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Bedknobs and Broomsticks

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Bedknobs and Broomsticks

Image credit: Bedknobs and Broomsticks, 1971.

No matter how many sexy pirate or sexy nurse costumes flood the market in October, to me Halloween will always be a holiday for kids. Sure, I may still put on a funky hat or a fake moustache and eat my weight in fun-sized Heath bars, but I know I’ll never recapture the anticipatory magic of slipping a coat over my Little Mermaid seashell bra and heading out into a chilly Pennsylvania evening, empty plastic pumpkin in hand. Therefore this week on Cinema Sips, I’m closing out a month of witch movies with a childhood favorite, Bedknobs and Broomsticks (DVD/Download).

Many people tend to compare this movie to Mary Poppins, and they wouldn’t be wrong. Both feature beloved British actresses, catchy songs, a bit of magic, dirty London streets, and an unfortunate live action/cartoon interlude. However, Bedknobs and Broomsticks is slightly grittier than Mary and her penguins. This film follows a trio of homeless orphaned children sent to live in the village of Pepperinge Eye during the WWII bombing of London. They wind up in the care of Angela Lansbury, a secret witch-in-training with a surly disposition and an endless supply of tweed skirts, who feeds them grain bowls and can’t ride a broom to save her life. But in the end, they all work together on magic spells to defeat the Nazi’s, and live happily ever after. Because Disney!

Lansbury’s Eglantine Price is a buttoned up lady, whose one indulgence (I like to imagine), is a small glass of sherry and a good book.  Actually, that sounds kind of perfect to me as well.  Let’s celebrate this unlikeliest of witches with a classic EGG-white cocktail, the Sherry Flip.

Sherry Flip

2 oz dry Sherry

1 oz simple syrup

1 egg white

Pinch of nutmeg

Combine all ingredients in a shaker without ice and shake well to combine. Then add ice, and shake vigorously to chill. Strain into a small wine glass. Dust with nutmeg.

Although many witches in cinema use their powers for romantic love, I applaud Eglantine on using hers for the good of her country. You see, witches don’t have to be scary. They can be intriguing, intelligent, kind, and pragmatic. They can have a thirst for knowledge that takes them from the bookshops on Portobello Road to a magical undersea dance hall. It’s all in your perception. Cheers!

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Hocus Pocus

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Hocus Pocus

Image credit: Hocus Pocus, 1993

I feel an unusual amount of pressure in writing about this week’s film Hocus Pocus (DVD/Download). What was once a charming (and admittedly scary) movie to 10-year old Liz Locke has since morphed into a cult classic that people my age are REALLY nostalgic for. Is it simply because Hocus Pocus was always “on” when we were kids? Is it the enduring appeal of a talking cat? Sarah Jessica Parker’s cleavage?   After a recent re-watch, I’m still not sure I’m a member of the H.P. cult, but it sure does bring back memories.

Hocus Pocus is an unusually dark movie in the Disney canon. Not only does it feature a trio of Salem witches who suck the life out of small children and bury the bones under their house, but there are also frightening graveyard chase scenes and an oddly critical view of virginity. Honestly, I didn’t even know what a virgin was when this movie came out, thinking it was probably a euphemism for ‘stupid’. What other excuse is there for lighting a black-flame candle made from the fat of a hanged-man (kid’s movie here folks!), knowing it might bring some evil witches back from the dead? Total virgin move. Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy are the ideal level of fun and creepy in their portrayal of the Sanderson Sisters, and in terms of cinema witches, it’s great to see the evil variety for a change, instead of the charming seductress. Not since Margaret Hamilton painted her skin green and summoned her monkeys have I been so terrified to see a woman fly through the air.

Because I consider this a somewhat adult movie, it deserves an adult beverage to go along with it. I didn’t get this recipe from a book of spells, but it does make me feel a little more youthful. Maybe that’s just the alcohol buzz. While watching Hocus Pocus, I recommend drinking a Glorious Morning Mule.

