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Inception

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Image credit: Inception, 2010

Let’s not pretend any of us truly understand this week’s pick, Inception (Disc/Download). Sure, we may have a vague idea of the general plot, but director Christopher Nolan, ultimate master of cinema magic tricks, has crafted a film so full of misdirection and ambiguity that it’s impossible to know what’s real and what’s an illusion. So let’s just pour a drink and follow along as best we can.

As far as I can tell, this film is about dreams and the people who infiltrate them. The goal is to plant an idea that will then take root and manifest as change in the real world, without the sleeping victim being any the wiser. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a dream manipulator who is hired by a rich tycoon to go inside his rival’s mind and lead him toward dissolving his business. Aided by a team of Nolan regulars (including Tom Hardy in a role where he actually has a chance to show off that pretty face!!!), Leo inserts himself into Cillian Murphy’s dream, then deeper to another layer, and deeper again, until he’s able to get to the root of what drives this man’s subconscious. So basically, it’s a dream, within a dream, within a dream, until the end when you realize the whole freakin’ movie might be a dream?! Am I in a dream right now?? Christopher Nolan has effectively made me question the very foundation of human existence.

In thinking about Inception as a cocktail, I realized that infusing alcohol can achieve a similar effect. You start with a base spirit, allow a spice or flavor to soak into it, leaving it forever changed. And with this cocktail, I’ve achieved double inception, going even deeper into that flavor profile. While watching Inception, I recommend drinking a Kick cocktail.

Kick

1 1/2 oz Cardamom/Coffee-infused Vodka*

3/4 oz Kahlua Liqueur

1/4 oz Maple Syrup

3 drops Rosewater

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a chilled coupe.

*To make Cardamom/Coffee Vodka, put six-seven Cardamom pods in a cup of vodka. Allow to infuse overnight. The next day, remove pods, then pour in two tablespoons of ground coffee. Allow to infuse overnight, then strain out solids through coffee filter.

One line from this movie stands out to me, particularly after a recent watch. DiCaprio says, “An idea is like a virus. Resilient. Highly contagious. The smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to define or destroy you.” As I look around, at a vocal part of our society clutching so tightly to dangerous ideas at the expense of everyone around them and a rapidly evolving virus, this quote feels more timely than ever. What’s more insidious: COVID-19, or the denial of COVID-19? The temptation is understandable; the yearning to “wake up” and proclaim that all of 2020 and 2021 was just a bizarre subconscious state. An inception that forced us to appreciate the small things in life, like sitting in a diner booth, or meeting a friend for coffee, or flying to visit a parent. We’ll open our eyes, and the nightmare will be over, instead of just beginning again. But life isn’t the movies; and reality is different than our dreams. We’re already awake.

The Prestige

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the prestige

Image credit: The Prestige, 2006

The upcoming David Bowie tribute concert at Carnegie Hall has me waxing nostalgic about the Starman’s long and eclectic career. While he’s more often associated with the fantasy classic Labyrinth, for me one of his best roles was Nikola Tesla in this week’s film The Prestige (DVD/Download). With this character, Bowie manages to blend science, magic, and faith in a commanding performance that makes us wonder- Edison who?

Tesla is actually a minor part in this fantastic Christopher Nolan film about turn of the century illusionists. Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman play rival magicians who go to extreme lengths to outdo one another with their Disappearing Man acts. Christian Bale’s character Alfred seems to possess a true magic, while Hugh Jackman’s character Angier follows a path of science, eventually leading him to Tesla’s lab in Colorado Springs. This film demands repeat viewings in order to fully understand all the plot twists and turns. Truly, the script itself is a work of magic, making us feel like we’re participating in a grand act of illusion.

One of the more popular magic tricks of the Victorian era was the Bullet Catch (the magician appears to catch a bullet out of thin air). As with any magic trick, it’s quite interesting once you understand the science behind it, and Angier uses it for devious purposes. While watching The Prestige, I recommend drinking a Bulleit Catch.

Bulleit Catch

1.5 oz Bulleit™ Bourbon

Dash of bitters

1 teaspoon sugar

Splash of water

1 lemon slice

1 orange twist

1 maraschino cherry

In a rocks glass, muddle sugar and bitters. Add the bourbon, splash of water and a large ice cube. Twist the lemon slice over the glass, then drop in the orange twist and maraschino cherry.

bulleit catch

Like the art of illusion, mixology is heavily based on science. I love knowing that I can add seemingly random ingredients together and somehow, due to flavor profiles and molecular structures and all the things I stopped paying attention to halfway through chemistry class, the drink just works. Is it magic? No. Is there even such a thing as magic? After watching this film, I still don’t have the answer. But I’m inclined to say yes. Cheers!