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The Matrix

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Image credit: The Matrix, 1999

I’ll be the first to admit—I am decades late to The Matrix party. When this movie (Disc/Download) came out in 1999, to me it was only a poster on a wall, hanging in the video store where I worked after school. I must have glanced at that picture of Keanu Reeves in a trench coat a thousand times, restocked the tape boxes triple that amount, but never felt tempted to see what all the fuss was about. Well, let’s just say my indifference ended this year thanks to pandemic boredom, a reboot, and one exceptionally good trailer.

The trailer I’m referring to is that of The Matrix: Resurrections, the most recent installment of this franchise which enjoyed a buzzy streaming release last winter. One whiff of a Jefferson Airplane song and the gracefully aging face of Keanu Reeves, and I was hooked. I wanted to see what these red and blue pills were all about. But to do that, I had to watch the original Matrix, a movie I’d successfully avoided for the past twenty-three years. So… I watched it. And I got lost. And then more lost. And then I gave up around the time Joe Pantoliano was gulping his wine. “What the hell is happening in this movie?” I shouted. “What is even real???”

My husband urged me to watch it again, this time with no distractions and my smart phone out of reach. And you know what? He was right. With nothing dividing my focus, I finally understood it. In the world of The Matrix, robots have taken over, sucking energy from humans, placing them in a weird dream state while they power the grid. A few humans have broken out of the Matrix, but then they go back in, but must escape again before either their real version or their Matrix version gets killed. There are also some giant robotic squids attacking a ship at one point??? Oh, hell, maybe I still don’t get it. But the pleather costumes are glorious.

There are a lot of references to Alice in Wonderland in The Matrix, so if you’re having a watch party, it might be fun to make White Rabbits with red and blue rimming sugar. Let your guests decide which one they want!

White Rabbit

1 ½ oz Gin

¾ oz Amaretto

¾ oz Vanilla non-dairy creamer

¼ oz Lemon cream liqueur

Red and blue rimming sugar

Run a lemon around the edge of a glass, then dip in rimming sugar. Add gin, Amaretto, creamer, and lemon cream liqueur to a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled then strain into prepared glass.

This might feel like a slightly heavy cocktail (in truth it tastes like a lemon meringue pie!), but this is a heavy movie in my opinion. It plays on our fears that we are doomed to be cogs in the machine, urging us to rise up and make a change; to be “The One” in our own lives. To believe we have the power to stop bullets and stand up to those who see us as nothing more than an expendable vessel.

I think.

American Beauty

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Image Credit: American Beauty, 1999

I’m not going to lie—this week was a challenge. Do I revisit a movie that was dubbed the Best Picture of 1999, a movie I really liked at the time, but have since abandoned after its star’s misdeeds made watching it an incredibly uncomfortable experience? American Beauty is a difficult film to write about in the year 2022 because it’s hard to reconcile my original opinion with an ever-evolving consciousness of cinema’s impact and responsibility. Nevertheless, if I’m going to look at the year 1999, I feel like I have to look at it warts-and-all. And by warts, I mean the casual acceptance (perhaps even, glamorization) of statutory rape. Dear lord, what were we thinking?

Here’s the thing—I still believe there are some great performances in this movie. I still adore the cinematography and score. I still enjoy the critique of the suburban middle class, and the way the ending unfolds like an episode of Dateline. It leaves us guessing about what comes next, which I find exciting. If I could only watch the brilliant Annette Bening in the role of a frustrated wife, mother, and realtor, I’d be watching this on repeat without hesitation. I want her to sell that house today, and the ensuing breakdown when she fails still reflects the tiny voice inside me that screams every time the thing I desperately wanted to achieve just doesn’t work out—you weak, stupid, baby. But American Beauty isn’t a one-woman show. It also features Kevin Spacey, in a role where we, the audience, are supposed to be rooting for him to turn his boring life around by seducing his daughter’s teenage friend. It isn’t cool now, it shouldn’t have been cool then, and shame on all of us who looked through his perverted lens and couldn’t see the trauma for the rose petals. I’m amazed that it took the star’s real-life crimes to wake us up to the problems with this character, but I can only assume we were distracted by Lester Burnham’s “Great Resignation” before it was a trend.

