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Tag Archives: classic film

Bringing Up Baby

Image credit: Bringing Up Baby, 1938

So a leopard, a dog, and a paleontologist walk into a bar… Not really, but this week’s film Bringing Up Baby (Disc/Download) definitely feels like one long, preposterous joke you tell after a few strong drinks.  From Cary Grant in a frilly bathrobe, to Katharine Hepburn hanging off the edge of a Brontosaurus skeleton, the hits just keep on coming.

Directed by Howard Hawks, this fast-talking screwball comedy shows what happens when a buttoned-up paleontologist (Grant) meets his match in a flighty, chaotic socialite (Hepburn). She steals his golf ball and his car, he laments the cruel twist of fate that sent this #hotmessexpress careening into his ordered life, and before you know it, they’re ripping each other’s clothes off. Things get really crazy when a “tame” leopard gets delivered to Hepburn’s mansion, the family dog buries a priceless dinosaur bone, and the circus comes to town. I love any movie with a fast-paced plot and rapid dialogue, and it doesn’t get faster (or zanier) than this. Having been a longtime fan of the Grant/Hepburn pairing in The Philadelphia Story, it’s fun to see them in the meet-cute stage of a relationship, as opposed to bickering divorcees. Almost as though Bringing Up Baby is the prequel to their later film, back when this onscreen couple was just figuring out how to be “yar”.

Fans of The Thin Man will probably recognize doggie star “Skippy”, who achieved even greater fame as Nick and Nora Charles’s pooch Asta. Here he plays George, a pampered scoundrel who likes to steal bones and hide them all over his owner’s sprawling estate. One such bone is the missing piece to Cary Grant’s prized Brontosaurus skeleton, so while you’re watching Bringing Up Baby, I recommend joining the fun with this Skeleton Key cocktail.

Skeleton Key

1 ½ oz Bourbon

¾ oz Elderflower Liqueur

½ oz Lemon Juice

4 oz Ginger Beer

8 dashes Angostura Bitters

Combine bourbon, elderflower liqueur, and lemon juice with ice in a Collins glass. Stir to combine and chill, then top with more ice, and ginger beer. Stir, and top with eight dashes of Angostura Bitters.

Fizzy and sweet, the drink also has a bit of a bite to it, mirroring the sharp tongues of our hero and heroine. For witty banter, hilarious physical comedy, and chemistry that’s off the charts, give these screwballs a watch. Cheers!

Magnificent Obsession

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Image credit: Magnificent Obsession, 1954

I’m always up for a good Rock Hudson catfishing scheme, and after watching him ensnare Doris Day in Pillow Talk and Lover Come Back, I’m ready for him to hook Jane Wyman in Magnificent Obsession (Disc). So long Rex Stetson and Linus Tyler—meet Robbie Robinson.

In Douglas Sirk’s classic melodrama, Hudson plays Bob Merrick, a supreme jerk who enjoys fast boats and fast women. That is, until his actions contribute to the death of Helen Phillips’s husband, and eventually, to the loss of her sight. Realizing he has to make a change, he seizes his chance when the newly blind, widowed Helen encounters him on the shores of her lakeside retreat. They begin a relationship, which becomes a… wait for it… magnificent obsession as Merrick does everything in his power (including going to medical school and becoming a world-renowned brain surgeon???) to transform himself into a man worthy of her. The only catch? She doesn’t immediately realize the person she’s falling in love with (Robbie) is the same guy (Bob) who brought so much tragedy to her life.

If this sounds like a soap opera, that’s because it is. And because it’s made by Douglas Sirk, you can expect glamorous gowns, gorgeous homes, beautiful scenery, and schmaltzy music. Crafting a drink that’s fitting for the elegant Helen is no small feat, but this lovely sipper seems like something she’d enjoy either sitting beside Lake Tahoe, or on the balcony of a Swiss chalet. While watching Magnificent Obsession, I recommend drinking this Saint Helen cocktail.

Saint Helen

1 ¼ oz Gold Rum

½ oz Velvet Falernum

¾ oz Lime Juice

½ oz Lillet Rosé

Champagne, to top

Lime twist

Put all the ingredients except champagne in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Top with champagne, and garnish with a lime twist.

Although I wouldn’t have immediately thought to pair Jane Wyman with Rock Hudson, somehow, their chemistry just works. I love them together in All That Heaven Allows, and I love them in this movie. Catfishing aside, it isn’t the worst thing in the world to become obsessed with doing good deeds for others- just maybe don’t wait until you’ve killed someone to start. Cheers!

