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The Bishop’s Wife

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The Bishop's Wife

Image credit: The Bishop’s Wife, 1947.

Who’s ready for an old-fashioned Christmas? This year, Cinema Sips will be highlighting  holiday films of the 1940’s, guaranteed to make you smile and long for the days when women wore hats and men dressed up to have breakfast. Kicking things off is the 1947 charmer, The Bishop’s Wife (Disc/Download).

Although it would later be remade with Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston, the original film stars Cary Grant as the winsome angel Dudley, sent down to Earth to give guidance to a conflicted bishop and his neglected wife (played by David Niven and Loretta Young, respectively). You’d think this would be a sermon-filled snooze-fest, but in reality it’s a delightful Mary Poppins-esque film about tolerance, empathy, and the magic of the holidays. Plus, there’s Cary on Ice, Cary decorating a Christmas Tree, and Cary in a polka dot scarf. This is all the incentive I need to watch.

So apparently, angels have no problem with our holiday indulgences.  When Dudley counsels a failing writer, he also keeps refilling his empty bottle of booze with a sneaky little finger trick. I’m pretty sure I could also use some spiritual guidance like that right about now (*looks skyward*).  While watching The Bishop’s Wife, I recommend drinking a Bishop cocktail.

Bishop

3 oz Rum

1 oz Red wine

1/4 oz Simple syrup

3/4 oz Lime juice

Pour ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a wine glass.

Bishop

As part of my holiday posts this year, I’ll also be recommending some books that would make great gifts for the cinephile in your life. For fans of The Bishop’s Wife, be sure and check out Adriana Trigiani’s All the Stars in the Heavens, an engrossing novel about Loretta Young’s relationships with Spencer Tracy and Clark Gable, her rumored Hollywood scandals, and fun escapades with pal David Niven. You’ll see the bishop and his wife in a WHOOOOOLE new light. Cheers!

While You Were Sleeping

While you were sleeping

Image credit: While You Were Sleeping, 1995.

Before I dive into a month’s worth of classic Christmas films, I’m easing into the holiday spirit with the movie that probably inspired countless contemporary romance novels and Hallmark productions. (Let’s pause to write the producers a thank-you note).  While You Were Sleeping (DVD/Download) is the Christmas movie for lonely hearts, the siren call for every schlubby transit worker who dreams of the guy in the suit, only to realize the guy in the Carhartt jacket is way sexier. Trust me- you want the guy who can build you a chair, not the one who can buy it for you.

Starring Sandra Bullock as a single, cat-owning, Oreo-eating heroine, While You Were Sleeping is a film not just about romance, but about family connection. After she saves her crush from being hit by a train, his family mistakenly believes she’s their future daughter-in-law, and she goes along with it because it kinda sucks to be alone at the holidays. But then she meets her faux-fiance’s brother played by Bill Pullman (honestly I was always more of a Paxton girl myself, but Pullman makes it work), and realizes he’s maybe kinda sorta her soul mate.  Hijinks ensue, Christmas trees are bought, presents are unwrapped, and Chicago looks really f*cking cold. Pass the eggnog!

One fun thing I discovered on a recent re-watch of this film is that the grandma-with-a-heart-problem (because of course) is played by none other than Glynis Johns, aka. Mrs. Banks from Mary Poppins. Grandma Elsie mixes up a mean batch of eggnog, meant to be sipped slowly. So while watching While You Were Sleeping, let’s join in the fun by drinking Elsie’s Eggnog:

Elsie’s Eggnog

4 oz Store-bought eggnog

1 oz Rumchata

1 oz Southern Comfort

1 oz Bourbon

Whipped Cream and cinnamon for garnish

Stir together eggnog and other ingredients in a shaker with ice. Stir until chilled, then strain into a chilled glass. Top with whipped cream and cinnamon.

eggnog

This movie is especially endearing because it’s not just a film about a girl trying to get a guy at Christmas. It’s about a girl trying to connect with a family, one that comes with drunk relatives, ugly furniture, and the kind of mom who will put up a stocking for someone she barely knows. And that’s what makes the holidays so great, when you stop to think about it. Well, that and boozy eggnog. Cheers!

The Godfather

The Godfather

Image credit: The Godfather, 1972

This week is Thanksgiving, and I don’t know about y’all, but I am ready to eat, drink, and watch movies. Sure, we’ll come together with loved ones and enjoy some mashed potatoes and stuffing, but post-meal is where the real magic happens. Because that’s when you settle in with a good film. If you’re smart, you’ll choose something that celebrates, eating, drinking, and above all, la famiglia. This Thanksgiving, I’ll be watching The Godfather (DVD/Download).

