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Harvey

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harvey

Image credit: Harvey, 1950

The devastating hurricane that pummeled my state over the weekend may have inspired this week’s  film choice, but rest assured, Harvey (DVD/Download) is the cheer-up film we all need right now.  I’m a fan of pretty much every Jimmy Stewart movie, and this is certainly one of the greats. Sure it’s based on a play, but let’s not hold that against it, shall we?

As Elwood P. Dowd, Jimmy Stewart is at the peak of his nice-guy charm as he drinks the day away, talks to his imaginary rabbit friend Harvey, and perplexes his relatives. Is he crazy? Is he drunk? Who cares?? He’s just so darn pleasant that you want to take his calling card and stop by for happy hour with him and Harvey. What is Harvey exactly? A 6’ 3 ½” “pooka” who’s a great friend to all, even if you can’t see him. Personally, I love the idea of an imaginary friend. For one thing, you never have to drink alone!

Throughout the film, Elwood likes to frequent the local bar, yet he never gets sloppy drunk. He’s just hanging out, having a good time, making new friends. We should all aspire to drink like Elwood. Although martinis seem to be his drink of choice, I’m making something special for his rabbit friend this week. While watching Harvey, I recommend drinking a Carrotini.

Carrotini

1 ½ oz gin

¾ oz Cointreau

1 oz carrot juice

½ oz lemon juice

½ oz simple syrup

Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice, and shake until chilled. Strain into a coupe glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

Carrotini

The lesson that I think we can all learn from both Elwood P. Dowd and Harvey is one of kindness. A little charm, and a little understanding can go a long way toward disarming any situation. Plus, if you’re a nice guy, they might not immediately send you to the sanitarium. Cheers!

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Being John Malkovich

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Being John Malkovich

Image Credit: Being John Malkovich, 1999

If you could crawl into the mind of a celebrity, who would it be? For me, the answer is easy- Nicholas Cage. Not only would it likely be a weird and wacky ride, but I might be able to save him (and the rest of humanity) from some truly terrible films. In this week’s film Being John Malkovich (DVD/Download), one of the great American actors of the 20th century becomes the host du jour. Why did screenwriter Charlie Kaufman choose actor John Malkovich? Because it’s just fun to say Malkovich.

Directed by Spike Jonze, Being John Malkovich has all the movie elements I love. Unusual sets (7 ½ floor, anyone?), puppets, good-looking celebrities going ugly (YIKES Cameron Diaz), and famous actors playing themselves. As greasy-haired puppeteer Craig Schwartz, John Cusack slides through the portal into John Malkovich’s mind and eventually opens the actor up to a slew of other people taking possession.  As the film progresses, we start to examine what makes a person uniquely themselves, and how much of our minds are controlled by outside influences.

Although many people try to inhabit the mind of Malkovich, the 105-years-young Dr. Lester has perhaps the biggest claim to this coveted mental real estate. It’s his building where the portal on the 7 ½ floor exists, and he’s spent his life drinking carrot juice to stay vital. Wouldn’t it be great to find a cocktail that reverses the aging process? I’m willing to try if you are. While watching Being John Malkovich, I recommend drinking a Carrot Collins.

Carrot Collins

3 oz carrot juice

¾ oz lime juice

1.5 oz spiced rum

¾ cup ginger beer

1 oz mint simple syrup

Combine all ingredients in a collins glass over ice. Stir gently, and garnish with a sprig of mint.

Carrot Collins

One of the most interesting scenes in the film is when John Malkovich goes through his own portal, landing inside his own mind. What he encounters is a collection of Malkovich clones, who can speak only his surname; or as he puts it, “a world no man should see.” I can empathize. A room full of Liz Locke’s? TERRIFYING. Cheers!

Speed

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Speed

Image credit: Speed, 1994

Pop quiz hot shot: You have the option to watch Speed or literally anything else- WHAT DO YOU DO?? Obviously, watch Speed (DVD/Download). When faced with this very predicament recently, I chose Keanu and his never ending bus-ride-of-implausibility. No regrets.

This movie really shouldn’t work as well as it does. The premise of an LA city bus rigged with a bomb that will explode if the bus drops below 50mph sounds dumb as hell and yet… I can’t look away. Maybe it’s the magnetic appeal of nice-guy cop Keanu Reeves, who over-pronounces vowels and calls people Mister and Ma’am. Maybe it’s the feisty young Sandra Bullock, thrust into the role of bus driver after her predecessor gets shot by a passenger. Maybe it’s Dennis Hopper making us all wonder what villainous thing he’s going to do next, and why there’s a mannequin sitting behind him. Or perhaps it’s the flashbacks I get of watching OJ Simpson in a white bronco, tearing down the LA freeway trailed by police cars, kind of (no, EXACTLY) like the bus in Speed. I may be crazy, but here are some facts for you: theatrical release date of Speed– June 10th 1994. Date of the White Bronco chase- June 17th 1994. Coincidence? I think not.

