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Crimson Peak

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Crimson Peak

Image credit: Crimson Peak, 2015.

I’ll admit, I definitely watched Crimson Peak (DVD/Download) expecting a spooky Jane Eyre. While it wasn’t that, I’m still not exactly sure what it hoped to be. Gothic romance? Grisly horror? A cinematic ode to velvet? While this film is certainly beautiful, in the end I was left with the old Gertrude Stein quote rattling around in my brain- there is no there, there.

While I normally eschew horror, I gave this a shot because the visuals promised to be absolutely incredible. And, they are. From a turn-of-the-century American industrialist’s mansion, to a rotting estate in the barren English countryside, Crimson Peak is all about the production design. For me, it was love-at-first-clawfoot tub sighting.  But then there’s all the velvet. SO. MUCH. VELVET. Pants, capes, dresses, and hats in the most beautiful jewel tones. These characters stand out against their decrepit surroundings, not because they’re saying anything interesting (they’re not), but because someone has taken the time to drape and tailor their clothes to perfection. I wish there were more substance to this story of a girl falling victim to a marriage-murder plot, but there’s just not. Will I keep watching for glimpses of her puffed sleeves? Of course. Do I wish I’d just turned the sound off halfway through? Kinda, yeah.

One sinister note Crimson Peak employs is the use of the color red. From a spray of blood to a river of blood, this color saturates everything.  Time to drink a color-coordinated cocktail that references all the poisoned tea being served at Allerdale Hall.  While watching Crimson Peak, I recommend drinking a Bloody Mar-tea-ni.

Bloody Mar-tea-ni

1.5 oz Sweet Tea vodka

1.5 oz Pomegranate juice

1.5 oz Blood Orange juice

½ oz Luxardo Maraschino syrup

To prepare glass, drizzle Luxardo maraschino syrup around the inside. Set aside. Combine vodka, pomegranate juice, and blood orange juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into prepared glass.

Bloody Mar-Tea-Ni

For fans of scary movies, you could do worse than Crimson Peak. There are some genuinely frightening moments when angry ghosts try to get their revenge, and a lot of suspense around the fate of the family papillon (at least for a dog-lover like me). But luckily, the acting and dialogue is so campy that I never really felt that nightmare-inducing grip of fear. Next to the dog, the only other thing I truly cared about in that house was the velvet. Please- no blood splatter on the velvet!!!!! Cheers!

Tim’s Vermeer

timsvermeer

Image credit: Tim’s Vermeer, 2013

Documentary Month continues with a film that forever changed the way I view art history and painting. Produced by magicians Penn & Teller, Tim’s Vermeer (DVD/Download) sets out to prove that Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer could have used a system of mirrors in order to paint photo-realistic masterworks. Simply put, it’s a 90-minute explanation of a magic trick. But even more than that, it’s a fascinating look at how technology and art can work together to create something beautiful.

When the film begins, my immediate impression of Tim is that he’s the insufferable party guest who wants to make sure everyone knows he’s the smartest one in the room. And when this non-artist starts the quest to reproduce Vermeer’s The Music Lesson using a camera obscura technique, he doubles down by trying to make the actual things in the painting before he paints it.  That’s great, but you know Vermeer wasn’t off in a corner grinding glass and sanding down chair legs. Tim seems a little showy. But then, once he gets into the painting, all the nonsense falls away. It’s just him, and the tiny details in the window fretwork, or the way the light is hitting a ceramic jug, and that’s when the real magic happens. He starts to see things the way an artist would, and this idea of ability becomes totally irrelevant.  It’s the vision that matters.

By the time Tim is finished painting every little knot in a woven rug, he’s pretty much had it with this painting. I couldn’t help but think that maybe he needed a cocktail to calm his jangled nerves. Let’s celebrate Dutch ingenuity with this simple Genever cocktail. If you’re like Tim, you’ll make your own Genever. I am not like Tim; the liquor store is my friend. While watching Tim’s Vermeer, I recommend drinking a Dutch Mule.

Dutch Mule

1.5 oz Genever

Ginger Beer

3-4 dashes Angostura Bitters

Slice of Lime

Build drink in a glass over ice, stirring gently to combine. Top with a few dashes of bitters, and garnish with a slice of lime.

Dutch mule

Sure, Vermeer was incredibly talented, and his compositions and colors were astounding. If he used a camera obscura, it doesn’t make me think less of him as a painter. If anything, I applaud him for using every tool at his disposal to create a magnificent work of art.  Think about that the next time you use an Instagram filter- aren’t we all just trying to communicate an idea in the truest or most interesting way possible?  I admit, my photo of a happy hour cocktail is no Girl With the Pearl Earring, but still-  that Juno filter makes it look pretty amazing.  Cheers!

Gremlins

gremlins

Image credit: Gremlins, 1984

Full confession: I was a child of the 80’s, there was a stuffed Mogwai in my house, yet I’d never actually seen Gremlins (DVD/Download). Or if I did see it, I kept my eyes closed through the scary parts. I don’t know what I was picturing before my recent viewing, but WOW- this was not it.

