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Mamma Mia!

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mamma mia

Image credit: Mamma Mia!, 2008

Before we go again, shouldn’t we take the chance to recall our last summer? That one where Mamma Mia! (DVD/Download) shattered box office expectations to become a colossal hit and had much of the female population saying “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” and eating Greek yogurt? Send an SOS- it’s time to listen to Pierce Brosnan “sing” once more.

I’ll admit- I genuinely enjoy this movie. Despite the cheesiness, despite the lackluster musical abilities of the majority of the cast, despite the enviable tans I know I’ll never personally achieve…. it gets to me. The pain of lost love, the suspense of a paternity reveal, and the tumultuous bond between mother and daughter are like the storylines from a soap opera. And we all know how much I like those.  Plus, there’s ABBA music, beautiful scenery, and shirtless bartenders.  Really, this film just screams Liz Locke.

While most eyes are focused on Meryl Streep, her lovers, and the VERY tan Amanda Seyfried, I’m more interested in the drunk old ladies played by Julie Walters and Christine Baranski. They’re like a kinder version of AbFab’s Patsy and Edina. Always with the fruity pink drinks, these two. While watching Mamma Mia!, get your Greek on and enjoy this Honey, Honey cocktail.

Honey, Honey

1 small wedge pink grapefruit, peel removed

3-4 Fresh mint leaves, plus more for garnish

2 tsp. Greek honey

2 oz Ouzo

3 oz Pink Grapefruit juice

1 oz Campari

Topo Chico sparkling water

In a highball glass, muddle the fresh grapefruit, mint leaves, and honey together. Fill with ice, add Ouzo, grapefruit juice, and Campari. Top with sparkling water, and garnish with another slice of fresh grapefruit and mint.

honey honey

Whether you’re watching the original or the new sequel Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again (I’m still LOL’ing over that title), be sure and have a cocktail on hand. You don’t want to let the opportunity for a drunk sing-a-long to “Dancing Queen” slip through your fingers. Cheers!

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The Door in the Floor

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the-door-in-the-floor

Image credit: The Door in the Floor, 2004

I’d like to give a shout-out to summer beach read season, or what I like to call, “that time of year magazines say it’s acceptable to read the books I actually read all year long.” One book that has found its way to the bottom of my beach bag multiple times is the John Irving classic A Widow for One Year, set in a Long Island seaside hamlet thick with privets and scandals. Although several Irving books have been adapted to the big screen, this one, and its film adaptation The Door in the Floor (DVD/Download), will always be my favorite.

Although this movie only covers the first half of the novel, it does this small bit exceptionally well. With Jeff Bridges as eccentric children’s book author Ted Cole, and Kim Basinger as his damaged wife Marion, the performances in this film are gut-wrenching and powerful. After losing their teenage sons in a tragic car accident, the couple struggle with being parents again to their young daughter Ruth (played by Elle Fanning). Marion starts sleeping with Eddie the intern, Ted continues sleeping with everyone, and little Ruth accepts it all with unnerving maturity. There is sand, there are waves, and there are cedar-shingled mansions. But there are also secrets, monsters, and stories best told in the dark.

For the record, Ted Cole is my hero. The man waltzes around in caftans (even on the squash court!) and a Van Gogh straw hat, just not giving a f*ck. His glass is always full, his barbs always the sharpest, and his squid-ink drawings like something out of a mental hospital. Enjoy this Ted Cole-inspired cocktail while you fantasize about afternoons dozing in an Adirondack chair, and nights drunk-peddling your bicycle home. While watching The Door in the Floor, I recommend drinking an Ink Well.

Ink Well

2 oz Dark Spiced Rum

1 oz Chambord

¾ oz Simple Syrup

¾ oz Fresh lemon juice

½ oz egg white

1 tsp activated charcoal

2-3 dashes Angostura bitters

In a cocktail shaker, add all ingredients except bitters, and give it a dry shake. Add ice, then shake vigorously until egg white is foamy. Strain into a glass, and garnish with bitters.

I have incredibly high hopes that there will one day be a film sequel covering the second half of the book, wherein young Ruth is grown up and experiences the sound of someone trying not to make a sound. Jeff Bridges- you better stick around for that one. It’s a doozy of a story. Cheers!

Much Ado About Nothing

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Much Ado About Nothing

Image credit: Much Ado About Nothing, 1993.

I am in full Summer Vacation-mode this week, and while my plans are a little less glamorous than a villa in Tuscany (sorry, Cape Cod, I still love ya), I’m still primed for a cinematic escape.  Kenneth Branaugh’s Much Ado About Nothing (DVD/Download) is just the sun-drenched romp we all need this week.

