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Heartbreakers

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Heartbreakers

Image credit: Heartbreakers, 2001

After being cooped up inside for most of the spring, I’m really excited to watch a movie featuring beaches, cocktails, and a grand old Florida hotel. Heartbreakers (Disc/Download) is a surprisingly fun rom-com that will have you dreaming of palm trees, the Intracoastal Waterway, and romance under the stars.

Featuring Sigourney Weaver and Jennifer Love-Hewitt as mother/daughter con-artists, this movie takes the audience through a lot of twists. First, Sigourney is marrying Ray Liotta, right before catching him in a compromising position with his sexy secretary. Turns out the secretary is her daughter, planted to secure a hefty divorce settlement. Due to a strange subplot involving the ALWAYS FABULOUS Anne Bancroft, the duo heads to Palm Beach next to snag a billionaire. They check in to the Breakers Hotel (get it, HeartBREAKERS??), and begin working on Gene Hackman’s character William B. Tensey, a tobacco executive with one foot in the emphysema grave. Hackman really “hacks” his way through this part, in the best anti-smoking campaign I’ve ever seen. Things get messy when Jennifer Love-Hewitt falls for a sweet, earnest bartender (played by Jason Lee), prompting the age-old dilemma between love and money. If the plot seems bananas, it is. But if you’re looking for some escapism right now, this movie is a perfect choice.

It’s such a joy to see a rom-com set somewhere other than New York/Chicago/LA, so let’s celebrate that Florida Lyfe with a tropical martini. While watching Heartbreakers, I recommend drinking this Floridatini.

Floridatini

1 ½ oz Vodka

1 ½ oz Grapefruit Juice

½ oz Passionfruit Syrup

¾ oz Lime Juice

Dash of Peychaud’s bitters

Combine all ingredients in a shaker over ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with an umbrella.

Floridatini

Although I love the romance of this film, and especially the wedding dress worn by JLH, the movie’s success is actually due to the complicated, endearing mother/daughter relationship. These two actresses have great chemistry together, even when they’re stabbing each other in the back. Somehow, you still feel the love. Cheers!

 

Polyester

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Polyester 2

Image Credit: Polyester, 1981

As a final love letter to the TCMFF that never was, I decided to celebrate not just a classic, but a cult classic. Polyester (Disc/Download) is the rare John Waters movie that has eluded me up till now. Maybe I’d been holding out for an Odorama screening. Maybe I just wanted to watch this someplace more exciting than my living room. But then, I decided the viewing circumstances were irrelevant; Todd Tomorrow should not have to wait until tomorrow.

Having been raised on soap operas, the day I discovered the Douglas Sirk melodrama was a true awakening. Classic cinema had been churning out these “women’s pictures” (I have as much disdain for this term as I do “women’s fiction”) for decades, and life was suddenly a banquet again.  But once you’ve seen Magnificent Obsession and Imitation of Life and All That Heaven Allows, where to go? Baltimore, that’s where. With his core group of Dreamland performers, including Divine, Mink Stole, and Edith Massey, The Pope of Trash took these angst-filled flicks and turned them on their heads. It’s clear Waters has a real appreciation for the original genre, down to the peignoirs, clouds of Evening in Paris perfume, and campy character names, but he injects his own brand of modern weirdness too– foot fetishism, doggie suicide, and drag performance to name a few. The story of Francine Fishpaw overcoming her cheating husband and alcoholism is straight out of the Sirk playbook, but the clever way Waters inserts his own brand makes Polyester into something truly unique.

In a nod to the “gimmick” films of the 1950s, Polyester was originally screened in Odorama, whereby audience members were given cards to scratch and smell during certain scenes. Indeed, even without the cards, we see Divine sniffing like a president during a press conference. Most of the scents are pretty vile (model airplane glue, flatulence, skunk), but the first one is meant to lull us into a false sense of security: roses. By adding a few drops of rose water to this cocktail, you can join in the fun even at home. While watching Polyester, I recommend this Stop and Smell the Roses! cocktail.

Stop and Smell the Roses!

1.5 oz Three Olives Rosé Vodka

.5 oz Lemon Juice

.5 oz Grapefruit Juice

2-3 drops Rose Water

Splash of Sparkling Rosé

Club Soda

Dried Strawberries or Rose Petals for garnish

Combine Vodka, lemon and grapefruit juices, and rose water in a shaker filled with ice.  Shake until chilled, then strain into a highball glass filled with ice. Top with Sparkling Rosé, and club soda. Garnish with dried strawberries or rose petals.

