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Walk the Line

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Walk the Line

Image credit: Walk the Line, 2005.

Ah… March. That special month when hordes of musicians descend upon my city of Austin and turn every square inch of space, from the sidewalk outside a grocery store to the floor of a tiny boutique, into a stage. This year, Cinema Sips is getting in on the action by highlighting some quintessential biopics, guaranteed to make you want to dance, drink, and never EVER date a musician. Kicking things off is the love story of Johnny and June, Walk the Line (Disc/Download).

One of my first SXSW shows happened, coincidentally, at a Johnny Cash-themed bar, the Mean Eyed Cat. I remember thinking at the time, wow—this guy must’ve been pretty amazing to have a whole bar dedicated to his music. After watching Walk the Line, I get it. While schmaltzy in the way that most biopics tend to be, you still leave the film with an awakening that Cash’s music was truly something special. Though he had his demons, he didn’t shy away from them—he put them into his music so that others could feel a little less alone. Joaquin Phoenix plays Cash with an effortless cool, doing such a good job on the vocals that I get chills. And Reese Witherspoon as June Carter!! Be still my heart. She’s saccharine sweet, but one tough cookie. The contrast between her bubbly on-stage persona and her real-life “ain’t got time for this crap” attitude is such a joy to watch. Plus, you know I love a good backcomb!

To celebrate Johnny and June’s fiery chemistry, I’ll be mixing up a cocktail that’s equal parts sweet and hot. While watching Walk the Line, I recommend drinking this Ring of Fire.

Ring of Fire

1 shot Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire

12 oz Hard Cider (I use Austin Eastciders Original)

Pour shot into a pint of cider, and enjoy!

Ring of Fire

If you enjoy Walk the Line and all its standard-issue music biopic beats, you’ll probably also get a kick out of its satirical cousin, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Honestly, I can’t watch one and not the other. It’s easy to make fun of the formulaic way that musicians’ stories are handled in cinema, but my heart truly bursts at the sight of Johnny and June finally turning their onstage chemistry into a real-life love for the ages. Bradley and Gaga—ARE YOU LISTENING??? Cheers!

Sweet November

Sweet November

Image credit: Sweet November, 2001.

Is there honestly a better month than November?  Finally, the heat of the summer has broken, the fire pit gets used again, and as Americans, we get several days off to do nothing but eat, drink, and watch movies. This week’s film Sweet November (DVD/Download) couldn’t take place at any other time because the rest of our months aren’t nearly as perfect. Sweet January? I don’t think so.

Sweet November is the Lifetime-movie-with-actual-celebrities that made a star of Charlize Theron and fueled my decades-long crush on Keanu Reeves. So, points for that.  However, what self-respecting woman takes in loser men as a 30-day pet project, sleeps with them, turns them into reasonably dateable human beings, then sends them on their way? I know Charlize’s character is supposed to be a “free spirit”, but….. it’s a little gross. However I’m prepared to ignore all the other randos she’s shacked up with in the past because the one currently occupying her love nest is Keanu. Brash ad exec (it’s a HOT. DOG.) turned dreamy boyfriend who rescues puppies and croons “Time After Time” (badly), Keanu is proof that the love of a good woman can fix anyone. Without it, he could end up like super-villain Frank Langella. Frank kinda makes me cry here, along with the waitress. Damn he’s good.

To celebrate November and the sweetness of Keanu, I’ll be mixing up a drink with all the fall flavors. While watching Sweet November, I recommend drinking an Autumn Leaf.

Autumn Leaf

6 oz Austin Eastciders Spiced Cider

1.5 oz Pumpkin liqueur

Cinnamon stick for garnish

Build drink over crushed ice, stirring well to combine. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Autumn Leaf

For those looking for a rom-com with a happy ending, you may be disappointed with Sweet November. But to me, a tragic ending seems appropriate for a film heavily scored by Enya and featuring a plethora of knit shawls. It just… works. Like November, perfection never lasts. My advice: drink it up while you can! Cheers!

Giant

Giant

Image credit: Giant, 1956

They say everything is bigger in Texas. Well, when it comes to cinema, perhaps they’re right. A prime example would be this week’s film Giant (DVD/Download). True Texans, and yes even Yankee transplants like me, can appreciate this epic film about land, greed, pride, and passion. With a run time of 3 hours and 20 minutes, there’s nothing small about Giant. With Thanksgiving looming, it’s the perfect time to settle in with a classic film about gluttony and family dysfunction.

Starring Rock Hudson as a west Texas rancher and Elizabeth Taylor as his Yankee bride, the timeline of Giant spans decades as it tells the story of the Reata ranch and its unhappy inhabitants. As a progressive northerner, Taylor is a fish out of water in the wild frontier of rural Texas. She loves her husband, and grows to love the barren open environment of her new home, but gets easily frustrated by the prejudice and intolerance she frequently witnesses. Her ally (a very HOT James Dean) saunters across the screen all brooding and beautiful, and together these two outcasts form an unlikely friendship. Their scenes together are simply magic, and one can truly sense the mutual respect that these two people shared in real life as well. Of course, Elizabeth Taylor’s chemistry with Rock Hudson is pretty incredible too, and the scene of Hudson gazing longingly at his estranged wife from across a crowded wedding, with love and adoration written all over his face, is one of the most romantic moments I’ve witnessed on the big screen. Seriously, all the feels.

With a movie about Texas cattle, dusty plains, and bit hats, one has to indulge in a little bourbon. OK, maybe a lot of bourbon. After all, you’ve got over 3 hours to sip- make it a double. While watching Giant, I recommend drinking a Reata Sweet Tea (bonus points for using Texas ingredients!).

Reata Sweet Tea

1 ½ oz Treaty Oak Red Handed Bourbon

1 oz Firefly Sweet Tea Bourbon

6 oz Texas Honey Cider

½ oz Lemon Juice

2 dashes Orange Bitters

Pour all ingredients over ice in a highball glass, stirring gently to combine.

Reata Sweet Tea

I’ve lived in Texas for more than a decade, but in many ways I can still identify with Elizabeth Taylor’s outsider character. I see a lot of injustices in my state, and tend to shake my fists pretty hard at our government, but I also have a deep appreciation for the land and the people I’ve met here. I’m proud to say I’m a Texan, despite not being a native one. You see, Texas is a state of mind, and yes- it is giant. Cheers y’all!