Maybe, like me, you’re curious and want to go down this rabbit hole one more time. If so, you will need a drink. Let’s celebrate Carolyn Burnham’s prize rose collection with this simple cocktail, tailor-made for easy refills. While watching American Beauty, I recommend drinking a Rosewater Gin & Tonic.

Rosewater Gin & Tonic

2 oz London Dry Gin

6 oz Fever Tree Tonic

3-4 drops Rosewater

Lime Slice

Rose Petal (for garnish)

Juniper berries (for garnish)

Combine ingredients in a highball glass over ice, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with a lime slice and rose petal.

I suppose this whole ordeal opens me up to thinking about my own tolerance for movies that have not stood the test of time. There are some I find easier to watch than others, and I can’t even explain why. But I think that complexity is true for a lot of us—we’re not perfect, and our understanding and reaction to painful histories is an ever-evolving process. However, I think having the space to examine things through a more critical lens, without judgment, is key to creating better content. We can’t move forward in a productive way without examining mistakes of the past. And in 1999, I’ll be the first to admit—I was wrong about American Beauty. Let’s not do this again.

The Sixth Sense

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Image Credit: The Sixth Sense, 1999

Cinema Sips has gone back in time to cover 1967, 1976, 1985, and now <drumroll please> I’m ready to party like it’s 1999! In my opinion, I’ve saved the best for last on my mini journey through late-20th century cinema. Maybe this is my favorite movie year because I was sixteen and impressionable at the time, or maybe it’s because the movies were SO DAMN GOOD. I’ve already covered many of my favorites (The Talented Mr. Ripley, Notting Hill, 10 Things I Hate About You, etc), but now I’m turning my attention to a few other films that made a hell of a lot of money, started a lot of conversations, and represented what audiences were most looking for at the time. Kicking things off is M. Night Shyamalan’s thriller, The Sixth Sense (Disc/Download).

I saw this movie with my dad during its initial theatrical release, and I remember him being decidedly pissed off by the ending. It was a bait-and-switch, overturning everything we thought we were watching for the last two hours. I believe his direct quote was, “Those JERKS!” But it was this very ending that made people keep talking about the movie, giving it box office staying power beyond any other psychological thriller at the time. Similar to Hitchcock’s Psycho, this movie about a young boy who sees ghosts lives and dies by its final ten minutes, and if anyone spoiled the twist before you had a chance to see it, I hope only bad things have happened to them over the ensuing twenty-three years. I’m not going to go into it here in case you’re very young or have been living under a rock, but what I will say is that Bruce Willis gives a career-highlight performance as the child psychologist tasked with helping a scared little boy (an adorable Haley Joel Osment), and Toni Collette has somehow aged backwards in the last several decades?? This goes to show that a dark lip color and heavy eye makeup did us no favors in the late ‘90s.

The thing about the ghosts in this movie is that they don’t actually know they’re dead. Similar to its charming rom-com counterpoint Ghost Town, spirits between worlds come to Haley Joel Osment in crisis, and he has to fix their problems in order to set them free. I know what you’re thinking—how do they not know they’re dead? Well, this is conveniently explained away as “they only see what they want to see.” I guess one of the things they turned a blind eye to was their obituary, but I’m not making the same mistake. While watching The Sixth Sense, I recommend drinking a classic Obituary cocktail.

Obituary

2 oz Gin

¼ oz Dry Vermouth

¼ oz Absinthe

Lemon twist

Pour ingredients into a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir until well combined, the strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

I previously featured this cocktail as a pairing for Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but it’s just as lethal now as it was then. You need something strong and spirit-forward for this movie (see what I did there??) because you don’t want to end up like my dad, angry and bitter that M. Night Shyamalan pulled a fast one. Instead, you want to ease into this psychological mind-bender on a cloud of absinthe fumes, ready to be spooked and surprised. Cheers!

