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The Jungle Book

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Image credit: The Jungle Book, 1967

As I conclude my brief journey through 1967, I want to feature a movie from the 2022 Turner Classic Movies Festival (which I was very pleased to attend for the first time this year!!!), Walt Disney’s animated The Jungle Book (Disc/Download). As often happens in the world of film criticism, we tend to forget about children’s fare, but artistically, this movie takes animation in an exciting new direction. Revolution by dancing animals (and not the live ones that peed all over the Doctor Dolittle sets).

Based on the stories by Rudyard Kipling, The Jungle Book is one of the more visually exciting classic Disney films, similar to The Sword and the Stone with its sketchy style. Although not one of my favorite movies plot-wise, this is still a joy to watch at any age because it’s akin to seeing a painting come to life. And while we now recognize some of the harmful racial coding in several scenes, it still feels like an important transitional film for Disney in many ways. In reality, it would be the final animated film of Walt Disney’s life, the great innovator having died during production. With The Jungle Book, the Disney studio would leave tales of western royals and little-girl fantasies behind, in favor of stories that depicted a wide world of adventure. The romantic in me is glad they returned to their happily-ever-after’s with the movies of the early-1990s, but the curious animal lover in me is pretty excited to see a bear scratch his back with a palm tree. And boy, that Louis Prima track on the soundtrack still slaps.

Although tempted to defer to one of my top-five favorite cocktails (the Jungle Bird) for this movie, I decided to switch it up the flavor with Pimm’s No. 1. Plus, the addition of Ginger Beer gives it a fiery kick, perfect for swingin’ jungle VIPs. While watching The Jungle Book, I recommend drinking this Feathered Friend.

Feathered Friend

1 oz Pimm’s No. 1

1 oz Campari

½ oz Dark Rum

½ oz Lime Juice

½ oz Simple Syrup

1 oz Pineapple Juice

1 fresh strawberry

2 oz Ginger Beer

Muddle strawberry at the bottom of a shaker with lime juice and simple syrup. Add ice, Pimm’s, Campari, Rum, and Pineapple juice, and shake until chilled. Double strain into a glass with fresh ice, and top with Ginger Beer.

Thinking about the year 1967, the main word that comes to mind is change. Yes, the films were all over the place that year, and the studio system was disappearing before our eyes. But in looking at what came after, part of me thinks that this needed to happen, like a slash-and-burn of crops. The stuff that grew before was undeniably beautiful and impressive; however, we didn’t experience the truly wild, interesting flavors until new things emerged from the ashes. Cheers!

Wait Until Dark

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Image credit: Wait Until Dark, 1967

Word of warning: DO NOT watch this movie right before bedtime. I made this mistake, and now my days of walking through a dark house in search of a midnight snack or bottle of water are over. If you’ve come to expect humor and lightness in your Audrey Hepburn flicks, Wait Until Dark (Disc/Download) will defy all your expectations—in the best possible way.

Starring Audrey as blind housewife Susy Hendrix, the story begins with a drug smuggling operation wherein a doll stuffed with heroin is unwittingly passed to Susy’s photographer husband at an airport. Soon afterward, he goes off on assignment again, leaving her alone with the doll. Three con-artists attempt to gain entrance into Susy’s apartment, cooking up an elaborate scheme to make her earn their trust, but eventually, she realizes these men are not who they say they are, and in a completely terrifying climax scene, blind Susy turns out the lights and levels the playing field. Or rather, the killing field. Because among her tormentors is one very young Alan Arkin, with an accent like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s Lenny Bruce, and a look straight out of an Oasis music video. He’s smart, he’s sadistic, and he will make you afraid to go near your fridge ever again.

With a doll being the thing that sets this plot in motion, it seems appropriate to drink a cocktail fit for Madame Alexander’s. While watching Wait Until Dark, I recommend drinking a Satin Doll.

Satin Doll

2 oz Brandy

1 oz Cointreau

1 oz Pineapple Juice

1/2 oz Lemon Juice

Pineapple Chunk

Lemon Twist

Combine Brandy, Cointreau, and pineapple and lemon juice in a shaker over ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with fresh pineapple and lemon twist.