Logan’s Run

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Image credit: Logan’s Run, 1976

I’m stepping out of my comfort zone this week with a science fiction classic, a genre I rarely cover on Cinema Sips. But in 1976, there was a massively popular film that appealed to both miniature enthusiasts and future Plato’s Retreat patrons—Logan’s Run (Disc/Download). How could I resist?

Dubbed “the sexiest movie ever” by Friends’ Ross Geller, Logan’s Run is a pure escapist fantasy that practically screams disco era. From caftans to holograms, from Farrah Fawcett’s shag haircut to a domed city model straight out of Epcot, this movie relies on practical effects almost as much as it relies on our ability to be distracted by shiny objects. The central theme of a futuristic society where nobody is allowed to live past the age of thirty is almost overshadowed by the impressive visual achievements, which garnered the film a special Academy Award. Why is Logan running? Because he’s been forced to infiltrate and destroy a sanctuary for “olds”. If he’d asked me, I could have pointed him in the direction of Palm Springs. But instead, he goes to Washington DC, where the buildings are crumbling and Congress is basically an abandoned litter box. Sounds about right.

One truly bizarre scene (and there are a lot of truly bizarre scenes in this movie) involves a gold robot called Box that captures and freezes food from outside the domed city for use by the privileged young’uns. It also captures… PEOPLE. Cue the Soylent Green comparisons. While watching Logan’s Run, take a fun trip around the Carrousel with this futuristic frozen cocktail, the Saturn.

Saturn

 1 ¼ oz Gin

½ oz Lemon Juice

½ oz Passion Fruit Syrup

¼ oz Falernum

¼ oz Orgeat

2 cups crushed ice

Orange Twist

Add gin, lemon juice, passion fruit syrup, falernum, and orgeat to a blender filled with crushed ice. Blend until smooth, then pour into a hurricane glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

Is America really headed for a Logan’s Run-type existence? I guess we’ve got about two hundred and fifty years left to either fix all the problems or sentence ourselves to a version of doom that looks like a Florida theme park. But if feral cats really do take control of Congress, and somehow our society reverts back to being centered around shopping malls, I have one request: feathered Farrah Fawcett hair and a glittery tunic for all. Cheers!

Taxi Driver

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Image credit: Taxi Driver, 1976

Continuing through the year 1976, I can’t not make a stop at Taxi Driver (Disc/Download). In addition to serving as a fantastic time capsule of the period, Martin Scorsese’s magnum opus forever changed filmmaking, as well as our perception of the hero/antihero.

It’s hard to say what my opinion of this movie would have been if I hadn’t already been confronted with the concept of mass shooting from the age of sixteen, well before I ever saw DeNiro turn to the mirror and ask, “You talkin’ to me?” For by the time I got to college and actually watched this, it was too late. The image of a disturbed individual (or two, in the case of Columbine), walking into a crowded area, armed with hidden guns under a baggy coat, had already been implanted by news reports. So you’ll forgive me if I don’t find this scenario entertaining in a movie, even when it’s the phenomenal Robert DeNiro playing the tortured white male who just can’t deal. Maybe we’re supposed to relate to his character of Travis Bickle, a man who came home from Vietnam to a crumbling New York City, its sidewalks piled high with trash and sin, who feels out of place and aimless. Maybe we’re supposed to understand why he’d basically stalk Cybill Shepherd, then a teenaged Jodi Foster, as though he’s the one man who can save them from the big bad city. Sure, the climax and the night rides are beautifully shot, sometimes achingly so, but I can’t get over the simple fact that this guy who feels powerless thinks the solution is to take away power from others by any violent means necessary. That doesn’t make him a hero in my book, despite how good his abs look.

A common refrain from Travis is that he wants someone to come in and clean up the city. He drives through the streets of Manhattan, and all he sees is literal and figurative garbage. So while you’re watching Taxi Driver, lean into the theme with this Dirty Manhattan.

Dirty Manhattan

2 oz Rye Whiskey

1 oz Dry Vermouth

A few dashes Angostura Bitters

Green Olive

Stir together rye, vermouth, and bitters over ice until chilled. Strain into a martini glass, and garnish with a green olive.

Taxi Driver is one of those movies I think everyone should see, but only once. I personally don’t need the reminder that the world is a burning trash fire with no hope of anybody actually doing anything to change it; all I have to do is read the latest headlines. But nevertheless, I still feel the need to toast Marty Scorsese—he put his heart, and his beard into this one. Cheers!

