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The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

benjamin-button

Image credit: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, 2008

Greetings from New Orleans! I’m off on a little sojourn in the Big Easy, taking in the sights and doing some much-needed cocktail research (very important business). To prepare for my trip I’ve been watching some New Orleans-set films, including this week’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (DVD/Download). Some star-crossed romance and beautiful Garden District scenes are just what I need to kick off this week of bon temps.

Based on the story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button stars Brad Pitt as a man who ages in reverse. Fate intervenes and brings him together periodically with his true love Daisy, played by Cate Blanchett. We know going in that this can’t be a story with a happy ending, though there are some beautiful scenes of the two lovers “meeting in the middle” of their lives. What Benjamin’s tale teaches us is that backwards or forwards, life is a long journey that we’ve just got to make the best of. Also, we learn that Brad Pitt will one day be a very adorable old man.

Part of my excitement over a trip to New Orleans is that this was the city that launched SO MANY cocktails. The Hurricane, the Ramos Gin Fizz, the Vieux Carré- I could go on and on. But for this film, I’ll be drinking perhaps the most iconic NOLA cocktail- the Sazerac.

Sazerac

Absinthe

1 sugar cube

2 ½ oz Cognac or rye whiskey

3 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters

Lemon twist

Rinse an old-fashioned glass with absinthe, discard, then fill the glass with crushed ice. Muddle the sugar cube with a few drops of water in another old-fashioned glass, and add a few large ice cubes.  Add in the cognac or rye, and bitters, and stir gently to combine.  Discard the ice in the first glass, then strain the cocktail into this prepared glass. Add a twist of lemon.

sazerac

Although the concept of reverse aging is something the beauty industry has been chasing for decades, Benjamin Button shows us how futile it all is. Eventually we all end up in diapers. Until then, I plan on making the most of every day that I find myself in the middle, and appreciating this random collision course that we call life. Cheers!

Carol

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carol

Image credit: Carol, 2015

This is serious folks- I’ve been writing Cinema Sips for three years, and I’m starting to run out of Christmas movies! Next year we might be down to The Gremlins.  It’s bad. Thankfully, last year’s masterpiece Carol (DVD/Download) has delayed the inevitable just a little bit longer. Featuring 1950’s holiday dysfunction, beautiful vintage clothes, and classic cocktails, this is the perfect thing to kick off a season of overindulging.

Based on the novel by Patricia Highsmith (a personal favorite author of mine), Carol tells the unlikely love story between glamorous suburban housewife Carol, and bohemian shopgirl/photographer Therese. Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara portray these characters so beautifully, and I find myself rooting for their impossible romance with all my heart. Director Todd Haynes has made what feels like a classic film in modern times, and this quiet story that happens to be set at Christmas is just the reminder I need that despite the tinsel and holiday music and greeting cards, real life is still happening too.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- nobody drinks a martini like Cate Blanchett. She’s in rare form here, ordering a lunch of dry martinis and poached eggs with creamed spinach. I’m not sure this combo is the best (or most appetizing) food pairing, it is the best cocktail choice for this movie. While watching Carol, I recommend drinking a Dry Martini (with an olive).*

Dry Martini

2 ½ oz Gin

½ oz Dry Vermouth

1-2 Olives

Stir gin and vermouth in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with an olive.

dry-martini

I’ll always love my old Christmas stand-bys like The Holiday, Love Actually, Little Women, etc, but it feels good to add a new classic to the mix. Sipping a martini in a Sandy Powell dress while 1950’s New York buzzes around you? Sounds like a perfect holiday fantasy to me. Cheers!

(*Note: I made this same cocktail selection two years ago for The Thin Man.  Perhaps a double feature is in order!)

Cinderella

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cinderella

Image credit: Cinderella, 2015

As a general rule, I usually avoid all live-action fairy tale adaptations because they tend to be CGI-laden cheese-fests (ahem, Alice in Wonderland). But since it’s Cocktails-and-Corsets month, and since there was quite a bit of drama last year over the corset in Cinderella (DVD/Download), I decided to give this Kenneth Branagh adaptation a shot. And wow- I’m really glad I did!

