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The Lost City

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Image credit: The Lost City, 2022

I’m taking a break from my four-in-a-year posts for a special treat- a movie made THIS CENTURY! And not just a new movie, but a great movie, The Lost City (Disc/Download). I would normally wait and put it on my end-of-year Top-5 list, but this action/adventure/rom-com is so fantastic I couldn’t wait another second to pair it with a cocktail.

Starring Sandra Bullock as romance novelist Loretta Sage, and Channing Tatum as her cover model Alan, this movie is so much funnier and more heartfelt than I ever expected it to be. As anyone who knows me is aware, I love romance novels, and to see the genre represented so well here is a breath of fresh air. Loretta may think her own books are “schlock”, but as Alan points out, how could anything that brings so much joy to her readers be a bad thing? The two have fantastic chemistry, and as Loretta gets forced into a treasure hunt through the jungle (yes, this has very strong Romancing the Stone vibes), and Alan shows up to rescue the woman he’s been secretly pining for, these two both learn never to judge a book by its cover. Or its cover model. You get the idea. My swooniest moment? When Alan brings Loretta cheese, water, and comfortable shoes. Talk about a hero!

Just like in Romancing the Stone, watching two people sweat their way through a jungle (one of whom is wearing a purple sequined jumpsuit!) always makes me thirsty. Let’s celebrate the treasure found in The Lost City with this Crown of Fire cocktail.

Crown of Fire

3 oz Navy-strength Rum

1 oz Campari

1 oz Cinnamon Syrup*

1 oz Lime Juice

Mint Sprig and tiki umbrella (for garnish)

Combine ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with a mint sprig and tiki umbrella.

*Cinnamon Syrup: toast a few cinnamon sticks in a pan for 3-4 minutes. Add 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar, and simmer until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, let cool, and strain out cinnamon sticks.

It’s so refreshing to see a movie where every performer brings their A-game, from Channing and his dance moves, to Sandra and her impeccable comedic timing, and even all the way to Brad Pitt, who found a new use for his Cliff Booth martial arts training. If you’re searching for a perfect date night, then check out The Lost City, mix a strong rum cocktail, and consider it found. Cheers!

Rocky

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Image Credit: Rocky, 1976

As much as I’d love to stay in 1967 forever, we must be moving on to a new decade this week- the 1970s! I’ve examined several individual years from this time period, and as far as I’m concerned, the real standout is 1976. We had everything from Jodi Foster in Freaky Friday to Jodi Foster in Taxi Driver, and let’s not forget ’70s MVP Dustin Hoffman, who came out with Marathon Man and All the President’s Men that year. That’s a lot of men! But the movie that’s endured the test of time, despite a never-ending string of subpar sequels and reboots, is the Sylvester Stallone classic Rocky (Disc/Download).

I have a real soft spot for sports movies, particularly underdog sports movies. Rudy, The Bad News Bears (another 1976 gem!), Slap Shot, and this tale of the Italian Stallion going fifteen rounds with Heavyweight Champion Apollo Creed. But what draws me even further into Rocky is the tender romance between the boxer and shy pet store employee Adrian (Talia Shire). The heat between these two when he brings her back to his place to meet his turtles- yowza! Indeed, it’s those human moments of the athlete, sandwiched between training montage clips and bloody eyelids that make this movie something you want to watch again and again. By the end, nobody really cares whether Rocky Balboa wins or loses; we care whether or not his enormous heart is still intact.

Speaking of training, Rocky’s raw egg breakfast is still enough to turn my stomach, even though I put egg whites in my cocktails all the time. Something about that yolk dropping into a glass- blech! Let’s make cocktail hour a little more palatable by celebrating Rocky’s Italian roots with this Campari Sour.

Campari Sour

2 oz Gin

1 oz Campari

1 oz Lemon Juice

3/4 oz Simple Syrup

1 Egg White

Dash of Orange Bitters

Orange Wheel Garnish

Fill a glass with ice and set aside. Combine gin, Campari, lemon juice, simple syrup, egg white, and bitters in a shaker, and shake for about 10-15 seconds until frothy. Add ice, and shake for an additional 10 seconds. Strain into prepared glass, and top with orange wheel garnish.

One thing I’ve noticed in 1970s movies is that the sheen of Hollywood perfection seems to have fallen away. There’s suddenly layers of trash on those city sidewalks, and you’re not sure but you think the actors might be wearing their own clothes. Gone are the Edith Head gowns and MGM musical backdrops to transport us away- instead, we see the world as it really was. By grounding Rocky in 1970s Philadelphia, the boxer becomes just another guy down the block, who you’ve maybe seen at the pet store or the laundromat, but who is suddenly on the cusp of greatness. And if it could happen to him, it could happen to anyone. Cheers!