Doctor Dolittle

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Image credit: Doctor Doolittle, 1967

Having previously imbibed through the other four Academy Award-nominated films of 1967 (Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The Graduate, In the Heat of the Night, and Bonnie and Clyde, respectively), I decided I may as well complete the ballot with one of the most maligned movies of all time, Doctor Dolittle (Disc/Download). I know what you’re thinking: one of these is not like the others. And gosh, isn’t that the understatement of the year!

 For all the criticism it receives, let me come right out and say that I don’t think Doctor Dolittle is nearly as bad as people say. Yes, it’s long. Yes, the songs are weird (and not even in a good way). Yes, the special effects are a little cheesy. But for all those faults, there’s nevertheless a fun, deadpan humor to the whole thing, particularly in the way Dolittle banters with his animal friends. Just the idea that a duck would have a “missus” he has to get home to, or that a Great Pink Sea Snail has a cousin in Scotland he’s been meaning to visit (Nessy, in case you were wondering), genuinely makes me chuckle. I can probably go the rest of my life without hearing the vegetarian song, or see Rex Harrison sing-speak an uncomfortable love ballad to a seal dressed in Victorian garb, but I am here for the quaint English homes, the beautiful beaches of Sea Star Island, and the teased crown of Samantha Eggar’s hair. You can take the girl out of the sixties, but you can’t take the hairspray out of Hollywood.

At 2 ½ hrs, you’ll probably need several cocktails to get through this movie. Let’s take inspiration from the living quarters of a snail shell with this perfectly pink drink- the Snail Mail.

Snail Mail

2 oz Malfy Rosa grapefruit gin

¼ oz Aperol

¼ oz Grenadine

½ oz Lime Juice

½ oz Simple Syrup

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

When you compare Doctor Dolittle to live-action Disney films of the era, it comes up short. Without the catchy songs of the Sherman Brothers and the uncannily great casting Walt’s team seemed to deliver, we’re missing a lot of the magic that made films like Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks so good. But I’ll tell you what—I’ll still take Dolittle and his two-headed llama over films like Camelot or The Music Man any day of the week. If this was the end of the big-budget studio musical, at least we went out on the strangest note possible. Cheers!

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

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Image credit: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Sometimes, you just need a good excuse for a Tiki cocktail. And what better excuse than Walt Disney’s CinemaScope extravaganza 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Disc/Download)? With island names like Volcania, and talk of “grog”, this movie seems like a perfect match for drinks involving fire and rum. Let’s climb aboard the Nautilus and pour one out!

Starring James Mason as Captain Nemo, with Peter Lorre, Paul Lukas, and Kirk Douglas as the men tasked with investigating a mysterious “sea monster”, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea is based on the Jules Verne novel about the adventures of a futuristic underwater ship in the 19th century. What makes this such a joy to watch is the sheer opulence of the production design, with pipe organs, circular viewing portals, and grand salons not often found below deck. Additionally, the cinematic practical effects make this a true fantasy experience. You can practically taste the saltwater coming off that giant attacking squid, or feel the warmth of a lush, blue, tropical isle thirty seconds before the natives attack.

Speaking of tropical, with location shooting taking place in the Bahamas and Jamaica, a rum-based drink is practically required. This one is a slight variation of the Sea Serpent’s Embrace, served at Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar in Disneyland. In a fun twist, I’m setting it on fire by using a hollowed-out lime filled with overproof rum. When watching 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, I recommend drinking this Volcania cocktail.

Volcania

1 ½ oz Dark Rum

1 ½ oz Gold Rum

¾ oz Gin

¾ oz Brandy

¾ oz Falernum

½ oz Passionfruit Syrup

1 oz Lime Juice

1 oz Orange Juice

1 oz Pineapple Juice

16 oz Crushed Ice, divided

½ Hollowed-out lime

½ oz Overproof Rum

Combine all ingredients with a cup of ice in a shaker. Shake until chilled, then strain over a glass filled with a fresh cup of ice. Top with half a hollowed-out lime filled with overproof rum. Light it on fire.

If sexy, bearded James Mason in a tight knit turtleneck does it for you, then you’ll definitely want to give this film a watch. Even if you’re not into sci-fi, there’s enough adventure in this to make 20,000 Leagues worth your time. It is, indeed, a whale of a tale. Cheers!