The film opens with a radiant Emma Thompson in minimal makeup, sporting a golden tan and free-flowing hair. She and I share a similar vacation look, though in my case it usually involves a sunburnt scalp and last night’s mascara. Hey- we don’t all get to wear corseted linen gowns and eat grapes on a swing (I’m thinking this is a Tuscany-only thing).  Branaugh directs this Shakespearean tale of slick word battles, lovers’ quarrels, and mistaken identity with infectious glee, to the point where I can’t help but get swept up in the merriness. And Denzel Washington truly shines as Don Pedro, the Prince of Aragon. He’s charming and intelligent, and his connection with Emma Thompson’s Beatrice breaks your heart just a little. He’s the odd man out at the party, and lord, haven’t we all been there?

This film deserves a sparkling, effervescent drink that’s just as complex and delightful as Shakespeare’s text. Since this is set in Tuscany, I must use Aperol- that great Italian aperitif that practically screams summer vacay. While watching Much Ado About Nothing, I recommend drinking a Florentine Spritz.

Florentine Spritz

2 oz Gin

1 oz lime juice

¾ oz Aperol

½ oz Honey Syrup (equal parts honey and water, boiled)

2-3 dashes angostura bitters

Sparkling Wine

Lime Wheel

Combine first 5 ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a champagne flute. Top with sparkling wine, and garnish with a lime wheel.

I love films based on Shakespearean plays because they help me to understand his work in a new light. Even though this film isn’t as modern as say Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet, or even Joss Wheden’s more recent version of Much Ado, it still draws me in to the story in a way that live theatre fails to do. Plus, Tuscany and Denzel in sexy leather pants. I’ll suffer through a sonnet or two for that. Cheers!

My Girl

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My Girl

Image credit: My Girl, 1991

This week, I really had a hankering for a classic Bee’s Knees cocktail. And really, what better movie to watch with this honey-laden beverage than My Girl (DVD/Download).  After all, it’s the film where Macaulay Culkin kicks the bucket after a severe bee attack. As Dan Aykroyd tearfully informs us, “There were just too many…..” I could say the same about cocktails after a wild Saturday night.

I’m not sure if I should admit this, but my love of 60’s pop music originated from the My Girl soundtrack (on cassette, which I would play in my purple Casio while sitting on the cement stoop of our apartment. All. Summer. Long.) As a pre-teen bookworm living in Pennsylvania when this film came out in 1991, I strongly identified with Vada Sultenfuss. If you’ve ever been teased by mean girls, and/or had a weird relationship with the nerdiest kid in the class, and/or were oddly close to your English teacher (the only person who really gets you), then you understand the character of Vada. She’s dealing with the death of her mom, her dad’s remarriage to a free-spirited makeup artist (hey Jamie Lee Curtis, where ya been?), and the fact that she lives in a funeral parlor. It’s a lot for anyone. Luckily, she has a mood ring, Macaulay, and a showtune-singing grandma to ease the pain.

Perhaps it’s in bad taste to reference poor Thomas J’s bee allergy, but how can something bad taste this good? While watching My Girl, I recommend drinking a Bee’s Knees.

Bee’s Knees

2 oz gin

¾ Fresh Lemon Juice

½ oz Honey Syrup (equal parts honey and water, boiled then cooled)

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Bees Knees

What’s the one soundtrack I loved more than My Girl? The My Girl 2 soundtrack. Elton John, Jackson Browne- it was the musical education I needed. I’m a little amazed that we haven’t had a My Girl 3 yet, since all the actors are still around, but maybe Dan Aykroyd is too busy making vodka to bother with playing an aging funeral director. I mean, I know which career I’d rather have. Cheers!

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

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MrSmithGoestoWashington

Image credit: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, 1939.

This week, I’m celebrating the Fourth of July with one of the most patriotic movies I can think of. A film that’s stood the test of time, through good presidents and bad, noble politicians and corrupt. I’m talking of course about Frank Capra’s classic Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (DVD/Download).

It’s astounding how often I’m reminded of the iconic image of Jimmy Stewart as Senator Jefferson Smith, weary after a lengthy filibuster, sweaty, distraught, his face an open wound, realizing his fight is hopeless. The corrupt politicians of Washington have broken him, as they have broken the rest of us too. Jimmy is America in this film. Whether we’re talking about the 1938 or 2018, it’s all the same. Leaders drunk with power can (and often do) run afoul of the people who voted for them. Mr. Smith goes to Washington with a dream of doing good work for the citizens of his state. Though the film has a satisfying ending, I wouldn’t necessarily call it “happy”. Happiness and politics are parallel paths that rarely intersect.

I love a lot of things about this film- plucky Jean Arthur and her little hats, disgruntled newspaperman Diz and his wry cynicism, even Claude Rains as the most sedate villain of all time. But the scene that gets my heart pounding is of course The Filibuster. For 24 hours Mr. Smith tries to postpone a crooked bill from getting through the Senate, and though he eventually falls, the fight is really something to see. While watching Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, I recommend drinking a Filibuster.