It Happened One Night

Image Credit: It Happened One Night, 1934.

I don’t know what this says about me, but I have a thing for grumpy heroes in popular culture. I guess when I really stop to think about it, I’m the grumpy hero of my own life: I don’t have time for nonsense, my baseline descriptors are sarcastic and pessimistic, but deep down inside I’m a romantic puddle of mush. Maybe that’s why I adore Clark Gable so much in this week’s film It Happened One Night (Disc/Download)—we are two cynics who found love, despite our better instincts.

Hailed as one of the greatest romantic comedies of all time, It Happened One Night 100% lives up to the hype. It’s amazing to me how this 1930s screwball comedy about a scandalized socialite falling for a wisecracking journalist still manages to feel fresh and relevant nearly a century later. Featuring tropes as old as time (enemies-to-lovers + forced proximity), Frank Capra’s ode to romance on the road is smart, daring, and unbelievably funny. While the script is great, it’s the acting that really sells it for me. Claudette Colbert is both ballsy and vulnerable, so desperate to get to The Wrong Man that she jumps off a yacht, hops on a Greyhound, spends the night with a total stranger (The Right Man), and flashes her gams while hitchhiking. And yet, she still needs Clark Gable to tell her how bus schedules work, and the proper way to dunk a donut, and how to not stand out like a sore thumb among the plebeians. Meanwhile, he needs a woman who makes him laugh, calls him out on his oversized ego, and is ready and willing to take the leap into a life of adventure. These two may be on opposite sides of the curtain, but we know it’s only a matter of time before those walls of Jericho come tumbling down.

Claudette Colbert’s character Ellie Andrews is described as a spoiled brat, but I think she’s more of a pissed-off brat. She’s tired of other people calling the shots in her life, and she’s ready to take the reins. This cocktail I found a few months ago in the New York Times cooking section seems tailor-made for Ellie- The Bitter Heiress!

The Bitter Heiress

3 oz Lillet

1 oz Fresh-squeezed Orange Juice

½ oz Campari

Orange peel

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, and add the first three ingredients. Stir until chilled, then strain into a chilled martini glass. Take the orange peel, hold it over the glass with the skin facing down, then strike a match and hold it between the peel and the drink. Squeeze peel toward match to spray citrus oil onto the surface of the drink, and discard. Garnish with a fresh slice of peel.

If you need a fun romp for an at-home date night, or just a solo screening that’ll make you feel a little less pessimistic about the world, quit bawlin’ and give It Happened One Night a chance. Here’s to the merry go round!

Summertime

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Summertime

Image credit: Summertime, 1955

It’s official- the summer doldrums are here. Every July, I become a thoroughly unpleasant person to be around as I slog through a Groundhog Day existence of air conditioning and double showers. But this year, I made the wise choice to take a short jaunt to Venice with Katharine Hepburn in the lush 1950s drama Summertime (Disc/Download). And cookie, I’m glad I did.

When this film begins, Hepburn’s character Jane is excited about her trip to Venice. She’s saved up for it, made all the arrangements, and idealized the Italian city in her mind. She knows it’s a place for romance, but she doesn’t even dare hope for that. She’s been single a long time, and well…it’s enough just to see the beautiful canals. That’s what she tells herself, anyway. But then she actually arrives and discovers that Venice is THE WORST place to go if you’re single. I should know—I went there alone in 2002 and it was the loneliest trip of my life. Thankfully, she meets a charming antiques dealer, who may or may not be trustworthy, but still manages to pull her out of her shell and turn this trip from depressing to romantic. It’s here that Hepburn makes you feel what it is to fall for someone. To hope, but not let yourself hope too much, then to take that first tentative step before rushing in with open arms and saying “I love you” on the first date. She may get her heart broken, but oh, that first, initial joy is worth it. To truly live, is worth it.

Aside from my admiration for this character’s wardrobe (an enviable mix of shirt dresses and plucky hair bows), I also love that Jane travels with her own bourbon. You just can’t count on a foreign country to have all the comforts of home. Lucky for Jane, her pensione has all the ingredients on hand to turn that bourbon into a classic Boulevardier.

Boulevardier

1.5 oz Bourbon

1 oz Campari

1 oz Cinzano Sweet Red Vermouth

Orange Twist and Cherry garnish

Combine first three ingredients in a shaker with ice. Stir until chilled and combined, then strain into a glass filled with a large ice cube. Garnish with a twist of orange and Luxardo cherry.