I’m not going to rehash the plot of The Godfather because really, it’s been almost 50 years, and if you don’t already know that this is a movie about a large mafia crime family, heaven help you. What I will say, however, is that as a fan of late 60’s/early 70’s cinema, this film encompasses so much of what I love about the era. You have the faded Hollywood icon in the form of Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone contrasting with the brash, exciting newcomer Al Pacino as Michael Corleone.  Then there are the 1940’s period sets that still feel a bit like 70’s gritty NYC, and Francis Ford Coppola’s blend of cinema verite mixed with grandiose storytelling. You see the wine and the red sauce and the piles of wedding cake that scream ITALIAN, but also the quiet, subtle moments that pull the viewer in and make you feel the story.  Hollywood was still figuring out what it wanted to be when this film was made, and The Godfather said it loud and clear- the old studio system was dead, long live the auteur.

If you find yourself cooking for a large crowd on T-Day, you may just want to keep things simple and enjoy a nice bottle of red wine with this film (Sicilian or Southern Italian-origin would be my choice for authenticity’s sake). But if you want to go a little further, pick up a bottle of Sambuca and digest your dinner like the Corleones. While watching The Godfather, I recommend drinking The Closer.

The Closer

1 oz White Sambuca

1 oz Coffee liqueur

1 oz half-and-half

Star Anise for garnish

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker, blend well, then strain into a glass with a large ice cube.  Garnish with star anise.  

I’ve set the ambitious goal of watching ALL THREE Godfather films in one day, breaking only for more drinks and dessert. We’ll see how far I get (feel free to check in with me on Twitter @cinemasips to see if I’ve started swearing in Italian yet). I will leave you with this quote from Mario Puzo’s The Godfather: “Time erodes gratitude more quickly than it does beauty.” So take that gratitude you feel on Thanksgiving, and let it stay with you for a while. Cheers!

Sweet November

Sweet November

Image credit: Sweet November, 2001.

Is there honestly a better month than November?  Finally, the heat of the summer has broken, the fire pit gets used again, and as Americans, we get several days off to do nothing but eat, drink, and watch movies. This week’s film Sweet November (DVD/Download) couldn’t take place at any other time because the rest of our months aren’t nearly as perfect. Sweet January? I don’t think so.

Sweet November is the Lifetime-movie-with-actual-celebrities that made a star of Charlize Theron and fueled my decades-long crush on Keanu Reeves. So, points for that.  However, what self-respecting woman takes in loser men as a 30-day pet project, sleeps with them, turns them into reasonably dateable human beings, then sends them on their way? I know Charlize’s character is supposed to be a “free spirit”, but….. it’s a little gross. However I’m prepared to ignore all the other randos she’s shacked up with in the past because the one currently occupying her love nest is Keanu. Brash ad exec (it’s a HOT. DOG.) turned dreamy boyfriend who rescues puppies and croons “Time After Time” (badly), Keanu is proof that the love of a good woman can fix anyone. Without it, he could end up like super-villain Frank Langella. Frank kinda makes me cry here, along with the waitress. Damn he’s good.

To celebrate November and the sweetness of Keanu, I’ll be mixing up a drink with all the fall flavors. While watching Sweet November, I recommend drinking an Autumn Leaf.

Autumn Leaf

6 oz Austin Eastciders Spiced Cider

1.5 oz Pumpkin liqueur

Cinnamon stick for garnish

Build drink over crushed ice, stirring well to combine. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Autumn Leaf

For those looking for a rom-com with a happy ending, you may be disappointed with Sweet November. But to me, a tragic ending seems appropriate for a film heavily scored by Enya and featuring a plethora of knit shawls. It just… works. Like November, perfection never lasts. My advice: drink it up while you can! Cheers!

Inglourious Basterds

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inglourious basterds

Image credit: Inglourious Basterds, 2009

Personally, with where I’m at with American current events, I really need to see a Jewish refugee and her Afro-French boyfriend burn a theater full of Nazis alive. Inglourious Basterds (DVD/Download), while not necessarily factually accurate, is incredibly satisfying to watch. I know Hitler didn’t die in a hail of gunfire and flames, but this film begs the question… what if he had?

Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds is by far my favorite of his films. Maybe it’s because I’ve always had a thing for charming villains, or maybe I just enjoy watching Brad Pitt go full-on character actor. This Nazi-scalper looks like he’s having the best time ever, and it’s contagious. His counterpoint is the witty Col. Hans Landa, played by Christoph Waltz in an Academy Award-winning performance that is both evil and intriguing.   His masterful handling of Tarantino’s script is particularly impressive, especially considering he does it in multiple languages. I adore Mélanie Laurent as the projectionist/rebel fighter Shosanna, and her scenes of fending off the advances of Daniel Brühl are sadly relatable. Sometimes, a girl just wants to be left alone with her book, not make small talk with a Nazi.

There’s a pivotal bar scene that’s straight-up Tarantino, down to the blood spatter, humor, and fast-moving dialogue. Since we’re dealing with a bunch of Germans (faux and otherwise), it seems appropriate to join in their party with a Schnapps cocktail. While watching Inglourious Basterds, I recommend drinking an SS Fireball.