First of all, just the fact that Cate Blanchett co-stars in this means a 99% chance that it’s good. Her portrayal of the Evil Stepmother Lady Tremaine is masterful, and as always, she wears a costume like nobody’s business. Her long 1940’s Dior-inspired gowns are true works of art, and it makes me wish she and designer Sandy Powell would release a documentary where Blanchett just tries on Powell creations, one after another. Of course there’s the ubiquitous scene of Cinderella (played by Lily James) trying to squeeze her former Downton Abbey co-star into a bone crushing corset (literally, there’s a bone cracking sound effect), whereas Cinderella herself waltzes along with the teeniest waist in the land, nary a broken rib in sight. See, she is princess material!

As always, it wouldn’t be Disney without an ear worm of a song that works its way into your brain and stays for days.  As an ode to this film’s haunting lullaby “Lavender’s Blue”, while watching Cinderella I recommend drinking a Lavender Gin Fizz.

Lavender Gin Fizz

2 oz gin

1.5 oz Royal Rose Lavender Lemon simple syrup

¾ oz lemon juice

Club Soda

Lemon twist

Combine gin, simple syrup, and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass filled with ice. Top with club soda, stir gently, and garnish with a twist of lemon.

Lavender Fizz

I think I’ve always loved the Cinderella fairy tale, mainly because of my spirit animal Gus Gus. He and I share an unparalleled love of cheese. That scene in the animated Disney version where he’s trying to balance all the cheese cubes? Me after a trip to the fridge at night. Happily, his modern CGI doppelganger is still a fan of cheddar. Overall, I was extremely pleased with this adaptation. The film kept in all the things I loved about the classic animated Disney tale, and added in stunning costumes and a little more backstory. Combined with a cocktail, it’s perfection. Cheers!

The Aviator

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Image credit: The Aviator, 2004

Image credit: The Aviator, 2004

I’m sure I’ve previously mentioned that I adore movies about old Hollywood. The glamour, the scandals- I can’t get enough. This week I’ll be watching Scorsese’s The Aviator (DVD/Download), one of the best films to feature re-imagined classic film stars. Cate Blanchett as Katherine Hepburn; Gwen Stefani as Jean Harlow; Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner- the list goes on and on. And yes, there is Leonardo DiCaprio as mogul Howard Hughes, but who are we kidding here- the ladies are the stars of this show.

The Aviator follows Howard Hughes’ career as a movie producer and aviation pioneer, his success overshadowed by a raging case of OCD. Hughes’ money and charm attract a cavalcade of beautiful starlets, but it’s Hepburn who really connects with him. I know, I know, she was meant to be with Spencer Tracy, but a part of me wanted her to end up with Howard Hughes. Cate Blanchett does Hepburn like nobody’s business, completely nailing the WASP-y New England accent and athletic stride. I was less impressed by Kate Beckinsale’s breathy portrayal of Ava Gardner, though of course I loved her costumes! Really though, the best part for me is the fabulous wallpaper in the bathroom of the Beverly Hills Hotel. That iconic giant palm-leaf design is a welcome distraction from DiCaprio’s sweaty overacting mess below it.

The 1930’s must have been an amazing time to be in Hollywood. Not just for the films (though those were good too), but also for the cocktails! Imagine sipping a gin cocktail at the Cocoanut Grove, a drunken Errol Flynn at the next table over, hitting on starlets left and right. Paying tribute to classic drinks and Hughes’ obsession with flying, while watching The Aviator I recommend drinking an Aviation cocktail.

Aviation

1 ½ oz gin

½ oz lemon juice

¾ oz maraschino liqueur

¼ oz crème de violette

Maraschino cherry (optional)

Add all ingredients to a shaker filled with ice, shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry (optional).