Boulevardier

Cousin to the more popular Negroni, I actually prefer a Boulevardier if I’m going to commit to a heavier, alcohol-forward cocktail. And really, that’s what this movie needs. Something a little bitter, a little sweet, and very strong, just like Jane’s heart. Cheers!

500 Days of Summer

500 days of summer

Image credit: 500 Days of Summer, 2009.

I write to you today from the 136th day of summer.  The calendar may say September, the flannel pumpkins may have hit Target shelves, but here in good ole’ Austin we’re still baking in the heat.  You see, summer and I have a bad relationship. Kind of like the bad relationship in this week’s film, 500 Days of Summer (Disc/Download).  Eventually, you just hope someone will put us all out of our misery.

Starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tom, and Zooey Deschanel as Summer, the movie relies heavily on colorful visuals, choreographed dance numbers, and omniscient narration to tell the story of a couple’s failed relationship.  She says she’s not looking for anything serious, he doesn’t believe her, they date anyway, and he’s shocked when she dumps him.  Then they kinda-sorta flirt again, before she’s suddenly married to another guy.  Truthfully, Summer is…. awful.  The woman likes Ringo Starr, for god’s sake.  And with her high-waisted trousers, a-line dresses, and cute hair bows, her style is annoyingly perfect.  So why do I watch this movie?  A) because it’s an Anthropologie catalog come to life, and B) Tom.  The man wears sweater vests without irony, he can turn an IKEA trip into the cutest date ever, and don’t even get me started on his drunken karaoke skills.  He can do so much better than Summer.

You must understand– this is a very basic girl masquerading as someone unique. I imagine Summer would take a summer cocktail like the Aperol Spritz and make it in a new way, just because she could.  Is it better? No.  But using Campari instead of Aperol would make her seem cool and different.  While watching this bitter take on modern love, I recommend drinking a Campari Spritz.

Campari Spritz

2 oz Campari

3 oz Champagne

Club Soda

Orange Wedge

Fill a glass with ice.  Top with Campari and champagne, then fill glass the rest of the way with club soda.  Stir gently to combine, and garnish with an orange wedge.

campari spritz

I come down hard on Summer (and summer), but it’s only because I don’t like being told how to feel about a character, or a season.  I don’t want to be forced to like a girl just because she’s a snappy dresser, and I don’t want to be forced to like summer just because the rest of the country has a pleasant climate for 4-5 months.  Let me have grey, rainy days, and strong, authentic female characters; summer is meant for someone else.  Cheers!

Never Been Kissed

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Never Been Kissed

Image credit: Never Been Kissed, 1999.

Somehow, my life has turned into a Drew Barrymore movie.  I’m a fully grown adult woman about to attend her first prom, 18 years late. Also, I’m really hoping to be kissed by a hot teacher (preferably, the one I’m married to). Am I nervous about the big night?  No- because Never Been Kissed (Disc/Download) is there to show me the way.

In high school, I was totally Josie Grossie. Bad skin, retainer, oily hair, hands permanently attached to a book. Prom was too terrifying a prospect for that girl to handle. But then I grew up, lost the retainer and the zits, got a stylish bob, started writing books in addition to reading them, and realized maybe a big school dance isn’t such a scary thing after all. Drew Barrymore certainly handles it well in this movie, as an adult posing as a high school student for her newspaper. She wears her Shakespearean prom gown with confidence, knowing she’s way past all the pettiness. The mean girls still exist, and they still try and torment her, but the great thing about growing up is that you realize how lame the bullies are. Plus, this lady can legally drink  and they can’t.  That privilege trumps flawless Jessica Alba skin any day.

The prom theme of Never Been Kissed is great literary pairs. This got me thinking about cocktail pairs—those two ingredient drinks that are a perfect combination. High school Elizabeth would have gone for beer, but adult Liz gravitates toward fancy liqueurs. So why not combine the two? While watching Never Been Kissed, I recommend drinking this Pink Satin cocktail.

Pink Satin

1 oz Campari

6 oz IPA beer (I use Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin)

Grapefruit bitters

Fill a highball with ice, and pour in Campari and beer. Stir gently to combine.  Top with a few dashes of grapefruit bitters.

Forever Young

It’s pretty rare in life to get a do-over. Not that I regret my high school experience, but I don’t think there’s a single person out there who wouldn’t like to pass some of their adult knowledge onto their younger self. Personally, I wish seventeen-year-old me would have known the following things:

  • You will never be thinner than you are right now. Enjoy it.
  • Don’t stress about not having a boyfriend. You’ll find your prince charming, and he will make you laugh every single day.
  • It’s okay not to know what you want to be when you grow up.  You’ll figure it out eventually.
  • Turtleneck and a sweatshirt- not a good look.