Out of Africa

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Image Credit: Out of Africa, 1985

Concluding my journey through 1985, I couldn’t resist a peek at the year’s Academy Award winner for Best Picture, Sydney Pollack’s Out of Africa (Disc/Download). Some might say this is not the best movie to watch when you’re already sweltering under a summer heat wave; however, I like to think of this as a how-to guide for surviving climate change—wear a lot of white linen, stock up on quinine, and make alfresco nighttime vinyl cocktail parties a thing.

Starring Meryl Streep as Karen von Blixen (the writer who would later go on to be published under the pseudonym Isak Dinesen) this is an epic tale of one woman’s struggle to live her best life, despite the incompetent men she’s forced to deal with on a daily basis. Sounds familiar, amiright ladies? Wealthy Karen signs herself up for a marriage-of-convenience that involves a ticket to Nairobi and a coffee farm she never really wanted. But still, she makes the best of it, forging a friendship with handsome safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton (Robert Redford)- a friendship that later turns into a passionate romance. Confronted with war, fickle crops, male chauvinism, as well as a fun little bout of syphilis thanks to her deadbeat husband, Karen never loses her classy attitude. She’s all about crystal decanters, Victrola record players, Limoges, and fussy feminine decor, even while on safari. In other words, she basically invented glamping, and we should all bow down.

Because this movie is definitely not climate controlled, I think we need an icy cold beverage to get us through. There’s no greater summertime pleasure than a gin & tonic, so let’s combine the flavors of a G&T with Karen’s beleaguered coffee crop in this Spiked Coffee Tonic cocktail.

Spiked Coffee Tonic

1 oz Gin

1 ½ oz Espresso Cold Brew (canned)

2 oz Tonic

½ oz Brown Sugar Syrup (Combine 1:1 ratio brown sugar with water, blending until sugar is dissolved)

Dried Lemon Wheel (garnish)

Combine gin, cold brew, tonic, and syrup in a highball glass filled with large ice cubes. Stir until combined, then garnish with a dried lemon wheel.

It’s a little surprising to me that this won the Academy Award for Best Picture, given how lackluster the script is. But nevertheless, it’s worthwhile viewing, if only to watch Meryl master the Danish accent as well as those safari-chic fashions. Cheers!

The Goonies

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Image credit: The Goonies, 1985

As a child of the 1980s, I feel a certain responsibility to honor the inexplicable love my generation has for The Goonies (Disc/Download). I may have come along too late to really understand why this movie was and is such a big deal (I was only two when it premiered), but nevertheless, people still go nuts for this group of extremely loud kids and their Pacific Northwest pirate adventure. Let’s pour one out and deconstruct.

Conceived by Steven Spielberg, directed by Richard Donner, and written by Chris Columbus, this movie was practically guaranteed to be a blockbuster. These guys know storytelling. The fact that the plot is 100% ludicrous doesn’t really matter—we must keep watching to see if these kids can find the pirate treasure hidden under an Italian restaurant, escape the criminals trying to murder them, and save their family homes from foreclosure. Where things unfortunately fall apart for me is with the character of Sloth, which seems like a lame excuse for special effects and makeup in a movie that doesn’t really need them. I would even argue that we don’t need the Fratelli family at all—there’s enough action surrounding the booby-trapped treasure hunt to keep things exciting. The whole movie is one giant Rube Goldberg machine full of adventurous production design that makes you feel like you just played a game of chutes and ladders, under a steady PNW drizzle.

Having never seen this before in its entirety (I know, I KNOW!!), I was delighted to find so many tiki influences. The pirate ship, Chunk’s Hawaiian shirt, all the skulls and buried treasure—it’s like Don the Beachcomber died and went to Oregon. On that note, let’s try a cocktail that’s perfect while counting your doubloons, the Pearl Diver.