Aviator

Obviously, The Aviator focuses a great deal on Hughes’ aviation experience (including one harrowing plane crash over Beverly Hills), but it’s also a love letter to cinema. Watching the filming of Hell’s Angels is pure fun, and I love seeing how the coloration and technology of cinema changes over time. In short, come for the glitz and action, but continue watching for the style and history. Cheers!

Blue Jasmine

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Image Credit Sony Pictures Classics 2013, Blue Jasmine

Image Credit Sony Pictures Classics 2013, Blue Jasmine

After a very late night spent watching The Oscars on Sunday, I admit I had a tough time getting up the next morning. The only thing that got me out of bed was the promise of seeing a recap of last-night’s dresses all over the internet. I admit that I did pretty darn well in my office Oscar pool, though of course there were some definite sure things on the ballot this year. One of those sure things was Cate Blanchett, who very deservedly won her Best Actress statuette  for Blue Jasmine. In celebration of her victory as well as her unfailingly good fashion sense, I’m watching the wonderful film for which she was honored.

Blue Jasmine (DVD/Download) tells the story of a wealthy New York socialite whose cheating, embezzling husband commits suicide while in prison for his financial crimes. Broke and lost, Jasmine seeks refuge at her sister Ginger’s apartment in San Francisco. Throughout the film, we discover that Jasmine’s seemingly perfect former life with her husband (played by Alec Baldwin) was decidedly imperfect. Jasmine manages to torpedo her own life as well as everyone else’s around her, resulting in a well-dressed shell of a woman who talks to herself and drinks Stoli martinis like they’re going out of style. Written and directed by Woody Allen, this film is very reminiscent of A Streetcar Named Desire. Bobby Cannavale is definitely no Marlon Brando, but Blanchette is a fabulous stand-in for Vivien Leigh.

For anyone watching this movie, you’ll notice that Jasmine drinks an awful lot of vodka. Specifically, her drink of choice is a Stoli martini. It’s a classic, but a classic for a reason. I’ve always preferred a twist of lemon over an olive in a martini because I think the tart lemon flavor complements the vodka much better than what is essentially a ball of salt at the bottom of the glass. When watching Blue Jasmine, you really can’t drink anything but a Stoli Martini with a Twist of Lemon.

Stoli Martini

Dry Vermouth

2 oz vodka, chilled

Lemon twist

Pour a small amount of vermouth into a martini glass and swirl it around, just so it coats the sides. Pour out excess. Add vodka into a shaker with ice, and gently stir until chilled (or shake it if you’re a James Bond fan). Pour vodka into prepared glass, and top with lemon twist.

stoli-martini

The first time I saw Blue Jasmine, I knew it would be an instant classic. It’s a story that’s timeless, but yet so current. Jasmine is a woman who is unraveling, and it’s riveting to watch it happen. Whether she can be redeemed in the end, we’ll never know. I hope so. But for tonight, raise a glass to the great Cate Blanchette, and be glad that the Oscars only happen once a year (otherwise I might need to borrow a Xanex from Jasmine to manage my excitement). Cheers!

 

 

Special Edition: Oscars

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Image credit: Oscars.org

Image credit: Oscars.org

It’s finally here!!!!!  My favorite night of the year, the night where beautiful and talented stars line up on the red carpet, answer inane questions from Giuliana Rancic, and pretend to lose gracefully when their name is not called up to the podium.  That’s right- it’s the Oscars!

I’m actually pretty excited about tonight’s line-up because there aren’t a lot of sure bets this year.  Okay, I admit, Jared Leto and Cate Blanchett are probably shoo-ins, but when it comes to the Best Picture category, it’s anybody’s guess.  I have high hopes that I triumphed in my office Oscar pool, but this year it was pretty tough to guess the winners.  Thus I will be sitting on the edge of my seat with all of you Cinema Sips readers, waiting to see if Gravity takes it all, or American Hustle manages some surprise wins.

