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To Catch a Thief

To Catch a Thief

Image credit: To Catch a Thief, 1955

I’ve taken a lot of cinema travels this summer, so it’s fitting that I end the season with one last trip to the French Riviera. Alfred Hitchcock’s classic To Catch a Thief (Disc/Download) will make you feel like you’re sipping champagne at the Carlton Hotel in Cannes, before meeting your lover for a sexy rendezvous. This week, say bonjour to style, suspense, and sun-drenched 1950s beaches.

This is one of those movies I could watch with the sound off and still feel like I got my money’s worth. To see Grace Kelly slink across the screen in her gorgeous Edith Head costumes is such a treat, but then Hitch had to go and add the Mediterranean Sea. And champagne. And Cary Grant in a lovely French farmhouse. Is he TRYING to make me swoon? If you like the Ocean’s Eleven trilogy, you’ll really enjoy this plot involving a retired cat burglar trying to clear his name after a string of “copycat” jewel thefts. Cary latches on to Grace Kelly’s jet set heiress, using her to draw the real thief out. But somewhere between sunbathing, picnicking, and enjoying the fireworks from a luxury hotel room, she falls for him. Can Cary catch the thief? Can Grace catch Cary? Can the world stop catching coronavirus so I can go to the French Riviera for real???

As previously mentioned, this is a champagne-heavy movie. For my cocktail pairing this week, I’m adapting the classic French Riviera cocktail into something a little more bubbly, and a little more American, in a nod to Grace Kelly’s roots. While watching To Catch a Thief, I recommend drinking this Copycat cocktail.

Copycat

1 ½ oz Bourbon

½ oz Rum

1 tsp Apricot Jam

½ oz Lemon Juice

1 oz Honey Syrup (2 to 1 ratio, honey to water, boiled then cooled)

3 oz Champagne

Combine Bourbon, rum, apricot jam, lemon juice, and honey syrup in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass filled with fresh ice. Top with champagne, and stir gently.

Copycat

This spritz cocktail is perfect for lounging near the beach or pool in your couture, as I know we’re all doing during quarantine. Maybe just me? No matter your plans this Labor Day, I hope you get to take a day off, and I hope that day off involves a fabulous movie or two. Cheers!

Broadcast News

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Broadcast News

Image credit: Broadcast News, 1987.

I just finished the stellar new season of one of my favorite podcasts, You Must Remember This, which takes listeners on a journey through the career of one of the great unsung heroes of Hollywood, Production Designer/Screenwriter/Producer Polly Platt. I knew of Polly before Karina Longworth’s deep dive, having seen her name in the credits of so many of my favorite films, but the show has opened me up to even more great flicks, like this week’s Cinema Sips pick, Broadcast News (Disc/Download).

I’ve seen Broadcast News classified as a rom-com before, but I have to say, I disagree with that label. Yes, there’s a love triangle set within the world of television news, and there’s certainly comedy (thanks in large part to scene stealer Albert Brooks), but I wouldn’t say the film leaves me with a happy, buoyant feeling. Perhaps that’s because so much of the script is a warning of what’s to come in the world of journalism; a doomsday prediction that has actually come true. It warns of a distrust of information, brought about by flashy salesmen instead of real, credible journalists. The news as entertainment instead of vital public service. Albert Brooks’ character Aaron has the smarts and dedication for the job of newscaster, but lacks the right packaging. And then there’s William Hurt’s Tom, who has the looks but not the brains, or any shred of journalistic ethics. Naturally, he’s given prime screen time. Placed in the middle is Holly Hunter’s Jane, a thinly-veiled Polly Platt stand-in, the producer who’s smarter than all the men in her life, but will never get the recognition or personal happiness she deserves. To be a woman in this industry is to make sacrifices, and nobody knew that better than Polly. If you’ve ever allowed yourself the five-minute cry (*raises hand*) you get it. So much of this film is funny and relatable, but sadly it’s all things you wish you didn‘t relate to.

My favorite scene in Broadcast News is one where Albert Brooks is home alone on his day off, drinking and haunting the sofa in a ragged pair of sweats. He’s slightly inebriated, yelling at the news, wondering when the hell everyone got so stupid. Been there, buddy. Let’s join Aaron in his ennui with this Journalist cocktail!

Journalist

2 oz Gin

¼ oz Cointreau

½ oz Dry Vermouth

½ oz Sweet Vermouth

¼ oz Lemon Juice

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Luxardo Cherry and citrus wheel for garnish

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a chilled coupe glass. Drop in a Luxardo Maraschino cherry and garnish with a dried citrus wheel.

