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Tag Archives: Christmas movie

The Silent Partner

Image Credit: The Silent Partner, 1978

If you’re burned out by the sentimentality and commercialization of Christmas, have I got a movie for you. The Silent Partner (Disc/Download) is an unexpected holiday find, though a fantastic one. Nothing like a little Santa bank heist to put me in the yuletide spirit!

With a screenplay by Curtis Hanson, I knew I was in for a twisty, suspenseful good time. What I didn’t expect was how dark this movie would ultimately turn out to be, like a mashup between Hitchcock and Argento. Elliott Gould plays a bank teller with a dead-end love life who stumbles onto a mall Santa’s plot to rob his local branch. In an effort to finance his exotic fish collection (yes, you read that right), he starts secretly stashing money from the bank’s till before the impending robbery occurs. When the crime actually happens, St. Nick (Christopher Plummer) walks off with a little bit of money, while Gould ends up with the real fortune. However, this mild-mannered everyman didn’t bet on Santa being a twisted sadist who will stop at nothing to get his rightful share. I won’t spoil all the surprises this movie has to offer, but let’s just say Capt. Von Trapp looks great in panty hose.

Although The Silent Partner is an extremely suspenseful movie, rest assured there are a lot of fun, campy moments too. Boobs abound in this 1970s bra-free wonderland, under everything from cheeky t-shirts (my favorite: “Penalty For Early Withdrawal”), to slinky cocktail dresses. Elliott Gould’s character is perpetually horny, but I really can’t blame him. These bankers like to party, and things get a little loose. This holiday season, let’s toast a bygone era with this Blowfish cocktail.

Blowfish

2 oz Canadian Whiskey

1 oz Lemon Juice

½ oz Crème de Cassis

½ oz Simple Syrup

1 dash Angostura Bitters

Combine all ingredients in a shaker over ice.  Shake until chilled, then strain into a tumbler with a large ice ball.

I love the Toronto location of this movie because we rarely get to watch a film shot in Canada that’s actually set in Canada. As it turns out, our neighbors to the north have a lot to offer. That list includes (but is not limited to) John Candy, funny Monopoly-looking money, and a really bizarre take on Christmas.  Cheers!

All That Heaven Allows

Image Credit: All That Heaven Allows, 1955

Although not typically thought of as a Christmas flick, the second I watched All That Heaven Allows (Disc) during a Douglas Sirk Deep Dive last summer, I knew I had to cover it in December. If you’re ever paranoid you’ve chosen a terrible Christmas present for your mom, reassure yourself with this movie. I promise, whatever it is, it’s nowhere near as bad as what Cary Scott’s adult children send to her doorstep.

To be fair, a television is not a terrible gift on its own. But when you’re A) refusing to spend Christmas with your sad, widowed mother, and B) have driven off the only hope of happiness this woman has for your own puritanical, selfish reasons, this television is the insult to end all insults. It says to her, “We know that you live alone. Here’s something to distract you until you eventually die alone.”  I’ve previously lamented the terrible children in classic Christmas movies (see Holiday Affair); however, the college-aged offspring in this one are actually The Worst. All Cary (Jane Wyman) wants to do is find a little joy after losing her husband. She happens to find it with a man nine years her junior (a flannel-loving Rock Hudson), but before she even has a chance to finish one martini, her friends and family lose their collective sh*t. Cary yearns for the freedom to love who she wants, and it takes the mother of all insulting Christmas gifts for her to realize she’s strong enough to tell ‘em all to go to hell. She wants Rock, she wants that flannel, and she does not want a television.

This is definitely a martini-heavy flick (it was the ‘50s after all…), so I’m thrilled to highlight a favorite holiday cocktail of mine. It’s strong, it’s flavorful, and best of all, it’s easy. While watching All That Heaven Allows, I recommend this Cozy Cabin Martini.

Cozy Cabin Martini

2 oz Gin

¾ oz Ginger Liqueur

½ oz Lime Juice

2 sprigs Rosemary

Muddle a sprig of Rosemary in the bottom of a shaker with lime juice. Add Ginger Liqueur, Gin, and ice. Shake well, and strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a sprig of Rosemary.

All That Heaven Allows inspired another movie I recently enjoyed (Far From Heaven), and both are fantastic picks if you want to get swept up in a domestic drama featuring cocktails and gorgeous ‘50s dresses. But if I have to pick a favorite, it would be this Douglas Sirk masterpiece. It may not be overtly “Christmas-y”, but it reminds me of what I’m most thankful for every time this holiday rolls around- love, and a child-free life. Cheers!

Gremlins

gremlins

Image credit: Gremlins, 1984

Full confession: I was a child of the 80’s, there was a stuffed Mogwai in my house, yet I’d never actually seen Gremlins (DVD/Download). Or if I did see it, I kept my eyes closed through the scary parts. I don’t know what I was picturing before my recent viewing, but WOW- this was not it.

I expected goo, claws, teeth, and big ears. What I didn’t anticipate was the sheer level of camp within this bizarre neo-Pleasantville, where Phoebe Cates plays the youngest bank teller in history, and her cute co-worker looks like he should be studying for his SAT’s next year. His worthless but well-meaning dad gives him a Mogwai for Christmas, because that’s what every kid wants- a strange creature picked up in a Chinatown basement. And dang if “Gizmo” isn’t the cutest thing ever. Those big eyes! The weird singing! The fact that he’s smart enough to turn down a snack after midnight! I’m not even smart enough to turn down a snack after midnight. Of course Corey Feldman has to screw it all up and accidentally dump water on him, causing Gizmo to birth a quintet of demon gremlins, who break all the rules and terrorize the town. The film takes a turn into horror-ville after the gremlins start multiplying, but with the terrible special effects, it’s more funny than scary.

Gremlins is so weird that it deserves a cocktail that’s as unexpected as creepy creatures popping out of a douglas fir. Gizmo and I share a fear of illumination (me due to retinal problems, him because he’s got a lot of strange rules), so while watching Gremlins, treat yourself to a shiny Bright Light.

Bright Light

1.5 oz Pear Vodka

.5 oz Lemon Juice

Sparkling wine

Rosemary Sprig

Shake vodka and lemon juice over ice to chill.  Strain into a flute, and top with sparkling wine.  Garnish with a rosemary sprig.

Bright Light.jpeg

This movie spawned countless sequels, and I have to attribute its enduring popularity to the fact that somebody finally made a holiday movie that wasn’t all carol singers and egg nog. It depicts crazy, scary things happening in a small town because yes, even at Christmas, bad things can happen. At least there’s alcohol to get us through. Cheers!

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!

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!)