SS Fireball

1 1/2 oz Fireball Whiskey

1 oz Butterscotch Schnapps

6 oz Apple Cider

1/2 oz Lemon Juice

Fireball candy

Build drink over ice, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with a Fireball candy.

Fireball

More than anything, Inglourious Basterds is a film about the disenfranchised fighting back against their oppressors. When that match is lit, and Shosanna’s face fills the movie screen like something from a 1930’s horror film, it’s a battle cry for all of us who have ever felt powerless against our leaders. It’s about time a woman comes out on top, even if only in our celluloid dreams. Cheers.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

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Rocky Horror

Image credit: The Rocky Horror Picture Show, 1975.

You know what time it is….. Time to do the Time Warp again!!! Truly, that’s what The Rocky Horror Picture Show (DVD/Download) has come to feel like. It takes me right back to being a weird teenager, the kind who hung out in the art room and read Nabokov, dreaming of a place to belong. But then this film came along and changed everything. Suddenly, it was cool to be a freak. It was cool to get excited about watching a movie with a theater full of other freaks, who threw rice and yelled “Say it!” It was cool to be different.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show isn’t just a musical, or a horror film, or even a spoof of a sci-fi/horror film. It’s all those things, and more. It’s a communal film experience that brings people together. It’s an excuse to be silly, to laugh and sing and ogle Dr. Frank N. Furter’s “monster” Rocky in his gold lamé hotpants. It’s a movie that makes you feel free to talk about sexuality, because seriously, everybody’s touching everybody. And even though it’s set in a spooky mansion on a rainy night, and even though Meat Loaf is eaten (the singer, not the beefy entree), there’s nothing scary about Rocky Horror. It’s campy, it’s funny, and it’s the perfect movie to celebrate Halloween.

Since this is such a party movie, I’m making a really fun punch perfect for all your Halloween shindigs. It takes its color from Dr. Frank N. Furter’s eye makeup, and the flavor is sweet, boozy, and effervescent. While watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show, I recommend making Transylvanian Punch.

Transylvanian Punch

3 cups Blueberry Juice

2 cups Dark Rum

1/3 cup lime juice

2 cups Topo Chico

Gummi Eye Ball Ice Cubes

1 Tbsp Activated Charcoal Powder

Combine all ingredients in a punch bowl, stirring gently until well mixed.

Transylvanian punch

I love the dress-up component of Halloween, and what’s great about this film is that it celebrates the art of costuming, and the idea that if you can dream it, you can be it. Rocky Horror meant a lot to this weird teenager, and it still means a lot to this weird adult. Nothing… will ever be the same. Cheers!

Rosemary’s Baby

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rosemarys baby

Image credit: Rosemary’s Baby, 1968.

Cute dresses, weird jewelry, and Ruth Gordon’s funky hats- THIS is how you get me to watch a horror film. Like a spoonful of sugar helping the medicine go down, the costume and production design of Rosemary’s Baby (DVD/Download) make it palatable (dare I say, enjoyable) to a scary-movie neophyte like me. If you haven’t seen this classic film yet, stop what you’re doing and go watch it right now.  You’ll thank me later.

More than a horror film, I consider this picture to be classic suspense. Rosemary, played brilliantly by vintage-pixie Mia Farrow, is married to a handsome, feckless actor when they move into a storied New York City apartment building. Their neighbors, played by Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer, are old, very creepy, and secret occultists. Rosemary is drugged and raped by the devil while a bunch of naked senior citizens (AND HER AWFUL HUSBAND) stand by and watch, then she’s unknowingly forced to carry the spawn of Satan for 9 months. There are not enough words in the English language to fully convey how much I hate Rosemary’s husband, who makes her think he violently raped and clawed her up, instead of the devil in her dream. Because that’s somehow okay??? I’d say Rosemary needs a divorce attorney.

How, you ask, do Rosemary and her husband get pulled into this coven’s orbit? By that great social icebreaker, a cocktail party. Their strange neighbors serve up cocktails and terrible cake made of god-knows-what. Devil’s food? (Sorry, I had to). While you watch Rosemary’s Baby, I recommend drinking this Vodka Blush cocktail, straight from the Castavet’s fabulous apartment.

Vodka Blush

2 1/2 oz Vodka

½ oz Lime juice

½ oz Grenadine

Sprig of Rosemary for garnish

Mix vodka and lime juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until cold, then strain into a chilled flute. Slowly top with grenadine, and garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

Vodka Blush

While I definitely had one tense night of sleep where I woke up expecting Ruth Gordon to be standing in a corner with too much lipstick and a lime green feather boa, this movie didn’t exactly scare the bejeezus out of me. I attribute this mainly to the relatable performance by Mia Farrow, Roman Polanski’s incredible direction, and an enviable 60’s wardrobe. I can only hope her maternity dresses will come back in style for the rest of us. Not that I’m planning on getting pregnant with the spawn of Satan, but they’re the perfect camouflage for a belly full of cocktails and queso. Cheers!