Journalist

If you’re looking for answers as to how we got where we’re at right now in America, look no further than Broadcast News. The question now is, where do we go from here? Can journalism be saved? It’s a question the film fails to answer definitively, and maybe it’s because the answer is up to us. It’s up to all of us to demand that substance win out over style. Cheers!

Summertime

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Summertime

Image credit: Summertime, 1955

It’s official- the summer doldrums are here. Every July, I become a thoroughly unpleasant person to be around as I slog through a Groundhog Day existence of air conditioning and double showers. But this year, I made the wise choice to take a short jaunt to Venice with Katharine Hepburn in the lush 1950s drama Summertime (Disc/Download). And cookie, I’m glad I did.

When this film begins, Hepburn’s character Jane is excited about her trip to Venice. She’s saved up for it, made all the arrangements, and idealized the Italian city in her mind. She knows it’s a place for romance, but she doesn’t even dare hope for that. She’s been single a long time, and well…it’s enough just to see the beautiful canals. That’s what she tells herself, anyway. But then she actually arrives and discovers that Venice is THE WORST place to go if you’re single. I should know—I went there alone in 2002 and it was the loneliest trip of my life. Thankfully, she meets a charming antiques dealer, who may or may not be trustworthy, but still manages to pull her out of her shell and turn this trip from depressing to romantic. It’s here that Hepburn makes you feel what it is to fall for someone. To hope, but not let yourself hope too much, then to take that first tentative step before rushing in with open arms and saying “I love you” on the first date. She may get her heart broken, but oh, that first, initial joy is worth it. To truly live, is worth it.

Aside from my admiration for this character’s wardrobe (an enviable mix of shirt dresses and plucky hair bows), I also love that Jane travels with her own bourbon. You just can’t count on a foreign country to have all the comforts of home. Lucky for Jane, her pensione has all the ingredients on hand to turn that bourbon into a classic Boulevardier.

Boulevardier

1.5 oz Bourbon

1 oz Campari

1 oz Cinzano Sweet Red Vermouth

Orange Twist and Cherry garnish

Combine first three ingredients in a shaker with ice. Stir until chilled and combined, then strain into a glass filled with a large ice cube. Garnish with a twist of orange and Luxardo cherry.

Boulevardier

Cousin to the more popular Negroni, I actually prefer a Boulevardier if I’m going to commit to a heavier, alcohol-forward cocktail. And really, that’s what this movie needs. Something a little bitter, a little sweet, and very strong, just like Jane’s heart. Cheers!

The Departed

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The Departed

Image credit: The Departed, 2006

Sometimes, a movie comes along that seems outside your typical genre comfort zone, but is so good you can’t help but love it. I’ve never been big on gangster pictures or cop dramas, however Martin Scorsese’s The Departed (Disc/Download) is in a class of its own. This film is the twisty-turny, double-crossing magnum opus that would finally win our beloved auteur an Oscar; it’s also just the kind of immersive thriller I need right now.

Loosely based on real-life Boston crime boss Whitey Bulger, The Departed stars Jack Nicholson as the depraved head honcho, Matt Damon as the mobster infiltrating the police force, and Leonardo DiCaprio as the police officer infiltrating the mob. The story is complex, yet told in a way that there’s never a question of who’s betraying whom. We know Damon’s character is a sleaze, just as we know Leo’s doing bad things for the right reasons. Nicholson pulls off one of the best performances of his career, giving us a smart, egotistical villain who erases all fond memories of Melvin Udall in my mind. And then there’s Mark Wahlburg, who disappears halfway through the film, only to re-emerge in a final shocking twist. It’s a cornucopia of New England accents and Celtic punk music that puts me right into the world of underground Boston crime, with nary a friendly Dunkin’ Donuts in sight.

Undercover cop Leo has to constantly prove his loyalty to the criminal world, never letting any of his associates sense his fear and anxiety. Someone makes fun of him for drinking cranberry juice? Beat the guy’s ass and move on. While watching The Departed, I recommend drinking this Cranberry-Beet Down.

Cranberry Beet-Down

2 oz Frankly® Pomegranate vodka

¾ oz Cointreau

¼ oz Beet Juice

¼ oz Cranberry Juice

½ oz Lime Juice

Fresh Cranberries

Blood orange slice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker over ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with cranberries and blood orange slice.

Cranberry Beet Down

When you think about the kind of career Martin Scorsese has had, and continues to have, it’s remarkable that his pictures only get richer and deeper as the years go on. The Irishman wasn’t my favorite, but I admire that he continues to challenge himself and his storytelling capabilities. If the last two decades brought us The Departed and Hugo, I can’t wait to see what he does in the Roaring ‘20s. Cheers!

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.