An unexpectedly great find on my list of 1967 releases, this movie would eventually earn Hepburn a Best Actress nomination and go on to terrify audiences for decades to come. If you’re looking for a smart, adult thriller, it’s time to turn off the lights and hit play on Wait Until Dark. Cheers!

Doctor Dolittle

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Image credit: Doctor Doolittle, 1967

Having previously imbibed through the other four Academy Award-nominated films of 1967 (Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The Graduate, In the Heat of the Night, and Bonnie and Clyde, respectively), I decided I may as well complete the ballot with one of the most maligned movies of all time, Doctor Dolittle (Disc/Download). I know what you’re thinking: one of these is not like the others. And gosh, isn’t that the understatement of the year!

 For all the criticism it receives, let me come right out and say that I don’t think Doctor Dolittle isn’t nearly as bad as people say. Yes, it’s long. Yes, the songs are weird (and not even in a good way). Yes, the special effects are a little cheesy. But for all those faults, there’s nevertheless a fun, deadpan humor to the whole thing, particularly in the way Dolittle banters with his animal friends. Just the idea that a duck would have a “missus” he has to get home to, or that a Great Pink Sea Snail has a cousin in Scotland he’s been meaning to visit (Nessy, in case you were wondering), genuinely makes me chuckle. I can probably go the rest of my life without hearing the vegetarian song, or see Rex Harrison sing-speak an uncomfortable love ballad to a seal dressed in Victorian garb, but I am here for the quaint English homes, the beautiful beaches of Sea Star Island, and the teased crown of Samantha Eggar’s hair. You can take the girl out of the sixties, but you can’t take the hairspray out of Hollywood.

At 2 ½ hrs, you’ll probably need several cocktails to get through this movie. Let’s take inspiration from the living quarters of a snail shell with this perfectly pink drink- the Snail Mail.

Snail Mail

2 oz Malfy Rosa grapefruit gin

¼ oz Aperol

¼ oz Grenadine

½ oz Lime Juice

½ oz Simple Syrup

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

When you compare Doctor Dolittle to live-action Disney films of the era, it comes up short. Without the catchy songs of the Sherman Brothers and the uncannily great casting Walt’s team seemed to deliver, we’re missing a lot of the magic that made films like Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks so good. But I’ll tell you what—I’ll still take Dolittle and his two-headed llama over films like Camelot or The Music Man any day of the week. If this was the end of the big-budget studio musical, at least we went out on the strangest note possible. Cheers!

In the Heat of the Night

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Image credit: In the Heat of the Night, 1967

What makes a movie ‘great’? And how can so many ‘great’ movies come out in the same year; movies which have seemingly little to do with each other? For the next few months on Cinema Sips, I’ll be searching for answers to these questions by examining four movies from a particularly pivotal year in the second half of the 20th century. Inspiration for this project comes from the books Pictures at a Revolution: The Birth of the New Hollywood by Mark Harris, as well as Best. Movie. Year. Ever.: How 1999 Blew Up the Big Screen by Brian Raftery (two fantastic reads if you’re interested in film studies). Cinema Sips will be covering the years 1967, 1976, 1985, and 1999, and depending on the popularity (and my interest in this project), I may continue into the 21st century, or go back to the early days of cinema. But today, like George Lucas, I feel like starting in the middle. Kicking things off is In the Heat of the Night (Disc/Download), a police-procedural drama that feels all too contemporary fifty-five years later.

Starring cinema icon Sidney Poitier as a Philadelphia detective sent to Mississippi to assist with a murder investigation, In the Heat of the Night is both mystery and tense racial drama. As a black man in the Deep South, Poitier confronts ignorant cops who can’t accept the fact that he’s “one of them”, as well as backward-thinking plantation owners and townsfolk who just want to scare him into returning home. As usual, Sidney is calm and cool in the face of abysmal treatment, making the people surrounding him look like complete idiots. I’ll admit, I didn’t know exactly who the killer was until right when the script wanted me to, which is always refreshing in a mystery. And maybe that was the strength of this movie—it was never about a murder, a one-and-done event, but rather, the ongoing struggle of prejudice and overt oppression in that part of the country. Half a century later and I’m still saying, WTF, Mississippi??!! (and WTF, Alabama, and WTF, Texas, and WTF, Florida…. you get the idea).