Stop and Smell the Roses

Eventually, Francine learns to stop hittin’ the sauce, but I don’t see any reason for us viewers to stop. Without the famed Odorama cards, we need alcohol as our gimmick. By being something special and different, Polyester breathed new life into the career of Tab Hunter. Maybe, just maybe, it’ll breathe new life into your love of movies; I know it did for me. Cheers!

Victor/Victoria

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Victor Victoria

Image credit: Victor/Victoria, 1982.

From Breakfast at Tiffany’s, to The Party, to the Pink Panther films, I am devoted to the comic genius of Blake Edwards. The man does party scenes like nobody else, giving us a blend of style and cheekiness that all but defines 1960s cinema. Victor/Victoria (Disc/Download) may fit squarely in the 1980s (blame Robert Preston’s hair), but I still put it alongside those other classic ‘60s gems. It’s got flair, whit, and above all, it pushes boundaries.

Starring Edwards’ wife Julie Andrews as a hungry soprano masquerading as a female impersonator in 1930s Paris, this film broke a lot of social barriers. Mary Poppins playing a woman, playing a man, who’s playing a woman is something I never thought I’d see, but this role was unexpectedly perfect for Andrews. She struts about the nightclub stage with confidence, making her audience forget about pedestrian concepts like gender and sexuality. Svengali/Manager Toddy (a role originally intended for Peter Sellers before his sudden death) provides witty banter and one-liners for days, their friendship serving as the true heart of the movie. Sure, we’re meant to root for love interest James Garner, the Chicago mobster who can’t figure out why he’s in love with a man (until realizing “he’s” a “she”), but by the end I don’t even care if James and Julie run off into the Pre-World War II sunset. I just want her to drink champagne in bed with Toddy forever.

Speaking of champagne, these characters drink a lot of it. There’s even one impressive number done by an acrobat balancing on a champagne bottle (CLASSIC Edwards physical comedy). Let’s join these liberal, sophisticated Parisians by drinking a Shady Dame.

Shady Dame

4 oz champagne

½ oz Lillet Blanc

½ oz Cointreau

½ oz Lemon Juice

Lemon Twist

Combine Lillet, Cointreau, and Lemon Juice in a shaker over ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Top with champagne, and a twist of lemon.

Shady Lady

In a lot of ways, this film is a snapshot of “before” (before WWII, before the Nazi occupation of Paris), and yet, also a preview of “after”. After we learn to give up our arbitrary rules regarding gender and sexuality and just let people be who they are. After we say it’s okay for anybody, male, female, or non-binary, to wear flamenco dresses, drink champagne, and laugh. Cheers!

Somewhere in Time

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Somewhere in Time

Image Credit: Somewhere in Time, 1980.

Of all the movies I was supposed to see at TCMFF2020, I was most excited for Somewhere in Time (Disc/Download). An underappreciated romance starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour, it can best be described as Outlander-meets-Anne of Green Gables, with a dash of Moulin Rouge. Set in Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel, watching this makes me feel like I just took a trip somewhere fabulous without having to leave my living room.

More often than not, cinema time travel happens through some sort of gadget or external magic. But in Somewhere in Time, time travel is a mental state. Christopher Reeve’s character Richard Collier hypnotizes himself into believing he’s going from 1980 back to 1912. Why does he do this? Because he knows he’s been there before. When he sees a picture of a radiant Jane Seymour’s Elise McKenna, he can’t shake the feeling that this once-famous actress was someone special to him. Then he realizes she’s the same old woman who gave him a pocket watch in 1972; a watch that he would give back to her in 1912. This sets off a chicken-and-egg paradox in my mind of who actually had the watch first, for it can’t exist in the past without first existing in the present (and round and round we go). In many ways it’s a reflection of their love, traveling through time, unchanged and constant.

As mentioned, the Grand Hotel of Mackinac Island plays a central role. Because the island allows no motor vehicles even to this day, it’s the perfect location to set a story from the past. I can almost imagine myself in a wicker chair on the hotel’s wide veranda; sipping cocktails and watching the horse-drawn carriages go by. Hypnotize yourself into thinking you’re relaxing at a luxury hotel with this Grand Tonic. (hey, it’s worth a shot!)

Grand Tonic

1 1/2 oz Grand Marnier

3/4 oz Tonic Syrup (I used Bradley’s Kina Tonic, with notes of spiced orange).

Club Soda

Orange slice

Strawberry slices

Fill a glass with ice, and pour in a shot of Grand Marnier. Top with tonic syrup and club soda, and stir gently to combine. Garnish with orange and strawberry slices.