Pearl Diver

1 ½ oz Gold Puerto Rican Rum

¾ oz Demerara Rum

½ oz Gold Jamaican Rum

1 tsp Falernum

¾ oz Lime Juice

1 oz Orange Juice

¾ oz Gardenia Mix (people with more time on their hands might want to make their own. I am not that person)

1 cup ice

Fresh orchid (for garnish)

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend for about 15 seconds, then strain through a wire mesh into a Pearl Diver glass filled with fresh crushed ice. Garnish with orchid.

Even though I don’t hold an abiding love for The Goonies like a lot of people my age, I recognize its impact. It was a movie that appealed to the youth market, but adults could feel comfortable enjoying it too. Perhaps that’s what’s given it so much staying power— ‘80s kids may have grown up, but we’re still looking for an adventure. Cheers!

Fletch

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Image credit: Fletch, 1985

Y’all have no idea how much I struggled this week to find a movie that fully captures 1980s comedy. I went through a lot of picks, suffered through Girls Just Want to Have Fun, realized St. Elmo’s Fire was NOT the comedic Brat Pack follow-up to The Breakfast Club I thought it would be, before landing on that tall, tan mainstay of the ’80s, Chevy Chase. If you mistakenly thought the National Lampoon’s movies were the peak of his career, then let me introduce you to Fletch (Disc/Download).

Like a precursor to Jeffrey Lebowski and Doc Sportello, Irwin M. “Fletch” Fletcher spends his days bumming around the beach, pissing off cops, and becoming embroiled in rich white lady drama. Except the difference here is that Fletch actually has a paying job, as an investigative reporter for the Los Angeles Times. He’s undercover trying to expose a drug ring when the wealthy Mr. Stanwyk (Tim Matheson) attempts to hire him for a murder/suicide indemnity plot. I can practically hear Billy Wilder’s laughter from beyond the grave. Using a variety of disguises, Fletch manages to sniff out the real criminal plot, involving the LAPD, a secret wife in Utah, and an ex-con named Gummy. It’s a wild neo-noir comedy full of hilarious one-liners, nods to classic film, and Chase’s trademark deadpan humor. Truly, I never thought this mainstay of my Saturday afternoon movie binges could pull off a Homeless Brody Jenner look, but the man is a chameleon.

Speaking of looks, Fletch has a lot of them. Everything from surgeon, to hillbilly airplane mechanic, to Lakers basketball player, to rollerskating spiritual leader. But my favorite disguise of all is Country Club Fletch, who wears his little white shorts and polo shirts like he was born to them. Let’s toast “Fancy Fletch” with this take on a classic Royal Bermuda Yacht Club daiquiri, a drink I like to call the Proper Attire.

Proper Attire

2 oz Aged gold rum

3/4 oz Falernum

3/4 oz Lime juice

3/4 oz Paula’s Texas Orange liqueur

Lime Wheel and Pineapple leaf (for garnish)

Combine Rum, Falernum, lime juice, and orange liqueur in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with lime wheel and pineapple leaf.

It makes me happy to know this movie has been in talks for a modern reboot because the character of Fletch is a joy in any era. But when it comes to representing the 1980s, you really can’t do better than the original. The Harold Faltermeyer score, the angry old Republican country club villains, dobermans as a security system… we really did have it all. Cheers!

The Breakfast Club

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Image credit: The Breakfast Club, 1985

I’m halfway through my journey through late-20th century pivotal movie years, and after falling in love with the 1960s, then being terrified by the 1970s, it’s now time to turn my focus to the 1980s. Was it all greedy capitalists and neon clothes like nostalgia projects like Stranger Things and The Wedding Singer would have us believe? Was there an element of rebellion against the dark grittiness that preceded the era? Let’s turn to 1985 for answers, beginning with the maestro of teen angst, John Hughes.