Somewhere

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somewhere

Image credit: Somewhere, 2010

Some people despise stories of privileged angst, but me?  I love them.  As Cherry put it in The Outsiders, “Things are rough all over.”  Watching a character like Johnny Marco in Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere (Disc/Download) makes me feel just a little bit better about my own world.  Unhappiness is the great equalizer—it doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, famous or invisible.  Personally, I’d rather watch unhappiness take root in a luxury hotel full of swimming pools and celebrities.  To each their own.

This quiet, contemplative film about a movie star reconnecting with his daughter was Coppola’s third feature, and the comparisons to Lost in Translation are inevitable.  Shot on location at The Chateau Marmont in Hollywood, it offers a similar glimpse of celebrity, and the loneliness that often accompanies it.  As Johnny, Stephen Dorff is bored, lost, and drifting.  He rolls through the streets of Hollywood in his Ferrari, searching for anything that will give him a brief moment of pleasure.  But it isn’t until his eleven-year-old daughter Cleo (Elle Fanning) comes to stay with him that we see glimpses of life behind his dead eyes. He’s trying hard to be the father she deserves, even though deep down he feels like a fraud.  But it’s the trying that tugs at my heartstrings—I want the Johnny who orders every flavor of gelato from room service to be the one who sticks around for her forever.

Speaking of gelato, this movie makes me hungry for it in a big way.  When Johnny and Cleo go to Milan for a film premiere, they’re gifted a lavish hotel suite complete with its own pool.  They order room service late at night, watching Italian-dubbed Friends to cure their jet-lag.  Whether you’re holed up in a Milan suite, lounging poolside at the Chateau Marmont, or just sweating in a hammock in East Austin, this drink will get you through summer. While watching Somewhere, I recommend drinking a Limoncello Float.

Limoncello Float

1 oz Limoncello

1 oz Grand Marnier

Champagne

Limone Gelato

Combine Limoncello and Grand Marnier in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass.  Top with champagne (enough to fill the glass ¾ full), then a scoop of Gelato.

Limoncello Float

Watching this movie, it’s clear that Johnny is drifting.  I don’t even need to see him floating on a pool raft to confirm, though it is a gorgeous shot (hell, every shot of this film is gorgeous).  And the thing is, every one of us has felt stuck at some point, unable to figure out what we want or how to get it, letting ourselves just be carried along until inspiration strikes.  I have not been, nor will I ever be famous, but in this case, I feel like a real Hollywood movie star.  Now fetch me ALL the gelato, please.  Cheers!

California Suite

California Suite

Image credit: California Suite, 1978.

Well, I don’t know what to say about the Oscars this year except they’ve really mucked it up, haven’t they? From the host debacle, to the televised category back-and-forth, to the lack of female nominees, it’s enough to make even the most die-hard film fan skip the ceremony altogether. Me, I love a good train wreck.  But if you REALLY must skip,  I suggest watching California Suite (DVD/Download) instead. In this delightful gem of a film, Maggie Smith perfectly sums up the Academy Awards in one sentence: “I’ve been getting ready for this horseshit affair for THREE HOURS!!!!” I feel ya, Mags. All they have left are the dresses.

Adapted from a Neil Simon play, California Suite follows four couples who are all staying at the Beverly Hills Hotel. In these vignettes, we get to enjoy the following highlights: Maggie Smith, shit-faced after losing the Academy Award, arguing with her semi-closeted gay husband played by Michael Caine. Walter Matthau, waking up next to a hooker he has to hide from his wife. Jane Fonda and Alan Arkin, bickering over custody of their daughter. Richard Pryor and Bill Cosby, playing tennis, wrestling, and showing us why it’s a bad idea to travel with friends. Shot on location at the Beverly Hills Hotel, this film is a vintage textile lover’s dream. That banana leaf wallpaper— SWOOOOON! I know I’ll never be Maggie Smith, and I know I’ll never be up for an Academy Award, but I can sure as hell get drunk in the hall and fondle that wallpaper. One might even say it’s on my bucket list.

While Maggie prepares to lose the Oscar, her fabulous husband is busy pouring the gin. As he says, “three gins, one tonic”. Sounds like the perfect ratio. You could make one strong drink, or you could join me during the red carpet coverage in trying ALL THE GINS, and a little bit of tonic. Cheers!

Gins and Tonic

We love to hate on this year’s Academy Awards broadcast, but California Suite proves that people have been hating on this damn dog-and-pony show since the 1970’s.  Probably even before.  Whether you watch this movie to mock the absurdity along with Maggie Smith (who incidentally, did win an Oscar for her role in this), or watch it for the wonderful slice-of-life script, just watch it. Preferably with three gins of course ;-). Cheers!

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!