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McCabe & Mrs. Miller

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Image credit: McCabe & Mrs. Miller, 1971

How do you make a Western that a pink-loving, romance-obsessed millennial female like me will actually enjoy? Easy.

  1. Fill it with gorgeous Leonard Cohen songs.
  2. Cast two of the most beautiful humans alive in 1971: Warren Beatty and Julie Christie.
  3. Make bath time fun again.
  4. Tell the costume department to invest in a really big fur coat. I’m talking massive. Make him look like a very fancy bear.

This week on Cinema Sips, I’m featuring the Robert Altman classic, McCabe & Mrs. Miller (Disc/Download). You won’t find a lot of Westerns on Cinema Sips because I’ve never been a fan of dust and dirt and long, lonely vistas; however, there’s something about McCabe & Mrs. Miller that hooks me. The modern music is certainly part of it, but I think it’s also the way ordinary realities are depicted. The characters speak like normal people, instead of holdovers from the Victorian era. They talk about real issues, like same-sex attraction, and menstruation, and what it is that humans really want on the edge of a barren frontier. It’s not sex and it’s not religion (despite the proliferation of brothels and churches); it’s comfort. In many cases, power.

I’m going to warn you, McCabe has truly heinous cocktail preferences. He enjoys a double whiskey with a raw egg, and frankly, seeing that yolk drop into the glass makes me want to vomit. Let’s make a tastier egg-white version instead, adding a little marmalade in honor of Mrs. Miller’s cockney roots. While watching McCabe & Mrs. Miller, I recommend drinking a Marmalade Whiskey Sour.

Marmalade Whiskey Sour

2 oz Bourbon

1 oz Lemon Juice

½ oz Simple Syrup

½ oz Orange Marmalade

1 egg white

Combine ingredients in a shaker without ice first. Shake vigorously for thirty seconds, then add ice. Shake for another thirty seconds until chilled and frothy. Strain into a glass filled with fresh ice.

I’ll have to remember this movie when I’m sweltering through a Texas summer because one look at the snow-covered mining town makes the room feel ten degrees cooler. But even when the snow is falling outside, and the wind is howling, it’s still fun to snuggle up under a furry blanket, pour a drink, and contemplate whether any Western hero was ever as cool as John McCabe, before or since. Certainly, he was the best-dressed. Cheers!

The Shining

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Image credit: The Shining, 1980

I always thought the scariest place a person could be is in The Overlook Hotel with a murderous Jack Nicholson and a whole bunch of angry ghosts. Not to mention, those hallways of hypnotic carpet patterns! But that was until I made the decision to renovate my home. A decision which has forced me to become trapped, in increasingly smaller spaces, as the days and weeks bleed into one another. Suddenly, this quote from The Shining (Disc/Download) makes so much sense: “A kind of claustrophobic reaction which can occur when people are shut in together over long periods of time.” Let’s just say, I’m looking increasingly vacant-eyed over my keyboard. The dog is calling out to Scatman Crothers.

Directed by Stanley Kubrick, The Shining is based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, inspired by his own stay at a Colorado resort (the Estes Park Hotel, which I can personally say is quite lovely… in the summer). Jack Torrance (Nicholson) moves his wife and son to a remote hotel for the winter, accepting the job of caretaker. As a writer, he thinks an empty resort will be the perfect spot to work on his novel. However, the ghosts of the hotel have other plans for the Torrance family. Slowly, Jack begins to go mad, while his telekinetic son senses the presence of the hotel’s previous dead occupants. Little Danny has a touch of “the shining”, just as the hotel itself “shines”. There are a lot of hallucination scenes in this, several times involving a bathroom. I too have been hallucinating a bathroom during long stretches of isolation, so this part of the film makes sense to me. When Jack and I dream, we dream of a beautiful, spacious retreat fit for a luxury hotel. My nightmare is that I’m as old as the decaying woman in Room 237 by the time my soaking tub gets installed, but that’s probably just the claustrophobia talking. Surely, my contractor will get his act together by then.

Another dream sequence involves one of my favorite movie bars, host to many glamorous parties throughout The Overlook’s storied history. Lloyd the bartender may have served up a mean Bourbon and Advocaat, but I prefer to take my cocktail cue from Danny. While watching The Shining, I recommend drinking this variation on the Negroni, a Redrum cocktail.

Redrum

1 oz Dark Spiced Rum

1 oz Campari

1 oz Sweet Vermouth

Blood orange slice

Combine rum, Campari, and vermouth in a mixing tin with ice. Stir until chilled, then strain into a glass over a large ice cube. Garnish with a slice of blood orange.