This movie, similar to another 1967 release Cool Hand Luke, is an extremely sweaty one. Rod Steiger looks like he’s been sitting in a sauna for most of it, and the title doesn’t help matters- you can practically feel the sun still radiating off the pavement at one o’clock in the morning. That’s why, while watching In the Heat of the Night, I recommend drinking an icy cool Left-handed Lemonade.

Left-handed Lemonade

1 ½ oz Bourbon

8 oz Lemonade

½ oz Fresh Lemon Juice

Fresh Basil

Lemon slice (garnish)

Muddle a few basil leaves with lemon juice in the bottom of a shaker. Add ice, bourbon, and lemonade, and shake for about five seconds. Strain into a highball filled with fresh ice. Garnish with a basil leaf and lemon slice.

In the Heat of the Night would later be turned into a TV show starring Carroll O’Connor and Howard E. Rollins, the theme song of which would be my cue to turn the television off after Brady Bunch reruns. Sweaty men standing over a dead body on the asphalt didn’t do it for me as a small child. But apparently, Sidney “They call me Mr. Tibbs” Poitier, and refreshing cocktails are all it takes to make me want to sit and watch as an adult. Cheers!

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

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Image credit: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Sometimes, you just need a good excuse for a Tiki cocktail. And what better excuse than Walt Disney’s CinemaScope extravaganza 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Disc/Download)? With island names like Volcania, and talk of “grog”, this movie seems like a perfect match for drinks involving fire and rum. Let’s climb aboard the Nautilus and pour one out!

Starring James Mason as Captain Nemo, with Peter Lorre, Paul Lukas, and Kirk Douglas as the men tasked with investigating a mysterious “sea monster”, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is based on the Jules Verne novel about the adventures of a futuristic underwater ship in the 19th century. What makes this such a joy to watch is the sheer opulence of the production design, with pipe organs, circular viewing portals, and grand salons not often found below deck. Additionally, the cinematic practical effects make this a true fantasy experience. You can practically taste the saltwater coming off that giant attacking squid, or feel the warmth of a lush, blue, tropical isle thirty seconds before the natives attack.

Speaking of tropical, with location shooting taking place in the Bahamas and Jamaica, a rum-based drink is practically required. This one is a slight variation of the Sea Serpent’s Embrace, served at Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar in Disneyland. In a fun twist, I’m setting it on fire by using a hollowed-out lime filled with overproof rum. When watching 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, I recommend drinking this Volcania cocktail.

Volcania

1 ½ oz Dark Rum

1 ½ oz Gold Rum

¾ oz Gin

¾ oz Brandy

¾ oz Falernum

½ oz Passionfruit Syrup

1 oz Lime Juice

1 oz Orange Juice

1 oz Pineapple Juice

16 oz Crushed Ice, divided

½ Hollowed-out lime

½ oz Overproof Rum

Combine all ingredients with a cup of ice in a shaker. Shake until chilled, then strain over a glass filled with a fresh cup of ice. Top with half a hollowed-out lime filled with overproof rum. Light it on fire.

If sexy, bearded James Mason in a tight knit turtleneck does it for you, then you’ll definitely want to give this film a watch. Even if you’re not into sci-fi, there’s enough adventure in this to make 20,000 Leagues worth your time. It is, indeed, a whale of a tale. Cheers!

Adaptation

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Image credit: Adaptation, 2002

If you follow me on social media, then you know I’m an orchid mom. That’s right, I enjoy caring for one of the most delicate plants in nature, all for the promise of a few blooms. I like to watch as they die and resurrect themselves, over and over, like a superhero franchise. They’ve been a joy, a distraction, and an inspiration as I revise and write and revise again, hoping maybe this time, the right words will magically fall into place. Thus I can say with absolute certainty, Adaptation (Disc/Download) is a perfect film for the orchid-obsessed, and for anybody who’s ever struggled to make a story “work”.

