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Tag Archives: Charlie Kaufman

Adaptation

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Image credit: Adaptation, 2002

If you follow me on social media, then you know I’m an orchid mom. That’s right, I enjoy caring for one of the most delicate plants in nature, all for the promise of a few blooms. I like to watch as they die and resurrect themselves, over and over, like a superhero franchise. They’ve been a joy, a distraction, and an inspiration as I revise and write and revise again, hoping maybe this time, the right words will magically fall into place. Thus I can say with absolute certainty, Adaptation (Disc/Download) is a perfect film for the orchid-obsessed, and for anybody who’s ever struggled to make a story “work”.

Loosely based on The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean, Adaptation is Charlie Kaufman’s wild meta tale of a screenwriter’s quest to turn this book into a movie. Nicolas Cage plays Charlie, and he also plays Charlie’s fictional twin brother Donald, who stumbles into screenwriting like a NaNoWriMo newbie. Charlie writes smart, character-driven stories, while Donald’s are mostly plot-driven, using the formula he learned in a ridiculous workshop. Where things get weird is when the script Charlie is writing (which we see in cuts to Meryl Streep as Susan Orlean and Chris Cooper as John Laroche, subject of The Orchid Thief) slowly morphs into a “Donald script”, going completely off the rails as Charlie loses all sense of his own voice, and what he was originally trying to say. It’s a strange, bizarre twist, showing the audience what happens when people follow the formulas: we get crappy movies that focus more on outlandish plots than character development. One wonders if Nicholas Cage has exclusively been picking “Donald movies” for the past decade, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Now, back to the orchids. I love watching John Laroche wax poetic about the beauty and struggle of his obsession, and Orlean’s look of wonder at all the rare varieties mirrors my own. While watching Adaptation, I recommend drinking a Flower Show cocktail.

Flower Show

1 Egg White

2 oz Gin

1/2 oz Crème de Violette

1/2 oz Cointreau

1 oz Fresh Lemon Juice

Fill a shaker with ice. Add all ingredients and shake until frothy. Strain into a cocktail glass.

One thing the movie never discusses (and I wish it did) is the rebirth of this plant. An orchid can appear completely dead, stripped of all its beautiful blooms, but with enough care and attention, it’ll start to grow again. There’s something comforting in this, knowing that even when all hope seems lost, the thing you loved might not be gone forever. Maybe, like a writer huddled over a keyboard, it can just be… temporarily blocked. Cheers!

Being John Malkovich

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Being John Malkovich

Image Credit: Being John Malkovich, 1999

If you could crawl into the mind of a celebrity, who would it be? For me, the answer is easy- Nicholas Cage. Not only would it likely be a weird and wacky ride, but I might be able to save him (and the rest of humanity) from some truly terrible films. In this week’s film Being John Malkovich (DVD/Download), one of the great American actors of the 20th century becomes the host du jour. Why did screenwriter Charlie Kaufman choose actor John Malkovich? Because it’s just fun to say Malkovich.

Directed by Spike Jonze, Being John Malkovich has all the movie elements I love. Unusual sets (7 ½ floor, anyone?), puppets, good-looking celebrities going ugly (YIKES Cameron Diaz), and famous actors playing themselves. As greasy-haired puppeteer Craig Schwartz, John Cusack slides through the portal into John Malkovich’s mind and eventually opens the actor up to a slew of other people taking possession.  As the film progresses, we start to examine what makes a person uniquely themselves, and how much of our minds are controlled by outside influences.

Although many people try to inhabit the mind of Malkovich, the 105-years-young Dr. Lester has perhaps the biggest claim to this coveted mental real estate. It’s his building where the portal on the 7 ½ floor exists, and he’s spent his life drinking carrot juice to stay vital. Wouldn’t it be great to find a cocktail that reverses the aging process? I’m willing to try if you are. While watching Being John Malkovich, I recommend drinking a Carrot Collins.

Carrot Collins

3 oz carrot juice

¾ oz lime juice

1.5 oz spiced rum

¾ cup ginger beer

1 oz mint simple syrup

Combine all ingredients in a collins glass over ice. Stir gently, and garnish with a sprig of mint.

Carrot Collins

One of the most interesting scenes in the film is when John Malkovich goes through his own portal, landing inside his own mind. What he encounters is a collection of Malkovich clones, who can speak only his surname; or as he puts it, “a world no man should see.” I can empathize. A room full of Liz Locke’s? TERRIFYING. Cheers!