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V for Vendetta

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Image credit: V for Vendetta, 2006

Remember, remember, the fifth of November. In 2020, something tells me it’s the third of November we’ll be remembering for a long time to come. Though, hopefully for less violent reasons than the ones in this week’s dystopian political thriller V for Vendetta (Disc/Download). If you’re like me and haven’t watched this film in over a decade, prepare to be shocked at how much of our future it has predicted.

A mysterious virus, political unrest, fascism, mistrust in the news– take your pick of hot-button topics that have morphed from fiction to fact in the past fourteen years. It’s often easy to forget that this movie is within the comic book/superhero genre because it takes so many risks, touching on ideas and themes that are more of a powder keg than anything V could set up under Parliament. And yet the titular character has all the qualities we’ve come to recognize in our archetypal heroes: masked man, impressive fighting skills, intense origin story, complicated relationship with a female, underground lair, etc. He’s a superhero, yet his world is not a mythical Gotham– it’s my world, and yours. If Natalie Portman’s character is meant to represent the everywoman/man in this story, I guess we’re soon about to find out whether our fellow citizens are brave enough to pull that level and say… enough.

Out of all the masked men in all the enviable lairs, V is by far my favorite. He has a home filled with antiques, keeps Cat Power queued on the jukebox, watches classic films, and has fun with language. How many words start with V? Let’s ponder it while drinking this Vesperado cocktail.

Vesperado

2 oz Añejo Tequila

1/2 oz Cocchi Americano

3 dashes Orange Bitters

Blood orange slice (dried)

Stir together tequila, Cocchi Americano, and bitters in a shaker with ice. Chill, then strain into a glass filled with a large ice cube. Garnish with dried blood orange slice (or orange twist).

If this movie feels difficult or uncomfortable to watch right now, know that you’re not alone. I almost didn’t cover it because I mostly watch movies to escape; not to confirm my fears that humans are basically terrible. And yet, I absolutely think V for Vendetta is an important film for our times. It’s a reminder that we can stop this now, before things get out of hand. Before our fellow citizens lose more of their rights (or their lives), before our institutions blow up, and before democracy becomes a forgotten part of history. On the third of November, I think I know the word V would use to inspire our revolution: VOTE.

The Descendants

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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!