Loosely based on The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean, Adaptation is Charlie Kaufman’s wild meta tale of a screenwriter’s quest to turn this book into a movie. Nicolas Cage plays Charlie, and he also plays Charlie’s fictional twin brother Donald, who stumbles into screenwriting like a NaNoWriMo newbie. Charlie writes smart, character-driven stories, while Donald’s are mostly plot-driven, using the formula he learned in a ridiculous workshop. Where things get weird is when the script Charlie is writing (which we see in cuts to Meryl Streep as Susan Orlean and Chris Cooper as John Laroche, subject of The Orchid Thief) slowly morphs into a “Donald script”, going completely off the rails as Charlie loses all sense of his own voice, and what he was originally trying to say. It’s a strange, bizarre twist, showing the audience what happens when people follow the formulas: we get crappy movies that focus more on outlandish plots than character development. One wonders if Nicholas Cage has exclusively been picking “Donald movies” for the past decade, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Now, back to the orchids. I love watching John Laroche wax poetic about the beauty and struggle of his obsession, and Orlean’s look of wonder at all the rare varieties mirrors my own. While watching Adaptation, I recommend drinking a Flower Show cocktail.

Flower Show

1 Egg White

2 oz Gin

1/2 oz Crème de Violette

1/2 oz Cointreau

1 oz Fresh Lemon Juice

Fill a shaker with ice. Add all ingredients and shake until frothy. Strain into a cocktail glass.

One thing the movie never discusses (and I wish it did) is the rebirth of this plant. An orchid can appear completely dead, stripped of all its beautiful blooms, but with enough care and attention, it’ll start to grow again. There’s something comforting in this, knowing that even when all hope seems lost, the thing you loved might not be gone forever. Maybe, like a writer huddled over a keyboard, it can just be… temporarily blocked. Cheers!

Ghost Town

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Image Credit: Ghost Town, 2008

It’s unfortunate, really, that the world has largely ignored a perfectly great autumnal New York rom-com for so many years. Nora Ephron movies usually get all the credit for long walks through a golden-hued Central Park, but I ask you to also consider the Ricky Gervais/Téa Leoni comedy Ghost Town (Disc/Download) when you’re waxing poetic about bouquets of sharpened pencils and leaves gusting across the sidewalk. I may be writing this post in the springtime, but in my opinion, a movie trip to New York in the fall is always a good idea.

It’s surprising to me that Ghost Town is not a remake of a 1930s or ‘40s comedy because it feels like something of that era, evoking films such as Here Comes Mr. Jordan, Heaven Can Wait, or even It’s a Wonderful Life. Death breeds an appreciation for life, forcing an unsympathetic character to change his pessimistic ways and let others in—in this case, surly dentist Bertram Pincus. Ricky Gervais plays Dr. Pincus with quick-witted, deadpan humor, and although not the first actor you would think of as a romantic leading man, he slowly steals a recent widow’s (Téa Leoni) heart, along with mine. After a colonoscopy mishap (kudos to the screenwriter for finding relatable humor in that situation), Bertram awakes with the ability to see dead people. Unfortunately for him, New York City is filled with ghosts trying to get messages to their grieving loved ones. One such ghost is a tuxedo’d Greg Kinnear, who died in the act of leaving one hell of an emotional wound on his wife. Can Dr. Pincus heal the hurt? Can he, as a dentist and a brilliantly funny man, fix her smile? Ahhhhhhhhh this movie is just too cute.

If you’re familiar with New York-set romantic comedies, then you’ll recognize a lot of locations in this. The filmmakers hit all the big ones—Central Park, the Egyptian Wing of the Met, cozy West Village bistro, etc. But it’s at the Carlyle Hotel bar where we learn Dr. Pincus’s favorite drink, a Pimm’s Cup. Classy Greg Kinnear tries to steer him toward a Sapphire Martini, which he grudgingly drinks, but it’s not until Téa Leoni orders her own Pimm’s later on that we know these two lonely hearts are made for each other. Matchmaking through cocktails—I love it! While watching Ghost Town, do yourself a favor and pour yourself a classic Pimm’s Cup.