I expected goo, claws, teeth, and big ears. What I didn’t anticipate was the sheer level of camp within this bizarre neo-Pleasantville, where Phoebe Cates plays the youngest bank teller in history, and her cute co-worker looks like he should be studying for his SAT’s next year. His worthless but well-meaning dad gives him a Mogwai for Christmas, because that’s what every kid wants- a strange creature picked up in a Chinatown basement. And dang if “Gizmo” isn’t the cutest thing ever. Those big eyes! The weird singing! The fact that he’s smart enough to turn down a snack after midnight! I’m not even smart enough to turn down a snack after midnight. Of course Corey Feldman has to screw it all up and accidentally dump water on him, causing Gizmo to birth a quintet of demon gremlins, who break all the rules and terrorize the town. The film takes a turn into horror-ville after the gremlins start multiplying, but with the terrible special effects, it’s more funny than scary.

Gremlins is so weird that it deserves a cocktail that’s as unexpected as creepy creatures popping out of a douglas fir. Gizmo and I share a fear of illumination (me due to retinal problems, him because he’s got a lot of strange rules), so while watching Gremlins, treat yourself to a shiny Bright Light.

Bright Light

1.5 oz Pear Vodka

.5 oz Lemon Juice

Sparkling wine

Rosemary Sprig

Shake vodka and lemon juice over ice to chill.  Strain into a flute, and top with sparkling wine.  Garnish with a rosemary sprig.

Bright Light.jpeg

This movie spawned countless sequels, and I have to attribute its enduring popularity to the fact that somebody finally made a holiday movie that wasn’t all carol singers and egg nog. It depicts crazy, scary things happening in a small town because yes, even at Christmas, bad things can happen. At least there’s alcohol to get us through. Cheers!

Go

Go

Image credit: Go, 1999

Looking back, I think my love of dystopian Christmas films originated with this week’s pick Go (DVD/Download). For a sullen girl in the 90’s, this film about drug dealers, burnouts, and Timothy Olymphant’s upper body was everything I could ever want. Watching it now, as a semi-jaded adult who still questions the “magic” of the holidays among traffic jams, retail spam, and airline price gouging, it still resonates.

Told in a series of vignettes centered around a drug deal gone bad, we see the Christmas holiday from multiple points of view. There’s the entrepreneurial, desperate Ronna (played wonderfully by Sarah Polley), who’s just trying to keep a roof over her head by selling counterfeit Ecstasy to unsuspecting teens at a rave (so 90’s). Then there’s hot drug dealer Todd, played by a very young Timothy Olymphant, who gets screwed over by Ronna, but still wants to seduce her friend Claire (played by fresh-off-the-Creek Katie Holmes). Todd loans his credit card to Simon, who works with Ronna and Claire, for use on a wild Vegas getaway where he ends up stealing a car with Taye Diggs and shooting up a strip club. Then there’s Scott Wolf and Jay Mohr, a couple of TV actors participating in a failed drug bust who later run Ronna over with their Miata. As the plots all intersect and the characters find themselves converging at a warehouse rave on the outskirts of LA, we almost forget that it’s Christmas. Most of these people had given up on the idea of a jolly holiday years ago.

Although there isn’t much alcohol in this movie (save for some strip-club champagne), there are drugs.  Specifically Ecstasy.  And what goes with Ecstasy better than orange juice? (Not that I would know from experience or anything. I definitely don’t….). While watching Go, dive right into the Christmas underbelly with a Xerxes X-mas cocktail.

Xerxes  X-mas

1 ¼ oz Orange Juice

1 oz Vodka

¾ oz Grand Marnier

¼ oz Lime Juice

4 oz Champagne

Pour orange juice, vodka, Grand Marnier and lime juice over ice in a cocktail shaker. Stir to combine and chill, then strain into a chilled coupe glass. Top with champagne, and orange twist.

Superdrink

It’s really easy to be cynical around the holidays because, well, not much is actually different. The money woes you had in November are still there in December, you’re continuing to clock in at a job that may or may not be of the dead-end variety, and all the mistletoe in the world doesn’t necessarily equate to true love. But for one crazy night, sometimes it’s OK to just Go. Whatever that word may mean to you, wherever it may lead, just GO. Cheers!

Auntie Mame

auntie mame

Image credit: Auntie Mame, 1958

For those ladies out there lucky enough to be an aunt, have I got a movie for you. In this 1958 Technicolor dream starring Rosalind Russell, Auntie Mame (DVD/Download) is a shining example of how fabulous life can be when you’ve got cocktails, a man servant named Ito, and an impressionable young relative looking to you for example. Do I strive to be the Auntie Mame in my own nieces’ lives? Showing them that “life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death”? You betcha.

I immediately knew I would love this movie as soon as I saw Rosalind Russell float across an art deco set in a sequined pantsuit, cigarette holder in hand. Her apartment is everything I’ve ever wanted in life, and what makes it even better are all the eccentric artists and intellectuals coming over to visit.  When Mame is forced to take in her orphaned nephew Patrick, you’d think that would put the kibosh on her wacky, wonderful lifestyle, but instead she manages to bring him along for the ride. In no time at all, he’s mixing a perfect martini and posits the question only the best bartenders know to ask- dry or extra dry?

