RSS Feed

Tag Archives: Alexander Payne

The Descendants

Posted on
the descendants

Image credit: The Descendants, 2011

Hawaii Month continues with a modern look at island culture, the 2011 Alexander Payne film The Descendants (DVD/Download). Shot on Oahu and Kauai, and starring George Clooney as a man trying to hold his family together, this film leaves you with a sense that you just saw Real Hawaii, and not the postcard version.

Based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings, The Descendants weaves a tale about family drama past and present. Matt King is a descendant of Hawaii’s Royal Family, and just as he and his cousins prepare to sell off the last of their ancestral land for major profits, his estranged wife slips into a coma following a boating accident. Through it all, Clooney is a simmering cauldron in Hawaiian shirts, and I spend the movie waiting for him to blow. Nobody does a withering take-down like Clooney, and his skewering of his wife’s lover, played by Matthew Lillard, (*side note: HOW did Matthew Lillard land an Alexander Payne film??) is classic. Also, I’m not sure what to think about a woman who cheats on George Clooney with Matthew Lillard. While I buy a lot of the “real Hawaii” in this film, I don’t buy that.

As we all know by now (or maybe just those of us who read People magazine), George Clooney has gone from Hollywood actor to tequila mogul. He and his BFF Randy Gerber make one hell of a spirit, so I think it’s high time we feature it on Cinema Sips. While watching The Descendants, I recommend drinking an Añejo Old Fashioned*.

Añejo Old Fashioned

3 oz Casamigos Añejo tequila

1/8 oz agave nectar

4-5 dashes Mole bitters (I used Fee Bros. Aztec Chocolate bitters)

Orange peel

Combine liquid ingredients in a glass over ice and stir gently to chill. Strain into a glass with a large ice cube.  Run a flame over the peel of an orange to release the oils, and drop into the glass.

*Recipe adapted from the fabulous book, Tequila Cocktails.

Anejo Old Fashioned

While I don’t love this movie as much as Payne’s other films such as Sideways and Election, it definitely grows on me with repeat viewings. I notice the subtlety of Clooney’s performance, and the beautiful way in which the script celebrates old and new Hawaii. So many of the islands’ traditions have been lost in the face of progress, but the bond of family isn’t one of them. In The Descendants, we’re reminded of what ties us to a place, and to each other. Cheers!


Posted on
Image Credit Paramount Pictures, 1999, Election

Image Credit Paramount Pictures, 1999, Election

Because Election Day is happening tomorrow, I thought it would be a great time to revisit my favorite political movie. No, not Primary Colors or Wag the Dog, or even The American President (which I do love). This week I’m watching Election (DVD/Download), and wishing Tracy Flick was actually on the ballot. Anywhere. With her type-A personality, adorable Midwestern accent, and barrel full of chewing gum, she definitely gets my vote. Who cares that she’s got skeletons in her closet- don’t all politicians?

Election is a delicious dark comedy adapted from the novel by Tom Perrotta and directed by Alexander Payne. It tells the story of Jim McAllister (played by Matthew Broderick), a high school civics teacher who oversees the school elections. Reese Witherspoon plays Tracy Flick (the overachieving student gunning for the class president vote) with a slightly manic, conniving edge. All of the actors are brilliant, and I have to say this movie does a pretty realistic job of depicting the life of a teacher. Double dates with other teachers, having to give the same lesson over and over again (Executive, Legislative, Judicial), driving a crappy car- the details are spot on. They left out the part where teachers never go to the bathroom- EVER (unless you’re Matthew Broderick and decide to pee on a tree), but overall it’s pretty accurate. Payne does such a great job of skewering Midwestern suburban life, and the politics of high school in general. It’s not surprising that Entertainment Weekly listed this as one of the top 50 high school movies ever made, and I totally agree with them. We all had a Tracy Flick in our school, and a jock like Paul Metzler, and a burnout like Tammy Metzler, and teachers like Dave Novotny (they may not have seduced their students, but there must be plenty of “cool teachers” who got into teaching because they just never really wanted to leave high school).

Speaking of Mr. Novotny, his seduction tactics have inspired my cocktail pairing this week. I mean, who wouldn’t swoon over a middle-aged loser who listens to “Three Times a Lady” and plies his young dates with root beer? (Because, you know, alcohol would be inappropriate in this totally moral- or is it ethical???- situation….) While watching Election, I recommend drinking an Adult Root Beer Float.

Adult Root Beer Float

8 oz Root Beer

1 oz vanilla vodka

Vanilla ice cream

Pour rootbeer into a chilled glass, and add in the vodka. Top with Vanilla ice cream.


It’s no surprise to me that Tammi Metzler gets the most applause when she lets loose a tirade against the school political system during a debate, and I cheer right along with her classmates. It’s easy to wonder amidst all the campaign ads we’re seeing now and false promises- does it actually matter who gets elected? Will it really change anything? Make one single person smarter or happier or nicer? Only time will tell. In the meantime, I’ll watch this movie and wish that on tomorrow’s ballot I could just “Pick Flick”. Cheers!