Pimm’s Cup

1 ½ oz Pimm’s No. 1

2 oz Sparkling Lemonade

2 oz Ginger Beer

Cucumber ribbon

Orange and lemon slices for garnish

Fill a glass with ice and add the Pimm’s. Top with sparkling lemonade and ginger beer, stirring to combine. Garnish with cucumber ribbon and orange/lemon slices.

There are a lot of variations on this recipe, so feel free to experiment with different combinations of lemon and ginger. The main thread through all of them is Pimm’s, fresh fruit, and a sweetly sour sparkling soda. The fact that Bertram Pincus is a Pimm’s lover makes total sense to me; he’s complicated and sweet, just like his favorite cocktail. Cheers!

Insomnia

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Image Credit: Insomnia, 2002

If you’re like me, the pandemic years really messed with your sleep. Watching the film Insomnia (Disc / Download), I can relate to Al Pacino with his glassy stares and confused expressions because they’re mine. What day is it? Did I wash the conditioner out of my hair? Did I leave too many loose ends hanging on a crime I committed while delirious from lack of rest? Things I ask myself on a daily basis now.

A tight psychological thriller directed by Christopher Nolan, Insomnia stars Al Pacino as Will Dormer, a hot shot LA detective sent to Alaska to work a teenage girl’s homicide case. He’s got his own internal affairs investigation percolating back in California, but for now, he’s focused on the task at hand: find the murderer. Things get muddled when he accidentally shoots his partner, and the only witness is the killer he’s searching for. Thus begins a cat and mouse game of trying to nail the bad guy while still protecting his own secrets. Robin Williams turns in an elegant, terrifying performance as pulp novelist Walter Finch, whose real-life crimes are even more twisted than those in his books, and seeing Pacino and Williams together is akin to watching Michelangelo and DaVinci working side-by-side. Hilary Swank does her best to not get lost in their shadows, playing a local detective trying to solve crimes while magnanimously shaking off Dormer’s misogynist language. Her name isn’t “honey”—it’s Detective Burr. Learn it, Dormer.

Although there are a lot of tense scenes in this film, one of the best is set in a remote Alaskan fishing cabin shrouded in fog. As police officers chase the murderer through soupy air, visibility is about as low as the chances of making it out there alive. While watching Insomnia, I recommend drinking a Fog Cutter cocktail.

Fog Cutter

2 oz Orange Juice

1 oz Lemon Juice

½ oz Orgeat

1 ½ oz White Rum

½ oz Gin

½ oz Brandy

½ oz Amontillado sherry

Citrus wheel garnish, or fresh mint

Combine orange juice, lemon juice, orgeat, rum, gin, and brandy in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a tiki mug filled with ice. Float sherry on top, and garnish with a citrus wheel and/or mint.

Part of Dormer’s problem throughout this movie is that the summer sun never sets on this northern town. He can try to block the light out in his motel room as best he can, but like truth, it always manages to seep in. Thus when sleep comes, and it does finally come, it’s a hard won relief. Cheers!

Yours, Mine and Ours

Image Credit: Yours, Mine, and Ours, 1968

Lucille Ball is having a moment. From podcasts to documentaries to feature films, it seems the whole world is in love with Lucy again. Thanks to Nick-at-Nite reruns in the mid-90s, I’ve seen every episode of her iconic television show (including several spin-offs), so imagine my delight in discovering a more earnest side of Lucy in the hilarious romantic comedy, Yours, Mine and Ours (Disc/Download).