When it comes to cocktail pairings, there is literally SO MUCH ALCOHOL in this movie. Faced with the impossible task of picking just one thing to drink, I decided to take a page from Mame’s book and step right up to the banquet. Therefore, if you’re watching Auntie Mame, you could drink Champagne, you could drink Spiced Rum and Dr. Pepper like poor Agnes Gooch, or one of Mame’s Martini‘s (recipe below). But for heavens sake, stay away from the honey-sweetened Upson Downs Daiquiri.

Mame’s Martini

3 oz Gin

1 oz Vodka

Dash Cocchi Americano

Lemon twist

Stir gin, vodka and Cocchi Americano over ice until chilled, then strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist. (note: never use olives- it takes up too much room in the glass!)

Martini

As I cruise through the age of “so when are you going to have kids?”, I’m happy to throw up my Aunt status as proof that while I don’t want kids of my own, I don’t hate kids. My nieces are great! They’re fun, they play Barbies, they like purses, and at the end of the night their parents do all the heavy lifting. And when they get a little older, I’ll be waiting right there to show them how to navigate a bar cart and wear costume jewelry with confidence. Cheers!

Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights

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Dirty Dancing Havana Nights

Image credit: Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights, 2004

I’m not going to pretend that this sequel holds a candle to the original Dirty Dancing. I don’t care what re-makes or sequels come down the pipeline, there will never be another Patrick Swayze. However- if you’re looking for a fun film with fabulous vintage clothes, gorgeous Cuban aesthetic, and the ever-adorable Diego Luna, Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights (DVD/Download) has you covered. Plus- bonus Swayze cameo!

In the same spirit of the original, Havana Nights follows a “good girl” who falls in love with a boy from the wrong side of the tracks. Katey can’t stand the entitled American jerks of her own social set, so when a cute Cuban waiter rescues her from the mean streets of Havana, she jumps at the chance to befriend him and spice up her ballroom dancing with some Latin moves. Even Patrick Swayze pops up as the hotel’s dance instructor, in a strange Johnny Castle time-warp. But even 17 years later, he’s still got the moves.

I’ve already featured the recipe for a classic mojito with the much-more-authentic revolution film I Am Cuba, as well as a watermelon sandia with the original Dirty Dancing. So why not combine the two? While watching Dirty Dancing Havana Nights, I recommend drinking a Watermelon Mojito.

Watermelon Mojito

2-3 Fresh watermelon cubes

2 oz white rum

Fresh mint leaves

2 tsp sugar

1 oz lime juice

Club Soda

Muddle watermelon, sugar, lime juice, and mint in the bottom of a glass. Add rum, then top with club soda. Stir gently to combine.

Watermelon Mojito

I’ll admit, this movie is mainly just a great excuse to ogle Diego Luna and drink mojitos. And damn if that Wyclef Jean song isn’t just as catchy as “Time of My Life”. Now that Americans can finally visit Cuba again, it might be time to dust off my Spanish and figure out the visa situation. But only if I can dance like a gringa and yell “Cooba!”  Cheers!

Office Space

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office-space

Image credit: Office Space, 1999

After living it up in New Orleans last week it was tough to come back to work. My office just doesn’t have that same excitement of the French Quarter, and there’s no hurricane mix in the breakroom (I think). To ease myself back into office life, this week I’ll be watching the Mike Judge comedy Office Space (DVD/Download).

This cult classic was the film that inspired all the work-place comedies we’ve become so familiar with. Before Lumbergh and his TPS reports came along, there really wasn’t another movie that so effectively mocked the daily drudgery of white-collar worker bees. The fictional Initech could be any number of companies in bland office parks around the country, buttressed by crappy chain restaurants with names like Flinger’s and Chotchkie’s. We’ve all driven past them (hell, perhaps you might work in one) and this movie gets so much right about the culture. The annoying receptionist, the sad birthday cake celebrations in the breakroom, the disappearing staplers- I could go on and on. So when lead character Peter Gibbons takes a symbolic (and literal) hammer to all that is wrong with this world, we can’t help but cheer him on.

As I’m sure anybody who’s ever worked in an office can tell you, most of the day is spent dreaming of tropical vacations you may or may not ever take.  If it’s been a rough eight hours, and you just need a tasty escape, while watching Office Space I recommend drinking a T.P.S (Tequila Pineapple Sunrise).

T.P.S.

1.5 oz tequila

.5 oz Cointreau

2 oz Orange Juice

2 oz Pineapple Juice

.5 oz Grenadine

Pour the tequila, Cointreau, orange and pineapple juices into a glass over ice. Add the grenadine, which will sink to the bottom, creating a sunrise effect (and NO salt on the rim).

tequila-pineapple-sunrise

In Office Space, the question is asked, “what would you do if you had a million dollars?” Sadly, a million dollars doesn’t get you that far these days, but it could at least buy you some freedom. For me, the answer to that question is write, read, and watch movies. For now I have to settle for doing these things after 5:00pm and on weekends, but maybe someday I’ll be able to enjoy them whenever I want. Perhaps on a tropical island, with a cocktail in my hand.  And I’m keeping my stapler. Cheers!