From minute to minute, Keanu Reeves’ character is in some crazy predicaments. He’s on top of an elevator hanging by a thread! Now he’s in a bus hurtling through LA traffic and jumping missing sections of the freeway!  Wait, now he’s UNDER THE BUS, clinging for dear life!  What does he use for fuel? Just coffee.  I, on the other hand, need a little something extra to enjoy this movie to its fullest potential. While watching Speed, I recommend drinking a Wildcat.

Wildcat

3/4 oz Liber & Co fiery ginger syrup

1 oz Añejo tequila

8 oz cold brew coffee

Combine all ingredients in a glass over ice. Mix well, and serve.

Wildcat

When I told people I was watching Speed, the unanimous response I got was “Oh my God I love that movie!!” And, I should point out, I got this response among wildly different demographics. I think we all need a little Speed in our lives right now. While many might find themselves at the whim of a madman (ahem, POTUS), it’s great to see a rag tag group of bus riders pull together, and show this domestic terrorist what real Americans are made of. Cheers!

The Dreamers

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The Dreamers

Image credit: The Dreamers, 2003

Prone to expressing themselves through movie quotes, cinephiles are easy to spot. Even when they get into a contest over who has seen which obscure film, you know it’s only due to pure enthusiasm for the medium. Thus when I saw The Dreamers (DVD/Download), these characters instantly felt like kindred spirits. Sure, director Bernardo Bertolucci takes things a little too far with his sexually explicit style, but at the core of the film there is a deep love for all things cinema.

Starring Michael Pitt, Eva Green, and Louis Garrel, The Dreamers is set in Paris during the 1968 student riots. It was this era of turmoil, artistic expression, and youthful energy that fueled a cultish devotion to the Cinémathèque Française, the organization upon which all modern film criticism and preservation is based. Seen through the eyes of an American student, Paris seems exciting, revolutionary, and slightly dangerous. By connecting with two French twin cinephiles, his love of film is fostered even further. There are lengthy debates about Chaplin vs. Keaton, a recreation of the Louvre scene in Godard’s Bande à part, and a rather disturbing interaction with Marlene Dietrich’s Blonde Venus. By the time they start chanting “One of us!” (Freaks), I feel drawn in and consumed every bit as much as the naïve protagonist onscreen. These are my people, too.

For a dangerous, intruiguing, sexy film, only a similar sort of cocktail will do. The Sidecar is one of my favorite classic cocktails, the kind of thing that I could picture Dietrich drinking after a night at the Blue Angel. French liqueur Chambord pairs perfectly with the cognac in this drink, bringing it a lovely raspberry subtlety. While watching The Dreamers, I recommend drinking a Chambord Sidecar.

Chambord Sidecar

1 ½ oz Peach Brandy

¾ oz lemon juice

¾ oz Chambord

¼ oz simple syrup

Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice, and shake until chilled. Strain into a coupe glass, and garnish with a lemon twist.

It’s hard not be creeped out by the sexual tension between the two siblings in The Dreamers, and the film’s disappointing second half veers wildly off the rails.  But despite these flaws, the wild, anarchist feeling of Paris in the 60’s remains a constant drumbeat, reminding us that once upon a time, cinema had the power to start a revolution.  Maybe it still does. Cheers!

Friends With Money

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Friends With Money

Image Credit: Friends With Money, 2006

Middle age is a really weird time for friendships- something I’m finding truer and truer the older I get. Some people in their 30’s and 40’s have kids and a mortgage, while others still live like they did in college and may or may not have a roommate.  Some have flourishing careers that pay lucratively, and some are still figuring it out while working temp jobs.  This disparity, and the conflict it creates, gets examined in this week’s film Friends with Money (DVD/Download).  A thoroughly lovely picture, it asks the question- how do you stay friends with someone after your lives have diverged so completely?  In what ways does money complicate a relationship?

Jennifer Aniston’s character Olivia is (on the surface) the most dysfunctional within her group of friends. She’s working as a maid, chasing after a married man, and obsessively hoarding sample size cosmetics. She falls into a toxic relationship with a younger man, but endures him because… what else is there? Yet as the film progresses, we see that her other three friends don’t necessarily have it all figured out either. The characters played by Catherine Keener and Frances McDormand may have flourishing careers, but their marriages are questionable at best, and McDormand is a simmering kettle of suburban rage. And then there’s Joan Cusack, who has a trust fund, and pretty much no problems. It’s a stance we don’t often see in film and literature; normally more money = less happiness. But thing is, she and her husband are really happy because they don’t spend all their time arguing about money.

Although I find myself most identifying with Frances McDormand’s character (who among us hasn’t wanted to scream at someone who cuts in front of us in the Old Navy line??), I still find Jennifer Aniston’s Olivia incredibly relatable.  I’m such a sucker for sample size anything, particularly cosmetics and alcohol.  So while watching Friends With Money, find some fancy samples at your local liquor store and try them out.  Minimal commitment required.

money bottles

I’m a huge fan of most of director Nicole Holofcener’s films (such as Walking and Talking, Lovely & Amazing, and Enough Said). But Friends with Money is the one that I keep thinking about as things change with my life. The concept of money is so intriguing because everybody is striving for it, hoarding it, or eschewing it, but nobody wants to talk about it. It’s like our lives and relationships are revolving around this completely forbidden subject. Finally with this film, the conversation is started. Cheers!

