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Eat Pray Love

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eat pray love

Image credit: Eat Pray Love, 2010

I’ve written about several travel-centric movies this month, even gone to Spain and back.  And now it’s time to ask the question-  what does it all mean?  What’s the point of sitting in a cramped airline seat, fighting off jet lag, trying desperately to translate languages you only partly understand, and spending far too much money on shoes?  Why do we do this to ourselves?  To help me answer these questions, I’m watching the cinematic adaptation of a book that caused a generation of women to start saving up their frequent flier miles, Eat Pray Love (Disc/Download).

When I first saw this film almost ten years ago, I was underwhelmed.  It felt too long, too full of bumper sticker philosophy, too privileged. But now that I’ve grown up a bit, had some successes and setbacks of my own, I see it through a new lens.  What was once a story about an unsympathetic, deeply flawed woman traveling to Italy, India, and Bali to “find herself” (which in this case means eating carbs, wearing colorful scarves, and sweating beautifully) is now a permission slip.  It’s permission to chase happiness, to make mistakes, and to take care of yourself.  It’s permission to have that second glass of wine, to have the courage to extricate yourself from a relationship that’s gone south, and to do something wildly irresponsible (in my case, taking a trip to Menorca while I’m still paying off my new kitchen). If Elizabeth Gilbert’s book and this film have taught us anything, it’s that we only have this one life.  What we do with it is entirely up to us—a fact that’s equal parts scary, exciting, and empowering.  I may not have all the answers yet, but I believe balance might eventually be within grasp.

There’s a lot of beautiful scenery in this film, but I most connect with the scenes shot in Rome and Naples.  The pizza! The pasta!  The delightful small cars!  To celebrate this search for pleasure, I’ll be making a cocktail I found on my own travels, which uses my favorite summertime Italian aperitif. While watching Eat Pray Love, I recommend drinking an Aperol Sour.

Aperol Sour

2 oz Aperol

½ oz Gin

¾ oz lemon juice

½ oz simple syrup

1 egg white

Orange peel for garnish

Add Aperol, gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, and egg white to a cocktail shaker.  Do a dry shake to combine, then add ice.  Shake vigorously until chilled and frothy (about a minute).  Strain into a coupe glass, and garnish with an orange peel.

Aperol Sour

On my recent vacation, I spent a lot of time on the beach reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s other bestselling book, Big Magic.  In the way that Eat Pray Love encourages us to find balance in our lives, Big Magic encourages us to find the creative energy within and let it out into the world.  This may all be a lot of self-help mumbo jumbo, but I can’t deny that both of these books, and this film, have brought new energy into my writing.  And I give special thanks to Eat Pray Love for introducing me to my favorite mantra: Smile with your liver.  Cheers!

Boogie Nights

boogie nights

Image credit: Boogie Nights, 1997.

It finally happened- my weekly Cinema Sips post is dropping on the booziest night of the year!  New Year’s Eve deserves a movie featuring disco dancing, kung fu fighting, alcohol and drug-fueled parties in the San Fernando Valley, and a main character with a name so cool it cuts glass. It’s time to watch Boogie Nights (Disc/Download).

This is a great movie for New Year’s Eve because the holiday acts as a touchstone within this meandering tale of the 1970’s pornography industry. Things are rosy for a while– newcomer Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg, in a star-making role) joins a dysfunctional “family” of porn stars, makes a lot of money from his greatest, er… asset, and buys a lot of kooky stuff. As you do. But then the ball drops on 1980 and things spiral out of control. The drugs get harder, certain other things get softer (ahem), and the misfit family splinters. Writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson manages to transport his audience to a time and place that’s so specific, it’s as though the characters are trapped in amber.  Even sin looks beautiful under his filter.

One of my favorite scenes involves John C. Reilly’s character Reed Rothchild displaying his bartender skills at a pool party. I have no idea how much tequila he pours in that blender, but it really doesn’t matter; the man is my mixologist hero. Let’s toast this Shakespearean tragedy of a film with a New Year’s twist on an old favorite. While watching Boogie Nights, I recommend drinking a Frozen Amber Margarita.

Frozen Amber Margarita

4 oz silver tequila

2 oz Triple Sec

2 oz fresh lime juice

2 oz blood orange cocktail mix (I use Stirrings)

1 oz Aperol

1 cup Ice

Sparkling Wine

Combine tequila, triple sec, lime juice, Aperol, and cocktail mix in a blender with ice. Blend until frothy, then pour into a champagne flute. Top with Sparkling Wine.

Frozen Amber margarita

New Year’s Eve is always such a strange night. It’s full of hope and reflection, maybe sadness and joy. Wherever you’re at with this holiday, just know that whatever happens in the coming year, you’re gonna be okay. There are movies to watch, there are cocktails to drink, and I’m excited that we get to do it together through Cinema Sips. Cheers!

Much Ado About Nothing

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Much Ado About Nothing

Image credit: Much Ado About Nothing, 1993.

I am in full Summer Vacation-mode this week, and while my plans are a little less glamorous than a villa in Tuscany (sorry, Cape Cod, I still love ya), I’m still primed for a cinematic escape.  Kenneth Branaugh’s Much Ado About Nothing (DVD/Download) is just the sun-drenched romp we all need this week.

The film opens with a radiant Emma Thompson in minimal makeup, sporting a golden tan and free-flowing hair. She and I share a similar vacation look, though in my case it usually involves a sunburnt scalp and last night’s mascara. Hey- we don’t all get to wear corseted linen gowns and eat grapes on a swing (I’m thinking this is a Tuscany-only thing).  Branaugh directs this Shakespearean tale of slick word battles, lovers’ quarrels, and mistaken identity with infectious glee, to the point where I can’t help but get swept up in the merriness. And Denzel Washington truly shines as Don Pedro, the Prince of Aragon. He’s charming and intelligent, and his connection with Emma Thompson’s Beatrice breaks your heart just a little. He’s the odd man out at the party, and lord, haven’t we all been there?

This film deserves a sparkling, effervescent drink that’s just as complex and delightful as Shakespeare’s text. Since this is set in Tuscany, I must use Aperol- that great Italian aperitif that practically screams summer vacay. While watching Much Ado About Nothing, I recommend drinking a Florentine Spritz.

Florentine Spritz

2 oz Gin

1 oz lime juice

¾ oz Aperol

½ oz Honey Syrup (equal parts honey and water, boiled)

2-3 dashes angostura bitters

Sparkling Wine

Lime Wheel

Combine first 5 ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a champagne flute. Top with sparkling wine, and garnish with a lime wheel.

I love films based on Shakespearean plays because they help me to understand his work in a new light. Even though this film isn’t as modern as say Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet, or even Joss Wheden’s more recent version of Much Ado, it still draws me in to the story in a way that live theatre fails to do. Plus, Tuscany and Denzel in sexy leather pants. I’ll suffer through a sonnet or two for that. Cheers!