Don’t get me wrong—as Helen North Beardsley, Lucille Ball is still extremely funny. But it takes more than wacky facial expressions and slapstick physical comedy to handle a brood of eighteen (yes, EIGHTEEN) children. In a tale that is basically The Brady Bunch on steroids, widowed nurse Helen meets cute with widowed Naval officer Frank in the commissary, bumping their overflowing shopping carts into one another. It isn’t until later, when they finally go out on a date, that they reveal their true number of offspring- eight for her, ten for him. Setting aside all my thoughts about birth control and smart family planning, it becomes obvious that these two are made for each other. Blending their family proves a challenge, as does finding a big enough house, but as Frank and Helen prove, with enough love and a little discipline, anything is possible.

Of course with families this large, it’s not all smooth sailing. Before they can make it to the altar, Frank’s kids spike Helen’s drink so she’ll make a fool out of herself at the initial meet-and-greet. She asks for a light screwdriver and gets a mouthful of gin, scotch, vodka, and a tiny splash of OJ. Ball’s face is priceless, as is Fonda’s description of the sabotage as “the alcoholic Pearl Harbor”. Let’s come up with a tastier version of this abomination, hopefully one that won’t cause you to dump mashed potatoes onto a little girl’s lap. While watching Yours, Mine and Ours, I recommend drinking this wonderful-wonderful Screwball cocktail.

Screwball

1 oz Orange Gin

1 oz Vodka

½ oz Cointreau

½ oz Lemon Juice

½ oz Simple Syrup

1 oz Fresh-squeezed Orange Juice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass filled with fresh ice.

If you’re celebrating the Academy Awards this year, this is a great drink to make because it references two nominees—Being the Ricardos and Licorice Pizza. Paul Thomas Anderson doesn’t specifically reference Yours, Mine and Ours in his script for LP, but Gary Valentine’s role was inspired by his childhood friend Gary Goetzman (who played Henry Fonda’s son, and one of Lucille Ball’s drink spikers in this classic film). And once you’ve gotten Nicole Kidman’s Lucy out of your system, treat yourself to the real thing. You won’t regret it. Cheers!

The World’s Fastest Indian

Image credit: The World’s Fastest Indian, 2005

If you’re looking for a solid feel-good movie this week, then you definitely want to check out the Anthony Hopkins gem The World’s Fastest Indian (Disc/Download), about legendary New Zealand motorcycle racer Burt Munro. For anyone who’s ever had a dream, but worried you’ve missed your chance to make it happen, Burt’s here to prove you wrong.

Watching this movie, I can’t help but draw comparisons to Meryl Streep’s performance in Julie & Julia. Like Julia Child, Burt Munro is here to charm even the most surly American, along with the neighbors back in New Zealand who aren’t exactly thrilled to watch him pee on his lemon tree or torch his backyard. He’s a folk hero with a heart of gold, and it’s this gregariousness that helps him get to the Bonneville Speedway in Utah with very little money, no US connections, and a forty-year-old bike held together with homemade parts and offerings to the gods of speed. They say it takes a village, and in Burt’s case, it takes a trans hotel night clerk, a used car salesman, a Native American, a Vietnam soldier on leave, a police officer, and group of pure-hearted fellow speed demons to get him to the starting line. What he does after that is pure Burt Monroe magic.

My cocktail this week is inspired by some motor oil-themed gin I was gifted recently, cleverly titled “Engine”. Check out that fun container! While watching The World’s Fastest Indian, conjure the flavor of the Bonneville salt flats with this Salted Gin Paloma.

Salted Gin Paloma

2 oz Engine Gin

1 oz Grapefruit Juice

1/2 oz Lime Juice

1/2 oz Simple Syrup

2 oz Club Soda

Lime Wedge

Salt

Prepare a glass by running a wedge of lime around the outside, then dipping in salt. Add ice, and set aside. Combine gin, grapefruit juice, lime juice, and simple syrup in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into prepared glass. Top with club soda, and stir gently to combine. Garnish with a citrus wedge.

If Burt was the underdog racer at the Bonneville Speedway in 1967, then this movie is also an underdog racing biopic. Although not as flashy as Grand Prix or Ford v. Ferrari, The World’s Fastest Indian is pure heart. Just because something is old, or doesn’t star chiseled Hollywood eye candy, don’t count it out. Bob’s your uncle- it may just win the race after all.