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American Graffiti

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American Graffiti

Image credit: American Graffiti, 1973.

If we’re to see anything positive come out of the Coronavirus pandemic, please let it be the return of attractive automobiles. For someone like me, who spends most of her time watching films of the 1950s and ‘60s, it can be a huge letdown to leave the house and see nothing but ugly, insect-like vehicles on the road. Give me fins, bench seats, and rounded, impractical bodies. Give me the sort of adorable European car Audrey Hepburn would drive. Give me the pastel beasts of this week’s Cinema Sips pick, American Graffiti (Disc/Download).

As I explained in a recent Moviejawn article about drive-ins and dating during the time of COVID-19, our cars will be the solution to loneliness. Truly, with only half the U.S. population wearing a mask (on a good day), the only safe place we have outside the house is inside an automobile. One thing that struck me about American Graffiti, George Lucas’s ode to cruisin’ in the 1960s, was that these teens could flirt and have entire relationships without ever leaving their vehicles. Taking place over the span of one night, four teen boys come-of-age to the sounds of Wolfman Jack and the revving of engines. Relationships are broken and mended, futures are decided, and Harrison Ford finally gets his chance to shine under a cowboy hat and devastating smile. But the thing is, this movie only works with gorgeous classic cars. Copping a feel from the front seat of a Toyota Corolla? Yeah right. Luring a girl into your Mercedes sedan for a night of innocent fun? Heated seats or not, I’m still unimpressed.

Completing the film’s early 1960s tableau is the soda shop as gathering place. There are roller-skating waitresses, doo-wop records on the jukebox, and car-loads of teens ordering fried foods. Let’s get this party rolling with a boozy cocktail that goes down smooth. While watching American Graffiti, I recommend drinking this High-Octane Cherry Coke.

High-Octane Cherry Coke

1 oz Bourbon

½ oz Cherry Heering

¼ oz Amaretto

8 oz Coca-Cola

Luxardo cherry (for garnish)

Build drink over ice, stirring to combine. Garnish with a Luxardo cherry.

High Octane Cherry Coke

It’s heartbreaking to me that George Lucas never made another small film like American Graffiti, preferring instead to devote much of his career to blockbuster special effects extravaganzas. To each their own, but this beautiful work of art is proof that there’s an incredible storyteller under all those light-sabers and Ewok costumes. This movie isn’t just about cars, but about human relationships and the way we can’t help but call out to each other, from behind our moving temples of glass and steel. And if any auto manufacturers happen to stumble across this little blog post, let me take the opportunity to plead my case for a retro-styled hybrid white T-bird. I’m in the market for a new car, and I hear blondes look bitchin’ in them. Cheers!

 

Goodbye, Columbus

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Image Credit: Paramount Pictures, 1969, Goodbye Columbus

Image Credit: Paramount Pictures, 1969, Goodbye Columbus

For many years, I’ve been slightly obsessed with photography and paintings depicting beautiful people in swimming pools (Slim Aarons and his society poolside photos are definite favorites of mine). How thrilled I was then, to discover a film that captured this beauty on celluloid. No longer were these subjects frozen in time, but finally, swimming through crystalline waters surrounded by concrete and sunbathers. The film I’m excited about this week is Goodbye, Columbus (DVD/Download). Based on the novella by Philip Roth, it stars Ali MacGraw as a college-aged Jewish-American-Princess, who is very attached to her wealthy family. She begins dating Richard Benjamin’s character, who is a lower class Jew working as a librarian in the Bronx. Class differences and parental interference create conflict in their relationship, but nevertheless they spend a glorious summer playing tennis, lounging poolside, and attending parties.

Released in 1969, Goodbye, Columbus was an early film in Ali MacGraw’s frustratingly short career, made even before she did Love Story. It’s sometimes difficult for me to watch her in this, just because she’s SO beautiful. Truly, she has that kind of naturally perfect skin and hair that makes you think she must just wake up looking camera-ready. Her clothes in this film are also stunning. Cute 60’s bikinis, tennis whites, and later, pleated skirts and pea coats after the summer ends- they’re all just fabulous. The film is a frank look at relationships between college-aged young adults, and in many ways reminds me of The Graduate. Richard Benjamin’s character is searching for something, and he stupidly thinks he’s found it in a smart, beautiful girl whose affections run hot and cold like tap water.

My drink this week was inspired by one of my favorite scenes in the book. It was given short shrift in the film adaptation, but I still think about it every time I see cherries suddenly appear in my grocery store’s produce section. In the novel, Roth describes the sheer opulence of a wealthy family’s refrigerator. Filled with a bounty of delicious fresh fruit, it’s a sight that the main character would never have experienced in his own home. He takes a cherry from a bowl, but is then immediately caught by his girlfriend’s annoying little sister. It’s ridiculous, of course the cherries are there for all to enjoy, but it’s such a foreign concept to him that he becomes embarrassed. Therefore, I’m urging my readers to go crazy this week- buy cherries and actually eat them with abandon! This week, I’m serving up a Cherry Gin Sling.

Cherry Gin Sling

1 oz gin

1/2 oz Cointreau

1/2 oz fresh lime juice

3 oz light cherry soda (I used Simply Balanced Cran-cherry soda)

Fresh, whole sweet cherries

Lime wheels, for garnish

In an empty highball glass, muddle one cherry. Fill the glass with ice. Then, in an ice-filled cocktail shaker, add gin, Cointreau, and lime juice. Shake to chill. Pour into ice filled glasses, then top with cherry soda, to taste. Garnish with cherries and lime wheels.

cherry-gin-sling

This is a great summertime drink that can be served up at backyard parties. Cherries are my absolute favorite fruit, and if I had been confronted with a giant bowl of gleaming cherries like this character, I would have dove in head first. Plus, I love using seasonal ingredients in my cocktails whenever I can. So mix up your gin sling, and get ready to enjoy watching Ali MacGraw frolic through summer while poor Richard Benjamin just tries to keep up. Cheers!