Grand Tonic

Christopher Reeve plays a dashing hero who puts himself through hell to reach the love of his life, and it makes me a little sad that he didn’t have the chance for a lengthy career of roles like this. Knowing what we do now about his tragic injury, it makes Somewhere in Time feel even more urgent. Richard, and Christopher, are both running out of time. It’s up to us movie fans to give them more of it. Cheers!

Back to the Future

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Back to the Future

Image credit: Back to the Future, 1985.

I don’t know about you, but I could really use a trip right now. A trip back to a time before Covid-19 exploded across the world and cancelled everything. A particular disappointment for me personally has been the cancellation of the 2020 Turner Classic Movies Film Fest, which was my big surprise Christmas gift from a VERY generous husband. I’d wanted to attend for years, and now… I have to wait another year. To take the sting out of this huge disappointment, and to keep me entertained while I’m social-distancing at home, I’ll be featuring several of the movies I’d been looking forward to seeing at the festival this month. First up is Back to the Future! (Disc/Download)

In case there was any doubt, this is a MOVIE. A big, epic flick that was meant for popcorn and a packed theater. I had to make do at home by watching it on LaserDisc, but honestly this giant record-sized disc really brought the ’80s to my living room. As Huey Lewis began to sing about the Power of Love, and Marty McFly made googly eyes at the girl with the great hair, I remembered why I love this movie so much. It’s got all the flash and magic of a big-budget Hollywood production, but it’s also got heart. Imagine being able to meet your parents as teenagers, or even your grandparents when they were just middle-aged; knowing them as people and not just photographs? And what if you could change the course of history and make the present day just a little bit better? I personally wish the DeLorean could take us back to 2016 so Marty could help us defeat another misogynistic bully, but maybe that stuff only happens in the movies. Or…Back to the Future Part 4???

Lest we forget, none of this time travel would be possible without Doc Brown. He figured out the plutonium/Flux Capacitor stuff, and even put his life on the line with a van full of Libyan terrorists (yeah, things were weird in the eighties). Let’s honor him with this simple Doc Brown’s White Lightning.

Doc Brown’s White Lightning

4 oz Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda

1.5 oz Sugarlands Shine Hazelnut Rum

1 scoop Vanilla Ice Cream (optional)

Fill a glass with ice and pour in Hazelnut Rum. Add cream soda, and stir gently to combine. Top with Vanilla Ice Cream, if desired.

White Lightning

I don’t have a DeLorean, or a Flux Capacitor, but I do have something even more incredible: movies. It’s classic movies like Back to the Future that will get us through this tough time, and remind us that great art can’t be cancelled. It lives on, through LaserDisc, DVD, Blu-Ray, Streaming, and eventually someday again, a big theater filled with popcorn and people.  Cheers!

 

Jules and Jim

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Jules and Jim

Image credit: Jules and Jim, 1962.

Leave it to the French to shock me. Here I was, thinking of polyamory as a concept not fully embraced until the swingin’ ‘70s, but as Jules and Jim (Disc/Download) would suggest, throuples have been around long before Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice; long before that “groundbreaking” episode of House Hunters. Apparently, Paris was a hotbed of free love, even before the Great War.

Directed by Francois Truffaut, Jules and Jim is really about Jules and Jim and Catherine—the free-spirited girl at the center of this complicated love triangle. When we meet them, Jules and Jim are carefree writers who share good times and the occasional woman. But Catherine is something different. Jules stakes a claim early on, even though we can see there’s a strong attraction from Jim as well. She flirts, Jim pines, then Jules marries her and everyone goes off to war. Jules fights on the Austrian side, Jim for the French, and both are afraid of inadvertently killing their best friend on the battlefield. Coming home, Jules settles into an unhappy marriage with Catherine, though both realize something is missing. Eventually, Jim steps in to help right the balance. Despite turbulent times ahead, for a short while in the Black Forest, this throuple is undeniably, unexpectedly happy.

Watching this gorgeous movie at home makes me wish I were instead watching it on the big screen at one of my favorite cinemas, the Austin Film Society* . They have a special gin & tonic on their lobby menu that pairs perfectly with this angsty French love story. While watching Jules and Jim, I recommend drinking the AFS Gin & Tonic.

AFS Gin & Tonic

2 oz Dry Gin

¼ oz Lillet Rose

½ oz Lime Juice

4 oz Elderflower Tonic (I use Fever Tree)

Lime Wheel/Juniper berries for garnish

Combine Gin, Lillet, and lime juice in a shaker filled with ice. Stir to combine and chill, then strain into a glass filled with ice. Top with Elderflower tonic, garnish with lime wheel and juniper berries.

