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Eyes Wide Shut

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Eyes wide shut

Image credit: Eyes Wide Shut, 1999.

After 3 years of choosing Christmas films for Cinema Sips, I’ve reached my limit on festive family-friendly fare. If you’re looking for It’s a Wonderful Life or Love, Actually, you may want to scroll back a year or two. Since many of us currently feel like we’re living in a bizarre reality of “alternative facts” and a bleak future where The Day After Tomorrow is suddenly not so far-fetched…. Dystopian Christmas seems right. Kicking things off is Stanley Kubrick’s final film Eyes Wide Shut (DVD/Download). I don’t know which aspect of this disturbing movie makes my skin crawl more- the weird underground world of extravagant masked orgies, or a brief glimpse into the bedroom of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman (*shudder*).

I think Stanley Kubrick himself must have been second-guessing Eyes Wide Shut as a Christmas movie. Why else would such a master of visual style put a garish Christmas tree in LITERALLY EVERY SCENE? Maybe that’s a good drinking game- take a sip every time you spot a tree with colored lights.  Too often, the dialogue between Cruise and Kidman seems to drag, like that fight you’ve had with your spouse that lasted about 2 hours longer than it should have. You know you’ve been saying the same thing for the last 45 minutes, but you just can’t stop. Maybe that’s both the problem, and point of this movie. Tom Cruise’s character stumbles onto a hidden Manhattan sex ring, tempting him away from his beautiful wife and child, but even after things turn sour, even after it becomes dangerous, he can’t quit his obsession. Kubrick was notorious for being a slowpoke auteur, and one wonders what changes he might have continued to make to the final cut of this film had he not died before its release. In the end we’re left with a powerful, beautiful, flawed product that’s just weird enough to be brilliant.

The true star of this film (in my opinion) is Nicole Kidman. Her character Alice is a complicated mess, torn between her desire for a stable family life and her illicit desires. Only when she becomes drunk or stoned do we see the real Alice emerge. Lit from behind in Kubrick’s indigo blue light, her pale skin seems otherworldly. While watching Eyes Wide Shut, I recommend drinking a Midnight Kiss.

Midnight Kiss

1oz Vodka

¼ oz Blue Curacao

1 tsp lemon juice

Champagne

Combine first three ingredients in a shaker filled with ice.  Stir until chilled, then strain into a champagne flute.  Top with chilled champagne, and garnish with a lemon twist.

Midnight Kiss

During this movie, Tom Cruise has quite possibly the longest night in the history of nights. He goes from fighting with his wife, to comforting a dead man’s family, to flirting with a beautiful prostitute, to having a drink in a jazz club, to buying a costume, to crashing an orgy, to hiding the evidence back home- all before sunrise. After awhile, you wonder how far past midnight, and normalcy, he’s ventured. Whether you view it as a dream or a nightmare, Eyes Wide Shut will make you realize that there are many things in life we’ll never fully understand.  The fun, and the frustration, is in the trying. Cheers!

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Romeo + Juliet

romeo and juliet

Image Credit: Romeo + Juliet, 1996

So I know I already featured a Baz Luhrmann film on Cinema Sips this month….. and here’s another one! Because it’s still February and still romance month, I couldn’t resist watching Romeo + Juliet (DVD/Download). I adore the 1968 Zeffirelli version too, but for my money, Lurhmann does the best job of capturing the energy of the original play. The director has said in interviews that he wanted to make a film in the way that Shakespeare himself might have done it, and since William Shakespeare was the ultimate entertainer of his day, it stands to reason that by the time the mid-90’s rolled around, he would have incorporated an Ecstasy-fueled party and Mercutio in sparkly sequin drag costumes. Definitely.

Romeo + Juliet stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Clare Danes in the title roles, and their chemistry is part what makes the film such a success. I love the constant motif of water, particularly how the big balcony scene was done in a swimming pool. The lighting and the turquoise radiance of pool turn it into a much more sensual scene than I ever could have imagined when reading the play. Because it’s Luhrmann there are so many visual treats, even becoming chaotic at times, but the use of the original Shakespearean dialogue helps to balance the frenzy out. Is it word for word Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet? No. Does it draw me into the story and make me feel the passion and tragedy of these star-crossed lovers? Without a doubt.

The color of Juliet’s fake-death potion inspired my cocktail this week. Though not actually poisonous, it looks like it might be!  While watching Romeo + Juliet, I recommend drinking a Mortal Drug.  (Apologies in advance for having to ask for Kinky Blue at the liquor store, but it actually feeds the decades-long Jolly Rancher addiction I have in the best way).

Mortal Drug

2 oz Kinky Blue Liqueur

1 oz Blue Curaçao

¾ oz lemon juice

½ oz simple syrup

Splash of club soda

Mix together Kinky Blue, Blue Curaçao, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then pour into a highball glass. Top with club soda.

Mortal Drug

While watching this film, be sure to look out for all the billboard slogans that are nods to Shakespearean quotes, and listen to the carefully curated pop songs. The version of Prince’s “When Doves Cry” is still one of my favorites.  Just, try to look past Clare Danes’ ugly crying. ‘Tis not pretty. Cheers!