebrating Record Store Day later this month, don’t be too put off by the employees at your local vinyl shop. They actually do know a lot about music, so let them make suggestions. They may not be able to give relationship advice, but if you’re looking to find a band that picks up where Echo and the Bunnymen left off, they’ve got your back. Cheers!