Yours, Mine and Ours

Image Credit: Yours, Mine, and Ours, 1968

Lucille Ball is having a moment. From podcasts to documentaries to feature films, it seems the whole world is in love with Lucy again. Thanks to Nick-at-Nite reruns in the mid-90s, I’ve seen every episode of her iconic television show (including several spin-offs), so imagine my delight in discovering a more earnest side of Lucy in the hilarious romantic comedy, Yours, Mine and Ours (Disc/Download).

Don’t get me wrong—as Helen North Beardsley, Lucille Ball is still extremely funny. But it takes more than wacky facial expressions and slapstick physical comedy to handle a brood of eighteen (yes, EIGHTEEN) children. In a tale that is basically The Brady Bunch on steroids, widowed nurse Helen meets cute with widowed Naval officer Frank in the commissary, bumping their overflowing shopping carts into one another. It isn’t until later, when they finally go out on a date, that they reveal their true number of offspring- eight for her, ten for him. Setting aside all my thoughts about birth control and smart family planning, it becomes obvious that these two are made for each other. Blending their family proves a challenge, as does finding a big enough house, but as Frank and Helen prove, with enough love and a little discipline, anything is possible.

Of course with families this large, it’s not all smooth sailing. Before they can make it to the altar, Frank’s kids spike Helen’s drink so she’ll make a fool out of herself at the initial meet-and-greet. She asks for a light screwdriver and gets a mouthful of gin, scotch, vodka, and a tiny splash of OJ. Ball’s face is priceless, as is Fonda’s description of the sabotage as “the alcoholic Pearl Harbor”. Let’s come up with a tastier version of this abomination, hopefully one that won’t cause you to dump mashed potatoes onto a little girl’s lap. While watching Yours, Mine and Ours, I recommend drinking this wonderful-wonderful Screwball cocktail.

Screwball

1 oz Orange Gin

1 oz Vodka

½ oz Cointreau

½ oz Lemon Juice

½ oz Simple Syrup

1 oz Fresh-squeezed Orange Juice

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

If you’re celebrating the Academy Awards this year, this is a great drink to make because it references two nominees—Being the Ricardos and Licorice Pizza. Paul Thomas Anderson doesn’t specifically reference Yours, Mine and Ours in his script for LP, but Gary Valentine’s role was inspired by his childhood friend Gary Goetzman (who played Henry Fonda’s son, and one of Lucille Ball’s drink spikers in this classic film). And once you’ve gotten Nicole Kidman’s Lucy out of your system, treat yourself to the real thing. You won’t regret it. Cheers!

Planet of the Apes

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Image credit: Planet of the Apes, 1968

I have no idea how this happened, but somehow, I’ve become a massive fan of the Planet of the Apes franchise (Disc/Download). Watching the original 1968 film for my weekly “Bad Movie Friday” tradition turned into a lost weekend of Ape movies, including the original five as well as the more-recent four. You’d think I would have gotten tired of watching man and “beast” clash after a few of these, but nope! I was riveted by superior storytelling, endings that left me wanting more, and thought-provoking social commentary.

When an astronaut (Charlton Heston) crash-lands on a distant planet approximately 2,000 years in the future, he’s probably just hoping for a fresh water supply and breathable air. What he gets instead is a topsy-turvy world where primates walk, talk, and hunt the nonverbal humans roaming the barren land like wild animals. Kudos to the special effects teams for making the apes look equal parts cheesy and realistic, like something from a Disney ride that will haunt your nightmares. It wouldn’t be the 1960s if we didn’t also throw in a beautiful woman with teased hair and ripped-to-shreds clothing, a la Raquel Welch in One Million Years B.C. (played here by Linda Harrison as Nova). The movie raises a lot of interesting questions, such as what constitutes humanity, and how enlightened can a society ever be while there is still one group at the top and a different group at the bottom, but it’s also an action-packed flick of pure escapism. In other words, exactly what I need right now.

Although Dr. Zira rejects bananas in Escape From the Planet of the Apes, it’s still a common stereotype for primates to be seen eating them. And after viewing a parched nuclear wasteland for several hours, I need a frozen cocktail. While watching Planet of the Apes, I recommend drinking a Banana Daiquiri.

Banana Daiquiri

2 oz Gold Rum

1 fresh banana, sliced

1 oz Cointreau

1 oz Lime Juice

1/2 oz Coconut Cream

1 cup Ice

1/2 oz Dark Rum

Combine first six ingredients in a blender, and blend until chilled. Pour into a hurricane glass, and top with a floater of dark rum.