Glorious Morning Mule

3 oz Green Chartreuse

1 oz Lemon Juice

10 oz Ginger Beer

Optional: Salt Rim

Fill copper mule mug with ice, then top with green chartreuse, lemon juice, and ginger beer. Stir gently to combine. Optional- to ward off zombies, witches, and old boyfriends, rim the mug with salt.

Glorious Morning Mule

One thing I really love about Hocus Pocus is the book of spells with the blinking eye. Say what you want about witches, but they tend to be very well read. I may not approve of the rest of their shenanigans (like child genocide), but I do approve of reading. Cheers!

The Witches of Eastwick

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witches of eastwick

Image credit: Witches of Eastwick, 1987

You know that feeling you get when the end credits are rolling on a particularly bizarre film, and you just sit, unblinking, trying to make sense of the last two hours? Such was my experience with The Witches of Eastwick (DVD/Download). Not having read any Updike before, including the novel this film was based on, I was wholly unprepared. What started out as a promising rom-com slowly morphed into a special-effects laden horror-fest, with a dash of surrealism. This one definitely needs some unpacking.

For the first twenty minutes, my take on The Witches of Eastwick was, “where has this movie been all my life???” Cher, Michelle Pheiffer, and Susan Sarandon sitting around, drinking martini’s, complaining about how there are no good men anymore- let’s just call this my ideal Saturday night.   They wish hard for the man of their dreams, not knowing that they’re actually a coven of witches.  Soon after, this mysterious stranger actually appears in the form of Jack Nicholson. And he’s a creep. And he has a teeny-tiny ponytail that’s distracting as hell. And he may or may not be the devil. But he has a mansion with an indoor pool, a healthy sexual appetite, and bowls of fresh cherries (we’ll get to that in a minute). So the three women do what dozens of Playboy Bunnies have done before and move in with the morally bankrupt old charmer. Despite a meandering plot and lack of character development, the performances of these three powerhouse actresses and the great Jack Nicholson basically playing Jack Nicholson, keep me watching long after the movie has gone down the proverbial drain.

One of the spells cast by the witches is a strange revenge on the local town prude. Instead of just poisoning her outright, Jack Nicholson urges his three girlfriends to eat pounds of cherries. Somehow this sanctimonious woman ends up with the cherry guts in HER stomach and well- things get messy. You’d think this would turn me off cherries for good, but I can’t resist that tart, sweet taste. Even better with some activated charcoal to make this the perfect Halloween cocktail. While watching The Witches of Eastwick, I recommend drinking a Black Cherry Martini.

Black Cherry Martini

1 ½ oz Vodka

½ oz Maraschino Liqueur

1 1/2 oz POM Cherry Juice

1/4 oz Lime Juice

1/4 tsp Activated Charcoal Powder

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

There’s definitely a lot to like about The Witches of Eastwick, and if you’re looking for a fun adult Halloween movie this year, this one is close to the top of my list. Despite the truly weird final act, it’s still fun to watch three women take a dance with the devil in the pale moonlight*. Cheers!

*wrong movie, still applies!

Teen Witch

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Teen Witch

Image credit: Teen Witch, 1989

I’m not sure whether the How Did This Get Made? podcast is the greatest thing to happen to my Netflix queue, or the worst. It has shined a light on so many terrible (but somehow great?) movies I’d missed over the years, prompting me to turn off my normal taste barometers and see what all the fuss was about. Such was the case with this week’s film Teen Witch (DVD/Download).

Starring Robyn Lively as a teenager who discovers she has magical powers on her 16th birthday (which happens to coincide with Friday the 13th), this movie is half-John Hughes/half-80’s music video. Think sax solos, dry ice, teased hair, etc. I thought the weird musical number would be limited to just the opening credits, but no- it’s the whole damn thing (including one bizarre rap song “Top That” which I don’t totally get, but can’t look away from). Lively’s Louise is the classic smart, social reject yearning to be popular, and she achieves this goal by putting a spell on her high school classmates and wearing tighter clothes. Where Teen Witch really surprises me is with the character of her jock-hero obsession, who turns out to be a surprisingly good guy. Sure, he takes her to a sketchy abandoned house to fool around, but let’s not hold that against him. She seemed into it, rusty floor nails and all. Let’s just hope he came prepared with a CONDOM!