Lillet Gin & Tonic

As with most French New Wave films, lead actress Jeanne Moreau is sexy, cool, funny, and real. Jules and Jim are somewhat forgettable, but Catherine is a woman ahead of her time. This film was made in the 1960s, takes place in 1914-1920s, but feels completely relevant to the 2020s. Let’s touch toes and toast to this unconventional, enduring masterpiece. Cheers!

*If you’re a supporter of indie film, please consider donating to the Austin Film Society so we can all enjoy films and cocktails after the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us.

Doctor Zhivago

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Doctor Zhivago

Image: Doctor Zhivago, 1965 (Also: The Great Coronavirus Quarantine 2020)

Unlike Doctor Zhivago’s runtime, the following post will be brief. I had enormously high hopes for this film (Disc/Download), thinking it would be hot men in the snow, meets three-and-a-half hours of Julie Christie looking sad and gorgeous. I took advantage of the orchestral overture to mix a cocktail and settled in to be transported to glamorous Moscow. Expecting snow-covered romance and emotional angst, imagine my shock upon realizing I’d committed to watching an extremely tedious episode of Little Kremlin on the Prairie.

I won’t bore you with all the reasons why this movie failed me. As any writer of romance can affirm, we’re told to show, not tell. Well, I was told that Omar Sharif and Julie Christie were hopelessly in love with each other; I just wasn’t shown it. Every time even a whisper of passion came across the screen, the film made an abrupt cut. I couldn’t understand why poet/physician Zhivago would wander through the barren frozen wasteland of Russia in search of his former nurse (and patient?) Lara, when they’d shared only about 20 minutes of screen time thus far. Was it just that she was so beautiful? I’m honestly still confused.

The one bright spot in my three-and-a-half hour trip to Cinema Siberia was the cocktail pairing I chose. As previously mentioned, grand epics are tailor-made for drinkers because the lengthy overture and intermission give you plenty of time for mixing. While watching Doctor Zhivago, replicate the feeling of walking through snow and ice to kiss a girl you kinda, sorta once knew with this Russian Frostbite cocktail.

Russian Frostbite

1½ oz Vodka

¾ oz Brandy

1 oz Coffee Liqueur

1 oz Cold Brew Coffee

1 oz Rumchata

1 ½ oz Half-and-Half

Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice, and shake until mixed and chilled. Strain into a glass filled with fresh ice.

Frostbite

It’s not a coincidence that this cocktail has coffee in it; you’ll need it to stay awake. While I loved the visuals of an ice-covered onion dome, Julie Christie’s shiny coif, and Omar Sharif’s forearms (!!!), Doctor Zhivago ultimately didn’t move me. It didn’t even nudge me. In the future, if I ever find myself in the mood for impossible love in the middle of a communist revolution, I’ll stick with the book. Cheers!

 

 

 

 

Rome Adventure

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Rome Adventure

Image credit: Rome Adventure, 1962.

I’ll say one thing about Troy Donahue—he’s a unique kisser. Whether it’s on the beaches of California in A Summer Place, or in a carriage pulled through the streets of Rome in this week’s Rome Adventure (Disc/Download), he pretty much swallows his partner whole. I can’t know how it feels to be on the receiving end of one of these melodramatic lip attacks, but if Suzanne Pleshette married him three years after filming wrapped, it must have left an impression. She said arrivederci soon after the wedding vows, but… we won’t get into that.

If you love Roman Holiday and Three Coins in the Fountain, I urge you to check out this romantic drama. Suzanne Pleshette stars as a disgraced librarian Prudence (she rec’d a romance novel to teens! The horror!!!) who flees to Rome in search of love and La Dolce Vita. She lands a sweet gig in an American bookshop just off the Piazza Navona, owned by a funny, sexy ex-pat (Constance Ford in a MUCH more appealing role than the racist mom in A Summer Place). There’s even a cute bookshop dog! Prudence falls for a charming American architect (Donahue), already under the spell of she-wolf Angie Dickinson and her fabulous silk evening gowns. Meanwhile an older man Prudence met on a cruise is still trying to seduce her, and a square student (who bears a remarkable resemblance to Beto O’Rourke) carries an unrequited torch. Let’s just say, this librarian goes looking for love and gets more than she bargained for.

The movie makes a bold case for the Italian aperitif Strega, a new-to-me spirit. As Prudence likes to say, it “turns the world gold”. While watching Rome Adventure, I recommend drinking this Strega Sunrise.

Strega Sunrise

2 oz Strega

1 oz Fresh orange juice

1 oz Lime Juice

1 tsp honey syrup

Orange Bitters

2 oz Club Soda

Orange Twist

Combine first five ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until well chilled, then strain into a glass filled with ice. Top with club soda, and a twist of orange.