If you’re looking for a fun way to spend a weekend, I cannot recommend these movies enough. They were practically designed for our modern binge culture, most clocking in at around 90-100 minutes each, and always with a “WTF??!!!“-ending that leads immediately into the next installment. Part of me wishes I’d stopped at the fifth movie Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973) without sullying the experience with the Tim Burton iteration, but pushing through allowed me to get to Rise of the Planet of the Apes, one of the most successful reboots I’ve had the pleasure of watching. These apes have something to say, and thankfully, this film made me want to stay and listen till the bitter end. Cheers!

Heaven Can Wait

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Image credit: Heaven Can Wait, 1943

Apparently, the gates of Hell are guarded by some extremely fabulous art deco furniture. At least, that’s how it appears in Ernst Lubitsch’s 1943 masterpiece Heaven Can Wait (Disc/Download). Starring Don Ameche as the recently deceased Henry Van Cleve (a man who thinks he’s done nothing in life to deserve a spot in Heaven), this movie is essentially Henry’s memoirs, as told to the guardian of Hell, His Excellency. Lucky for us, Henry’s life was one of Technicolor, romance, and whiskey- the perfect blend!

Set in the years between 1872 and 1942, the movie tells the stories of Henry’s “misdeeds”, which were actually, as it turns out, examples of his big heart. They were often things that society and/or his family frowned upon, yet Henry did them without malice, and usually for the right reasons. That’s the key to understanding Heaven Can Wait, for a person’s worth shouldn’t be measured in things like perfection or altruism, but in love and good intentions. Henry wasn’t perfect, but deep down, he was good. And damned if he didn’t have one of the most charming bookshop meet-cutes with his future wife, played by the lovely Gene Tierney. The romance sneaks up on you in this movie, but when it hits, it hits hard.

According to Henry, when he dreams of Heaven, it is a Heaven full of whiskey and soda. I might choose a different cocktail for my own personal afterlife (I like to believe there are rivers of French ’75s up there), but let’s at least see if he’s onto something. While watching Heaven Can Wait, I recommend drinking a Whiskey Soda.

Whiskey Soda

2 oz Whiskey (your favorite brand)

4 oz Club Soda

Citrus garnish

Build drink over ice, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with a citrus twist.

It’s a testament to the film’s script that what is essentially a comedy of manners turns out to be such a profound philosophical work of art. With humor and fantastic lines that make you ache inside they’re so good, we learn what the phrase “a life well-lived” actually means. If you believe in Heaven and Hell, then you know Henry carved out his spot in the good place long ago. Cheers!

Cool Hand Luke

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Image Credit: Cool Hand Luke, 1967

I’ve never been a fan of movies featuring dusty, sweaty actors, but when that movie contains Paul Newman and his impressive abs, all bets are off. Cool Hand Luke (Disc/Download) is an ironic title for a movie about an extremely hot man in an extremely hot place, but I’ve since realized there are a lot of ways to be cool. Leave it to this icon to school us.

I suppose winter is a great time to watch a film about a sweltering prison camp in the Deep South because you’ll really want to stick your head in a snowbank after Luke’s forth or fifth trip to “the box”. I don’t know what I expected going into this, but it wasn’t a Shawshank-esque tale of a maligned prisoner rising up against his sadistic guards. Frankly, I didn’t know work camps like this existed in the prison system after WWII. Paul Newman is perfect in his role as the smart, charismatic Luke because the viewer falls under his spell right along with his fellow prisoners. We believe that Luke is the one guy who can escape this hellhole because his smile, his zen attitude, his tenacity in an egg-eating competition tells us so. He doesn’t have much in the world, but he’s got the one thing that matters—grit.

Speaking of eggs, I’ll admit I had a hard time watching Luke chow down on fifty of the hard-boiled variety, his abs slowly disappearing under a sulfurous cloud of bloat. I like eggs, particularly in a cocktail, but only in moderation. While watching Cool Hand Luke, enjoy this classic egg-white cocktail, the Rum Sour.

Rum Sour

2 oz dark rum

¾ oz Lemon Juice

¾ oz Maple Syrup

1 Egg White

Combine rum, lemon juice, maple syrup, and egg white in a shaker without ice. Shake vigorously for ten seconds, then add ice. Shake for another thirty seconds to chill, then strain into a coupe glass.

With a strong supporting cast that includes Academy Award winner George Kennedy, Dennis Hopper, and Harry Dean Stanton, this classic film is one I wished I’d watched sooner. Don’t let the dust and sweat turn you off—this is a damn cool flick. Cheers!