One of my favorite things about this movie is Zelda Rubenstein’s Madame Serena, the fortune teller/witch-guru. Totally adorable, she guides Louise through spells and potions, eventually helping her realize that she doesn’t need powers after all- she’s already pretty great. If I could be anywhere on Friday the 13th, it would be in Madame Serena’s lounge, mixing up something potent. While watching Teen Witch, I recommend drinking a Top That!

Top That!

1 oz Club Soda

2 oz Gin

¾ oz Lemon Juice

¾ oz Simple Syrup

¾ oz Blue Curacao

1 egg white

Fill a Collins glass 1/3 full with crushed ice, top with club soda, and set aside. Pour remaining ingredients into a shaker with no ice and shake vigorously for about 10 seconds. Add ice cubes and shake again until well-chilled and frothy. Strain into the prepared glass.

Top That

I know I shouldn’t like this movie, and yet, I totally do. It’s cheesy and dated and trite, but somehow that just makes it better. There’s enough romance and hormone jokes to appeal to my teen-movie sensibilities, and the out-of-focus, badly choreographed, slow-motion dance sequences are basically what’s been missing from my life. I dare anybody to top that. Cheers!

I Married a Witch

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I Married a Witch

Image credit: I Married a Witch, 1942

It’s October so you know what that means- scary movie time!! Except…. not so fast. While I understand that horror films are really entertaining to a lot of people, I’m just not one of those people. I prefer my supernatural/spooky with a side of comedy, maybe some romance. Therefore all month long I’ll be highlighting some wonderful witch movies that bring the laughs, charm, and plenty of love spells.

I first discovered this week’s film I Married a Witch (DVD/Download) while listening to my favorite podcast You Must Remember This. Karina Longworth’s Dead Blondes series included an episode on Veronica Lake, someone I’m ashamed to admit I’d never actually watched. Starting with this 1940’s gem about a witch who comes back to life to torment the ancestors of her Puritan oppressors was the perfect way to remedy that oversight. Veronica Lake is luminous and funny as the glamorous witch Jennifer, who makes the mistake of falling in love with her enemy Wallace Wooley. There’s a touch of Bewitched here, as Wooley grapples with his new wife’s powers, but in the end they realize that love is stronger than witchcraft.

Though Veronica Lake is the vessel for a witch’s soul, that soul also spends a good amount of time as a plume of smoke. Sometimes hanging out in liquor bottles, she and her dad plot their revenge on the Puritans mainly through voiceover. Maybe the smoke is supposed to give the viewers the chills- I’m not sure. But it did inspire this week’s cocktail. While watching I Married a Witch, I recommend drinking a Smoke & Mirrors.

Smoke & Mirrors

1.5 oz blanco tequila

1 oz Del Maguey Vida Mezcal

.5 oz ginger syrup

.5 oz lime juice

Shake all ingredients together over ice, then pour into a rocks glass with one large ice cube.

Smoke and Mirrors

This film may not be scary, but what it lacks in blood and gore it makes up for in supernatural spirit and beguiling magic. Who needs Freddie and Jason and all those other guys when you’ve got cocktails and Veronica Lake? Cheers!

Working Girl

working girl

Image credit: Working Girl, 1988.

To celebrate the 4th anniversary of Cinema Sips, this week I’ll be watching a classic ode to big hair and big dreams, Working Girl (DVD/Download).  Championing the idea that if you want to get ahead in life, you have to make it happen, this film is an inspiration to any woman who has ever dared to imagine she could crack the glass ceiling.  Or match her two-toned eye shadow to her jewelry.