For anyone who has ever spent a summer in Texas, The Breakfast Club (Disc/Download) will feel extremely familiar. Sitting in the air conditioning, fearful of being burned alive by stepping outside, you start to believe you’re one of these bored kids in high school detention all day. Although I can empathize with them, I’ve still never been blown away by the film as a whole. I understand it’s trying to be one of those movies where character development is more important than plot (the kind of film Richard Linklater makes so well), but I walk away from this feeling like the five main characters never really developed or changed. It’s fun to see Judd Nelson take on the authoritative Vice Principal, less fun to see him bully his classmates. Relationships and alliances are formed almost on a whim, and I frankly don’t buy that any of these people will speak to each other again when detention ends. But they had one unusual day together, and I guess that’s enough sometimes.

Speaking of unusual, Ally Sheedy makes a pretty weird cereal sandwich during the course of detention, so this week, let’s have a brunch drink fit for a teenager with terrible dietary habits. While watching The Breakfast Club, I recommend drinking this Captain Crunch Milk Punch.

Captain Crunch Milk Punch

1 1/4 oz Bourbon

1/2 oz Dark Rum

2 oz Milk

1/8 oz Vanilla Extract

1/2 oz Simple Syrup

Captain Crunch Cereal (for garnish)

Combine bourbon, rum, milk, vanilla extract, and simple syrup in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, about 30 seconds. Strain into a glass filled with fresh ice, and garnish with Captain Crunch cereal.

It’s extremely tempting to watch this movie and then ask the question, “Which one was I?” I suppose I was half-Princess / half-Brain, but maybe there was a dose of Basket Case in there too. The Breakfast Club is a movie I revisit every few years to see if it appeals to me more as I get older, and at this point the answer is still no. However, I like it enough to keep trying. On that note, save me a spot in Detention 2025, kids. Cheers!

The Lost City

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Image credit: The Lost City, 2022

I’m taking a break from my four-in-a-year posts for a special treat- a movie made THIS CENTURY! And not just a new movie, but a great movie, The Lost City (Disc/Download). I would normally wait and put it on my end-of-year Top-5 list, but this action/adventure/rom-com is so fantastic I couldn’t wait another second to pair it with a cocktail.

Starring Sandra Bullock as romance novelist Loretta Sage, and Channing Tatum as her cover model Alan, this movie is so much funnier and more heartfelt than I ever expected it to be. As anyone who knows me is aware, I love romance novels, and to see the genre represented so well here is a breath of fresh air. Loretta may think her own books are “schlock”, but as Alan points out, how could anything that brings so much joy to her readers be a bad thing? The two have fantastic chemistry, and as Loretta gets forced into a treasure hunt through the jungle (yes, this has very strong Romancing the Stone vibes), and Alan shows up to rescue the woman he’s been secretly pining for, these two both learn never to judge a book by its cover. Or its cover model. You get the idea. My swooniest moment? When Alan brings Loretta cheese, water, and comfortable shoes. Talk about a hero!

Just like in Romancing the Stone, watching two people sweat their way through a jungle (one of whom is wearing a purple sequined jumpsuit!) always makes me thirsty. Let’s celebrate the treasure found in The Lost City with this Crown of Fire cocktail.

Crown of Fire

3 oz Navy-strength Rum

1 oz Campari

1 oz Cinnamon Syrup*

1 oz Lime Juice

Mint Sprig and tiki umbrella (for garnish)

Combine ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with a mint sprig and tiki umbrella.

*Cinnamon Syrup: toast a few cinnamon sticks in a pan for 3-4 minutes. Add 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar, and simmer until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, let cool, and strain out cinnamon sticks.

It’s so refreshing to see a movie where every performer brings their A-game, from Channing and his dance moves, to Sandra and her impeccable comedic timing, and even all the way to Brad Pitt, who found a new use for his Cliff Booth martial arts training. If you’re searching for a perfect date night, then check out The Lost City, mix a strong rum cocktail, and consider it found. Cheers!