Strega Sunrise

If you want to make your viewing even more fun, take a drink every time someone says “Arrivederci!”  And now you’ll have to excuse me—I’m off to go fantasize about working in a Roman bookshop with a saucy broad and her sheepdog. Cheers!

Farewell to the Summer Light

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Farewell to the Summer Light

Image credit: Farewell to the Summer Light, 1968.

For fans of Wong Kar-wai and Richard Linklater, I present to you the 1968 gem, Farewell to the Summer Light (avail. on YouTube). A love story featuring two Japanese expats walking and talking about nothing and everything, this movie hits me right where it matters. Watch it, but be warned- this one will stay with you.

Beautifully shot in Lisbon, Paris, Madrid, Scandinavia, and Rome, Yoshishige Yoshida’s film is a tapestry of European cities. Kawamura is searching for a mythical church when he meets Naoko, a married furniture/art buyer, still traumatized by the loss of her family to the Nagasaki atomic bomb. Kawamura and Naoko relate to one another initially through their heritage and the displaced feeling of being foreigners in a Western world, but eventually, their friendly wandering turns into attraction. In a constant push/pull, we feel the disappointment each time they leave one another, then the heart-lifting triumph when they find each other in a new city. It’s a love grounded in fate, but stymied by circumstance.

This gorgeous film deserves an equally lovely cocktail pairing with Japanese and European influences. While watching Farewell to the Summer Light, I recommend drinking this Low Tide cocktail.

Low Tide

1 ½ oz Sake

3-4 oz Dry Cava

½ oz Lime Juice

½ oz Mint Simple Syrup

Lime Twist

Combine Sake, Lime Juice, and Simple syrup in a shaker over ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a or flute. Top with Cava, and garnish with a twist of lime.

Low Tide

I’ll admit, my 1960s international film tastes have largely skewed toward the French and Italian, but Farewell to the Summer Light makes me want to learn more about what was happening in Japanese cinema. When Naoko and Kawamura kiss in front of a cathedral built on the beaches of Normandy, you realize what their love truly is—a beautiful sandcastle not meant to last. There’s such poetry in the way it’s shot; a desperation that practically tears through the screen. I may still look the same on the outside, but inside I’ll be carrying that scene with me forever. Cheers!

Model Shop

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Model Shop

Image credit: Model Shop, 1969

When I found out that two of my favorite movies of last year, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and Echo in the Canyon, were reportedly influenced by Jacques Demy’s 1969 film Model Shop (Disc/Download), I needed to see what all the fuss was about. If you’re searching for a slice-of-life ride through ‘60s Los Angeles, look no further than this gorgeous film about love, mortality, and the mistakes of youth.

As the sun rises on a rundown LA bungalow, we meet George Matthews, a former architect at a crossroads in his life. His girlfriend’s got one foot out the door, his car’s about to be repossessed, and he doesn’t know what he wants to do ten minutes from now, let alone ten years. But then he spots a mysterious woman (Anouk Aimée) on the Sunset Strip and follows her up into the hills in his little MG. She goes into a house, he looks out over the city that doesn’t feel like home anymore, then turns around and leaves. But fate forces their paths to cross again, and this time he follows her into a Model Shop.  In this strange make-your-own-porn business that could have only existed in the 1960s, men pay to take pictures of women in their underwear, eventually leaving with negatives and a sweaty brow. For George, this sets off a Before Sunrise-esque 24hr love affair, fueled by the looming threat of a Vietnam draft notice which just arrived in the mail. That’s the thing about the ’60s—things happened fast because they had to.

Even though George’s model strips down for his camera, it isn’t until they’re back at her place that she really starts to reveal herself (a good drink will always get you talking well into the night). Equal parts sweet and bitter, while watching Model Shop, I suggest drinking this Sunset Stripped cocktail.

Sunset Stripped

1 oz Brandy

1 oz Lillet Blanc

¼ oz Honey Syrup (Equal parts honey and water boiled together, then cooled).

Dash of Angostura Bitters

Dash of Orange Bitters

Orange peel or dried orange slice

Combine Brandy, Lillet, honey syrup, and bitters in a shaker with ice. Stir until well chilled, then strain into a tumbler with a fresh cube of ice. Garnish with an orange peel or dried orange slice.

Sunset Stripped

For anyone wanting to see what Los Angeles looked like in the late 1960s, this movie is a perfect time capsule. The cars, the signage, the mini-skirts, the tanned pre-cancerous skin—Model Shop places you right in the center of it all. Sure you could watch someone else’s modern interpretation of this time period, but isn’t it more fun to go straight to the source? Cheers!