As intelligent, hard-working Tess McGill, Melanie Griffith gets overlooked at work due to her Jersey accent, flashy clothes, and pretty face. She wants to make it in Mergers & Acquisitions (whatever the hell that is) but feels permanently stuck down in the secretarial pool. Enter Sigourney Weaver, a boss babe who seems supportive at first, but turns out to be a snake in Armani shoulder pads. Through some creative maneuvering, elocution lessons, and a flattering new haircut, Tess manages to pass herself off as someone who matters. The thing is- she had good ideas all along. She should have been taken seriously from the get-go. But sometimes when the rules are stacked against you, you have to make up new ones.

Along the way to the top, she meets Jack Trainer, delightfully portrayed by Harrison Ford. Talk about a female fantasy- he doesn’t talk down to Tess because she’s a woman, he values her ideas, and he offers her herbal tea when she gets drunk on tequila and valium. Maybe you’re in the mood for romance, or maybe you’ve just had a tough day at the office. In either case, I recommend watching Working Girl with some Lust & Tequila.

Lust & Tequila

1.5 oz silver tequila

3/4 oz lime juice

4 oz Mighty Swell Peach sparkling cocktail (or peach soda)

Topo Chico

Lime Twist

Build drink over ice in a highball glass, topping with Topo Chico.  Stir gently to combine, and garnish with a lime twist.

Lust and Tequila

As any working woman can tell you, making it happen is hard.  As I juggle a day job, a blog, a burgeoning career as a novelist, and that hungry beast called Social Media, I start to wonder if it’s all worth it.  The thing that keeps me going is the idea that someone out there might stumble onto this post and get SO EXCITED about drinking tequila while watching Working Girl.  Maybe it’ll bring a smile to their face.  Same goes for my books.  Finding a story that consumes me so much that I can’t put it down is one of my greatest joys in life. The dream of doing that for someone else is a big motivator.  Like Tess, if I keep pushing forward, some day I’ll get there.  Maybe Working Girl is a fairy tale, but it’s one I want to believe in.   Cheers!

Across the Universe

Across the Universe

Image Credit: Across the Universe, 2007.

As a teenager I was largely obsessed with everything Beatles-related (who am I kidding- I still am), so it comes as no surprise that I would adore Across the Universe (DVD/Download). Using the songs of Lennon and McCartney to tell the story of 1960’s-era star crossed lovers? Genius. Tapping director Julie Taymor to bring her signature visual-wonderland style to the project? Transcendent.

Across the Universe is essentially a patchwork quilt woven from Beatles song lyrics.  Heartsick Jude pines for Lucy, they survive the turbulent 60’s with a little help from their friends, dear Prudence sneaks in through the bathroom window, and in the end they realize that love is all you need. Through superbly choreographed songs, wildly creative set pieces, and heartfelt acting, the music of the Beatles truly comes alive. I feel every note, from Joe Cocker belting “Come Together”, to T.V. Carpio singing her heart-wrenching version of “I Wanna Hold Your Hand”. It makes me understand the songs like never before.

One of the strongest symbols in the film is the strawberry, used to represent both the overt sexuality of the era, as well as the bloodshed of Vietnam. It’s a powerful and striking visual element. While watching Across the Universe, I recommend drinking a Strawberry Fields Martini.

Strawberry Fields Martini

1/4 cup strawberry juice (I used Naked Strawberry C Monster™)

1 oz cake vodka

Pink champagne

Fresh strawberry (for garnish)

Mix the strawberry juice and vodka over ice in a cocktail shaker, stirring until chilled. Strain into a martini glass, and top with pink champagne. Garnish with a strawberry.

strawberry fields

 

Despite an awful Mr. Kite musical number in the middle (honestly- wasn’t it bad enough we had to suffer through it on the Sgt. Pepper album??) Across the Universe is simply magical. So turn off your mind, relax, and float downstream- it is shining.  Cheers!