If you’re not typically a Negroni drinker, this may change your mind. Rum gives the cocktail a sweeter, spicier edge, and I actually prefer this to its gin-based cousin. It’s the perfect drink to toast five miserable months of home renovation, and the irreparable harm it has caused me. Cheers!

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

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Image credit: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? 1962

When I start to feel fatigued by feel-good sibling stories, I turn to movies that show us the darker side of familial bonds. After all, sisters don’t always perform cute song-and-dance numbers like Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen in White Christmas.  Sometimes, sisters are merely two women who share some DNA and nothing else. And then there’s a darker sub-category, exclusively reserved for the Hudson sisters in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (Disc/Download).

This film had been on my watch list for a long time, and I finally took the plunge last summer after watching Ryan Murphy’s Feud miniseries. Surely, I thought, the movie isn’t nearly as bonkers as the making of the movie. Oh, how wrong I was. With over-the-top performances from Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, this tale of an aging child actress imprisoning (and torturing) her paraplegic sister in a Hollywood mansion is equal parts scary and campy. With a perfect blend of horror and suspense, the audience is taken on Baby Jane’s journey into madness, as resentment turns to homicidal rage. Davis’s clown makeup is truly terrifying, and she’s absolutely brilliant in the role of a washed-up vaudeville star. Crawford provides the melodrama, as intense as those trademark eyebrows. I’m sure Blanche was probably wishing she’d invested in an elevator before her little sister went crazy, however after a recent viewing of Olivia De Havilland in Lady in a Cage, I’m rethinking that idea. Baby Jane looks like the type to cut the power.

As many people are aware, Joan Crawford was not just an actress, but also a cola executive! Through her marriage to Pepsi-Cola’s president and CEO, she held a seat on the board of directors and often shilled the beverage in print ads and appearances. This week, I’m making a drink in honor of “Miss Pepsi” herself. While watching What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, I recommend drinking this Paralyzer cocktail.

Paralyzer

4 oz Pepsi

1 oz Coffee Liqueur

1 oz Vanilla Vodka

2 oz Milk

1 Maraschino cherry

Fill a glass with ice, and pour in the Pepsi. In a shaker, combine coffee liqueur, vodka, and milk. Gently pour over the Pepsi slowly. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.

This drink definitely seems like something Jane would’ve enjoyed while posing next to her lookalike doll, or perhaps carried on a silver tray for her big sis. I don’t know how well it pairs with “dead rat”, but if you’re #teamCoke like me, you’ll still get a good scream. Cheers!

Lover Come Back

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Image Credit: Lover Come Back, 1961

When life is busy and stressful, I find myself yearning to seize the Day. Doris Day that is. Because no problem is too great that it can’t be solved by making a date with my favorite Classic Hollywood gal pal and her coordinating pastel outfits. In Doris’s world, I don’t have to think about my endless home renovations or work demands—I can just relax and enjoy the familiar tropes of mistaken identities and enemies-to-lovers. She’s basically a classic Shakespearean comedy wrapped up in a pillbox hat.

If you’ve seen Pillow Talk, then you’ve essentially seen this week’s film Lover Come Back (Disc/Download). Doris and Rock follow largely the same formula where she’s a competent career woman (this time it’s advertising instead of interior design), and he’s a playboy rival determined to take her down while simultaneously taking her to bed. Even Tony Randall pops up again as Rock’s wealthy best friend/boss, who inadvertently sets the madcap plot in motion by putting fake commercials for a fake account on the air. Suddenly, everybody’s wild to see the mysterious new product model Rebel Davis is selling, known only as “VIP”. Rock has to find a scientist to invent it, Doris mistakes Rock for the scientist, and by the end he’s got her trying to convince him to give her his formula, and his virginity. We’re missing the dreamy Rex Stetson accent in this, but we do get Rock with a beard, so I’ll take that tradeoff.

Lover Come Back is a great movie to watch with your favorite cocktail because VIP turns out to be an alcoholic wafer cookie that’s equal to a triple martini and comes in a rainbow of colors. Apparently it tastes like an after-dinner mint, and you know what that means—time to break out the Crème de Menthe! For everyone who has ever been stuck with this green bottle in their bar after making one lousy Grasshopper, here’s another drink to make you feel like it wasn’t a totally wasted purchase. While watching Lover Come Back, I recommend drinking this VIP Martini.

VIP Martini

1 oz Chocolate Vodka

2 oz RumChata

½ oz Green Crème de Menthe Liqueur

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice, and shake until chilled. Strain into a chilled martini glass.

If you want to crank up the fun, take a drink every time Doris shows up in a new hat, or every time a VIP commercial plays. By the end, I kind of want to try it in every color. Guess that makes me the target audience—a ten-cent drunk. Cheers!

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!