Cheers!

The Kid Stays in the Picture

Kid Stays in the Picture

Image credit: The Kid Stays in the Picture, 2002.

As the summer of ’18 comes to a close, I’m reflecting on what a fantastic few months it was for documentaries at the multiplex (well, maybe not the multiplex, but at least that little indie cinema you keep promising yourself you’ll go to). With films like Won’t You Be My Neighbor, RBG, Three Identical Strangers, and Whitney generating considerable buzz, it’s gotten me excited about the medium again. In a world of “Fake News”, gaslighting, and malicious lies, isn’t it refreshing to see a film that seeks to tell the truth? Or at least, the truth according to someone…  As Robert Evans says in this week’s film The Kid Stays in the Picture (DVD/Download), “There are three sides to every story: Your side, my side, and the truth. And no one is lying. Memories shared serve each differently.”

After watching the film, here are the things I do actually think are true:

  • Robert Evans was a so-so actor, a master salesman, and (for a time) a brilliant Hollywood producer. At age 34, he became the youngest studio head, taking over Paramount Pictures. That’s younger than I am now. The man knew how to hustle.
  • He shepherded some truly great films during his tenure, including Love Story, The Godfather, Goodbye Columbus, Harold and Maude, Rosemary’s Baby, and Chinatown. Just… wow.
  • He made a lot of mistakes in his personal life.
  • Hollywood would not be what it is today without him.

In adapting Evan’s memoir, The Kid Stays in the Picture pieces together still photography, film footage, and audio narration by Evans himself. If you love movies, you’ll love this movie. Although he personifies the “sleazy Hollywood producer” type, you can’t deny his talent. Plus, hearing him call his ex-wife Ali MacGraw “Snotnose MacGraw” is worth the rental price alone.

One thing that seemed to motivate Robert Evans was his own personal Eden, a Beverly Hills estate called Woodland. Surrounded by roses, trees, and a beautiful swimming pool, it’s the kind of fairy-tale house that just doesn’t get built anymore. If I were invited to a pool party, I know what I’d be drinking- a rose-flavored cocktail meant for an afternoon of script-reading and suntanning. While watching The Kid Stays in the Picture, I recommend drinking a Mountaintop cocktail.

Mountaintop

1 ½ oz vodka

¾ oz Campari

2 oz Grapefruit soda

2 oz Ginger Beer

½ oz Lime Juice

¼ tsp Rosewater

Build drink in a tumbler filled with ice, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with twist of lime.

Apex

The story of Robert Evans is so outrageous that I think it could only be told documentary-style. With Evan’s colorful bravado, who needs actors? I don’t know if he’s got a third/fourth/fifth? act in him, but if he does, I already know it’ll be one hell of a ride. Cheers!

Legally Blonde

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legally blonde

Image credit: Legally Blonde, 2001

I thought I was done with my month of Campari, but then, one more rose-colored picture called out to me. Not since Funny Face has a film celebrated the color pink in such a big way, from bikinis and laptops, all the way to stationery. Legally Blonde (DVD/Download) is many things, but ultimately for me, it’s a chance to drink a pretty cocktail and wonder what ever happened to Luke Wilson.

After starring in Legally Blonde, Reese Witherspoon effectively became the queen of the rom-com.  As Elle Woods- sorority bimbo turned Harvard Law phenom- she brings heart and genuine strength to a character that could have come off as a caricature of the “dumb blonde”.  Despite some cringe-worthy moments (bend-and-snap = gag), I appreciate that the screenwriters don’t attempt to change the character when her intelligence starts to take center stage.  She still shows off her cute dresses, Prada shoes, and blonde waves, even when she’s winning legal battles and fending off sexual harassers.  Because yes- it’s okay for a woman to be smart and pretty.  If others have a problem with that, it’s their problem.

If I were Elle, cramming for finals on the quad in a pink bikini, sweater-wearing chihuahua by my side, I’d absolutely be toting a refreshing pink cocktail in my go-cup.  Study time just got a lot more fun!  While watching Legally Blonde, I recommend drinking a Pink Spritz.

Pink Spritz

1 part Rosé wine

1 part Grapefruit Cider (I use Austin Eastciders Ruby Red Grapefruit cider)

1 part Grapefruit Topo Chico sparkling water

Splash of Campari

Combine wine, cider, and sparkling water in a glass over crushed ice.  Top with a splash of Campari.

Pink Spritz

Romantic comedies have all but gone by the wayside, which is a shame because there’s still such a huge market for them.  Maybe the fans have gone into hiding (likely after years of derision by men), but I will proudly say that I am a smart woman who likes romance, pink drinks, and cute outfits.  So sue me.  Cheers!