Filibuster

4 oz bourbon

2 oz simple syrup

2 oz lemon juice

2 tbsp fresh orange juice

1 egg white

Angostura bitters

Pour all ingredients except bitters into a cocktail shaker. Shake until combined, then fill with ice. Shake again with all the rage you feel toward our current United States government. Strain into a coupe glass. Top with a few dashes of Angostura bitters.

Filibuster

The thing I find slightly comforting about this film is that it was released in 1939. So, theoretically, Congress has been doing a crappy job for the last 80 years. And we’re still here!!! We still have joys and triumphs, and yes unspeakable rage and indignities. But we’re surviving, day-by-day.   Jefferson Smith didn’t stop fighting for his American ideals, and neither should those of us who believe in honesty, empathy, kindness, and the beauty of our American land.   Cheers!

La La Land

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La La Land

Image credit: La La Land, 2016

There are some things in life that you just never get over. Your first birds-and-bees talk. The cancellation of My So-Called Life after only one season. And new in 2017- the snub heard round the world, La La Land losing the Academy Award for Best Picture. Faye and Warren tried to cover for the Academy’s oversight, to no avail. It was too late. Somebody put Moonlight on that card and dashed the hopes of all the fools who dream. A year and a half later, I’m still not over it. Time to drink.

To say I love La La Land (DVD/Download) would be a gross understatement. This film encompasses everything I adore about classic movie musicals, a period of cinema when actors (not necessarily singers) were cast in these roles, and directors cared about things like mise en scene and appropriate song transitions. In using Los Angeles as a backdrop for the story of two struggling artists falling in love and struggling to make it in Hollywood, La La Land is able to take advantage of classic movie backdrops we all know and love. The Griffith Observatory; the Sunset Strip; a swanky home in the Hollywood Hills- all become touchstones within this saturated ode to moving pictures. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone make me laugh and cry with their performances, but it’s Los Angeles that makes me dream.

As a struggling jazz musician, Ryan Gosling spends a lot of time in windowless underground martini bars. Bonjour, heaven!  I love the cocktail culture that goes hand-in-hand with this music, so this week I’m using a recipe from one of my new favorite books, Booze & Vinyl by André and Tenaya Darlington.  Their cocktail accompaniment for Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, this martini-relative also pairs well with “City of Stars”.  While watching La La Land, I recommend drinking a Martinez.

Martinez

2 oz Old Tom Gin

1 oz sweet vermouth

1 tsp Maraschino liqueur

2 dashes orange bitters

Lemon twist, for garnish

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice, and stir until combined.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

Martinez

I think La La Land means so much to me because I really see myself in these characters.   Like them, I have dreams that have yet to be realized.  And even when that door seems like it’ll never open, and my fist gets sore from banging on it with all my strength, I still have to smile and say I’d do it all again. Because that’s what dreamers do. Cheers!

Hugo

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Hugo

Image credit: Hugo, 2011

There are few things I love more than movies about movies, so imagine my delight when I first realized Martin Scorsese’s Hugo (DVD/Download) was a love letter to the works of silent cinema artist/pioneer/magician Georges Méliès. I went into this film thinking I’d be watching an Oliver Twist-like tale about an adorable Paris street urchin; I left gutted, and enthralled by the magic of the cinema.

Based on the graphic novel about young orphan Hugo Cabret, this film takes the viewer on a journey from a bustling train station all the way back to the earliest days of silent cinema. Stealing random parts to fix an automaton his deceased father left him, Hugo serendipitously meets the aging Georges Méliès, brought low after interest in his beautiful films like A Trip to the Moon has faded. In fixing the automaton, Hugo finds a connection to his father, to Méliès, and to his dreams. And as this story lovingly points out, that’s what silent cinema was- our dreams come to life.

As a tribute to Georges Méliès and his awe-inspiring A Trip to the Moon, I’ll be mixing up a moon-inspired cocktail. Crème de Violette gives it such a pretty color, almost like the hand-painted celluloid from those early Méliès films . While watching Hugo, I recommend drinking a classic Blue Moon cocktail.

Blue Moon

2 oz gin

½ oz Crème de Violette

½ oz lemon juice

Lemon twist

Mix gin, crème de violette, and lemon juice in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Blue Moon

When you get into the business of film criticism (even boozy, lighthearted film criticism), you sometimes forget about what drew you to the medium in the first place. Hugo is the reminder I needed that movies really are magic. In the right hands, they have the ability to delight, inspire, and transport. And sometimes, like this week, they even bring tears to your eyes when you realize just how much they’ve shaped your life. Cheers!