One thing that I do know for certain however, is that there is bound to be some AMAZING fashion tonight.  With nominees like Lupita Nyong’o and Cate Blanchett, the red carpet is going to be quite the show.  I have high hopes that Jennifer Lawrence will triumph over her electrical tape-bedsheet Golden Globes disaster, and my husband has high hopes that he’ll get to see more of Amy Adams’ sternum tonight.  Will Jared Leto leave his Jesus-locks down or pull them into a chic up-do?  How many jokes will be made at the expense of model-izer Leonardo DiCaprio?  These are questions I am dying to find answers to.

My drink tonight is fairly simple because I know we’re going to be far too busy dissecting outfits to bother with complicated drink recipes.  Tonight, I’m planning to get dressed up in my Oscar-finest (aka- an old bridesmaid dress), hit up In-N-Out burger like the real celebrities do, and fix myself a Red Carpet cocktail.

Red Carpet

Pink Champagne (or sparkling Rosé wine)

1/2 oz St. Germaine Elderflower Liqueur

Maraschino Cherry

Pour chilled champagne into glass, top with St. Germain, and garnish with Maraschino Cherry.

Red-Carpet

Enjoy this fizzy drink while you laugh at Ellen Degeneres’ jokes (though who are we kidding- she’s no Tina Fey/Amy Poehler) and wince as the E! hosts subject stars to the Glam Cam 360.  This is Hollywood’s biggest night, and I for one plan to celebrate a great year in cinema.  Cheers!

The Talented Mr. Ripley

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Photo Credit:  Miramax 1999

Photo Credit: Miramax 1999

As much of the country is in the death grip of winter cold this week, I felt inspired to watch a movie that features sailboat cruises on the Mediterranean, leisurely cocktail hours, fabulous 1950’s fashions, and a suntanned and shirtless Jude Law. Based on the thrilling novel by Patricia Highsmith and produced during Miramax’s heyday of the late 1990’s, The Talented Mr. Ripley is one delicious Italian travel postcard. It tells the story of Dickie Greenleaf (played by the magnetically charismatic Jude Law), a trust fund ex-pat who spends his days lounging on the Italian Riviera with his girlfriend Marge (played by an enviably tanned and beautiful Gwyneth Paltrow). Matt Damon plays the title character Tom Ripley, who travels to Italy at the behest of Dickie’s father in order to lure Dickie back to the US, but instead he ends up befriending him, falling in love with him, and then becoming dangerously obsessed with him.

If you haven’t seen this film before, or if it’s been awhile, I strongly urge you to check it out. Watching it makes you realize why Law, Paltrow, and Damon became the huge stars that they did, and in addition, the fabulous Cate Blanchett turns in a performance as a wealthy American socialite that shows us why she was born to play Kathrine Hepburn in The Aviator. This movie always makes me want to travel back to Italy, and spend my time lounging the days away while moving at a much slower pace than I would ever allow myself to do at home. I want to get tanned, drink martinis, write on a vintage typewriter, travel to underground jazz clubs in Rome, and eat fresh pasta (while still fitting into 1950’s couture dresses). A person can dream can’t they?

For this week’s cocktail pairing, I’m keeping it pretty simple. This is a drink I often serve at parties because it’s easy to make and strong enough that I don’t have to spend all night behind the bar doing refills. When watching The Talented Mr. Ripley, I suggest pairing it with a Limoncello Martini:

Margie’s Limoncello Martini

1 oz Gin

1 oz Limoncello (perhaps you’ve picked up a bottle during your own Italian vacation?)

1 lemon twist

Combine the gin and limoncello with ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake until very cold (COLD being the key here), and strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with the lemon twist.

limoncello-martini

This drink is perfect for the film because it evokes Italian sunsets and is meant to be sipped slowly. Martini-making abilities are a prized commodity with this set of characters, so I feel as though I’d fit in nicely with the 1950’s ex-pats. With a chilled Limoncello Martini in my hand, and two hours spent doing nothing but enjoying this film, I feel like I’m getting there. So set your martini glass outside a minute in these freezing temps to chill, put on The Talented Mr. Ripley, and pretend that the noise you just heard rattling your window is a warm Mediterranean breeze (not a frigid Arctic blast). Cheers!