Tropic Thunder

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TROPIC THUNDER

Image Credit: Tropic Thunder, 2008.

I’m ending Campari Month on a fun note this week, with a tiki cocktail and a film so hilarious it might cause you to shoot rum out your nose. Tropic Thunder (DVD/Download) is full of un-PC moments and plenty of Hollywood digs, which makes it perfect for this negroni-imprisonned aperitif. Movies shouldn’t take themselves too seriously- and neither should Campari.

Directed by Ben Stiller, Tropic Thunder spoofs the making of a Vietnam War film, in all its Creedence-soundtracked glory.  The production takes a strange turn when the actors find themselves in a real-life jungle hostage situation, with nary a craft services table in sight. Starring Stiller as a Tom Cruise-esque washed-up action hero, Jack Black as a drug-addled king of flatulence and prosthetic body suits, and Robert Downey Jr. as a lily-white Australian playing an African-American (he’s the dude who’s playing a dude disguised as another dude), this film skewers everything we’ve come to love and hate about Hollywood blockbusters. Even Tom Cruise himself gets in on the action, nearly unrecognizable as heartless studio boss Les Grossman. And I do mean Gross. Man.

I was lucky enough to tour the ranch on Kaua’i where Tropic Thunder was filmed, and let me tell you- after traipsing through the jungle, covered in red dirt and booty sweat, I was ready for a tiki cocktail back at the hotel. While watching Tropic Thunder, I recommend drinking a Jungle Bird.

Jungle Bird

1 ½ oz dark rum

¾ oz Campari

½ oz simple syrup

1 ½ oz pineapple juice

½ oz lime juice

Pineapple wedge and cherry for garnish

Combine rum, Campari, simple syrup, and juices in a shaker filled with crushed ice. Shake vigorously until chilled, then pour entire mixture into a tumbler. Garnish with pineapple and cherry.

Jungle Bird

I’d like to give a special mention to the fantastically good fake trailers before this film, a sub-genre in cinema that we need more of (see also Kentucky Fried Movie and Grindhouse).  Is the world ready for a Scorcher franchise?  This tipsy lady says HELL YES.  Cheers!

The Pink Panther

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pink panther

Image Credit: The Pink Panther, 1963.

Let me begin by saying I have absolutely no idea what is happening in this movie. Blame the Campari, blame the dazzling beauty of young Robert Wagner, but I couldn’t make heads or tails of Blake Edward’s 1963 comedic caper farce The Pink Panther (DVD/Download).  And yet- I couldn’t look away.

I’ve always been fascinated by the 1960’s Jet Set, even before Don Draper and his bizarre Palm Springs weekend. From the designer clothes, to the exotic travel, to the day-drinking, I love it all. This movie picks up where Slim Aarons’ photography leaves off, adding a healthy dose of Henry Mancini’s delightful jazz to an already-glamorous fever dream. I went into this film thinking Peter Sellers would be the star of the show, and indeed his Inspector Clouseau was the most entertaining character. There just wasn’t nearly enough of him. Instead we’re left watching David Niven romance Claudia Cardinale on a tiger-skin rug, while Robert Wagner attempts some playful sexual assault on Clouseau’s wife (I guess back then rapists were just called “playboys”? Ick.). I *think* there’s a jewel heist at the center of it all, but I have no idea who’s doing the heist, or why, or who the jewel belongs to in the first place. Also, despite the sly pink cartoon we all know and love, the Panther is not the thief, the Panther is the jewel. The Phantom is the thief. Still with me?  Yeah, didn’t think so.

Whether they’re in Paris, Rome, or a glamorous Italian ski resort, these people drink A LOT of champagne. Doesn’t that sound like the life? In my opinion, Campari makes it even better, turning a hum-drum mimosa into a sophisticated brunch cocktail.  While watching the Pink Panther, I recommend drinking a Campari Sparkler.

Campari Sparkler

2 oz Campari

2 oz fresh orange juice

1 ½ cups Pink Champagne

Orange slice for garnish

Combine Campari and orange juice in a shaker with ice, and shake until chilled. Strain into a flute or wine glass, and top with pink champagne. Garnish with an orange slice.

Campari Sparkler

There are good caper films, and then there is The Pink Panther. Had I not been long-obsessed with 1960’s style, I might have given up halfway through. But instead I poured another drink, accepted the fact that I would never understand the plot of this movie, and just spent the remaining hour admiring Claudia Cardinale’s wardrobe and makeup. There are worse ways to spend an afternoon. Cheers!