Network

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Image credit: Network, 1976

If you live in America, you’re more than likely mad as hell right now. The question is whether you can take it anymore. As the mad prophet of UBS instructs us in this week’s 1976 classic Network (Disc/Download), open the window and scream. Listen to the screams of others.

If I had to pick one word to describe Network, that adjective would be ‘angry’. All the characters are angry about something (ratings, the general state of the world, market shares, etc.), and they do a lot of shouting about it. But the interesting thing is that these characters were angry about many of the same things in 1976 as we are today. News as entertainment is a problem we were warned about forty-six years ago, and now we’re seeing it play out in real time. Unfortunately, we no longer have a Howard Beale (Peter Finch) on the airwaves to get up from behind his desk and shine a spotlight on the corporate greed that fuels the television networks. Now we have something scarier—a whole generation of anchors whose only job is to shock, enrage, inflame, and pretend they’re doing the opposite. Diana Christensen would be so proud.

Veteran newsman Howard Beale and his colleague Max Schumacher (played terrifically by William Holden) start out the movie getting roaring drunk, before becoming passionate critics of a changing industry. For this week’s pairing, I used spicy Habanero peppers to infuse some Añejo tequila, resulting in the angriest of cocktails. While watching Network, I recommend drinking a Mad Prophet.

Mad Prophet

2 oz Habanero-infused Añejo tequila (let tequila soak with peppers for at least 1 hr, then strain pepper out)

1 oz Orange Juice

1 oz Lime Juice

1 oz Passion Fruit Syrup 

Combine tequila, orange juice, lime juice, and passion fruit syrup in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with a pepper slice.

Network is a dark satire of television journalism that only gets darker as time drags on, letting us see the effects that pandering to our most racist, sexist, darkest tendencies can have on a group of people. And if that doesn’t make you mad as hell, then you’re not paying attention.

Logan’s Run

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Image credit: Logan’s Run, 1976

I’m stepping out of my comfort zone this week with a science fiction classic, a genre I rarely cover on Cinema Sips. But in 1976, there was a massively popular film that appealed to both miniature enthusiasts and future Plato’s Retreat patrons—Logan’s Run (Disc/Download). How could I resist?

Dubbed “the sexiest movie ever” by Friends’ Ross Geller, Logan’s Run is a pure escapist fantasy that practically screams disco era. From caftans to holograms, from Farrah Fawcett’s shag haircut to a domed city model straight out of Epcot, this movie relies on practical effects almost as much as it relies on our ability to be distracted by shiny objects. The central theme of a futuristic society where nobody is allowed to live past the age of thirty is almost overshadowed by the impressive visual achievements, which garnered the film a special Academy Award. Why is Logan running? Because he’s been forced to infiltrate and destroy a sanctuary for “olds”. If he’d asked me, I could have pointed him in the direction of Palm Springs. But instead, he goes to Washington DC, where the buildings are crumbling and Congress is basically an abandoned litter box. Sounds about right.

One truly bizarre scene (and there are a lot of truly bizarre scenes in this movie) involves a gold robot called Box that captures and freezes food from outside the domed city for use by the privileged young’uns. It also captures… PEOPLE. Cue the Soylent Green comparisons. While watching Logan’s Run, take a fun trip around the Carrousel with this futuristic frozen cocktail, the Saturn.

Saturn

 1 ¼ oz Gin

½ oz Lemon Juice

½ oz Passion Fruit Syrup

¼ oz Falernum

¼ oz Orgeat

2 cups crushed ice

Orange Twist

Add gin, lemon juice, passion fruit syrup, falernum, and orgeat to a blender filled with crushed ice. Blend until smooth, then pour into a hurricane glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

Is America really headed for a Logan’s Run-type existence? I guess we’ve got about two hundred and fifty years left to either fix all the problems or sentence ourselves to a version of doom that looks like a Florida theme park. But if feral cats really do take control of Congress, and somehow our society reverts back to being centered around shopping malls, I have one request: feathered Farrah Fawcett hair and a glittery tunic for all. Cheers!