Peyton Place

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Peyton Place

Image credit: Peyton Place, 1957

I’m a sucker for vintage New England, so naturally this week’s film Peyton Place (DVD/Download) is right up my Episcopalian-and-lobster-roll-alley. Though it would later be turned into a hit TV soap opera, the film adaptation of the Grace Metalious novel is pretty soapy on its own. Teenage sex; adultery; abortion; murder in front of the Christmas tree- pretty scandalous stuff even now, let alone in the 1950s. But what I love about this film (in addition to Lana Turner’s wardrobe) is that it doesn’t feel dated.  Rather, it succeeds in shining a light on social issues we’re still dealing with today.

Set in the sleepy New England town of Peyton Place just before World War II breaks out, the film follows teenage characters as they struggle with the prudish views of their parents. Lana Turner rants about how sex ed shouldn’t be taught in schools, yet she refuses to talk to her own daughter about it at home, thus pushing her away. Cute little Russ Tamblyn plays a Norman Bates-type henpecked boy whose own mother is even worse. Did Hitchcock use Tamblyn’s Norman as inspiration? I have to wonder. The film leaves it to the town doctor and the high school principal to educate the rest of the community on their backwards thinking, and I just want to stand up and cheer anytime these men are onscreen. Finally, someone in this film is using common sense and science to make a compelling argument, societal backlash be damned.

Lana Turner does a brilliant job in her role as a supreme ice queen, causing the men in the town to shy away for fear of “frostbite”. She’s buttoned up, beautiful, and sardonic- a classic film icon if I’ve ever seen one. While watching Peyton Place, celebrate Ms. Turner with an Ice Queen cocktail.

Ice Queen

Cucumber slice

1 1/2 oz light rum

¾ oz lime juice

½ oz simple syrup

1 tsp crème de menthe

2 oz prosecco

Lime twist

Muddle cucumber at the bottom of a cocktail shaker with the rum, lime juice, and simple syrup. Add ice and crème de menthe. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Top with prosecco, and garnish with a lime twist.

Ice Queen

By the end of the film, I’m still marveling to myself that the battles being waged onscreen are still the same ones we’re fighting today. Should sex ed be taught in schools? Should abortion be legal in cases of rape and incest (and any other damn time it’s a bad situation)? Are churches doing a disservice by preaching abstinence-only? The film comes down pretty hard on the left (as do I) but I find it depressing to realize that after 70 years we’re STILL fighting about these things. All I can say is, pass the rum. Cheers!

Face/Off

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Face Off

Image credit: Face/Off, 1997

Man, they don’t make ‘em like they used to. I never thought I’d see the day where I long for a movie like Face/Off (DVD/Download), but I’m officially there. Big-name stars making a high octane thriller with an ORIGINAL script, that’s not a sequel to or reboot of something else? Just doesn’t happen too often in mainstream Hollywood these days. Nicolas Cage keeps throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks, but will there ever be another film that showcases his talent for lunacy (and, I admit, pretty good acting) quite like Face/Off? God I hope so.

This movie might not work so well if it weren’t for the combined performances of John Travolta and Nicholas Cage. As the Joker-like domestic terrorist Castor Troy (remember when terrorists were angry American white males?), Nicholas Cage is batsh*t crazy. Parading around in a priest costume, groping choir girls, waving around his golden guns- this is a part Nicholas Cage was born for. But then, THEN he falls into a coma, and family-man FBI agent John Travolta is compelled to have Cage’s face put on his body to foil a bomb plot. AND THEN- Cage wakes up, sees that he has no face, and puts the iced Travolta face on HIS body. I swear, even the best soap opera scribes couldn’t make this stuff up. Now Travolta is forced to turn up the creepy, and Cage has to act like John Travolta doing a bad Nicolas Cage impression. Mistaken identities and slow-motion shootouts ensue.

One little gem that’s always stayed with me from Face/Off is Caster Troy’s claim that he could eat a “peach” for hours. Damn if that line doesn’t run through my head every summer when peach season hits central Texas. Welcome to my nightmare. While watching Face/Off, I recommend drinking a Peach Shandy.

Peach Shandy

1.5 oz Deep Eddy Peach Vodka

1 bottle peach-flavored beer (I used Ballast Point Peach Kolsch)

4 oz sparkling peach soda

Build drink in a pint glass, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with a peach slice.

Peach Shandy

Image by @pop_up_cobra

Where Face/Off falls short for me is the flimsy explanation of how the voices and bodies of the two actors could be manipulated so easily to match the new faces. Sucking the skin off of someone’s head and transplanting it seamlessly with no scarring? Yeah, OK. Lasers. But the idea of Nicholas Cage’s consumption-ridden Leaving Las Vegas body suddenly being able to pass as a beefed up Travolta? Now that’s Hollywood magic. Cheers!