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It Happened One Night

Image Credit: It Happened One Night, 1934.

I don’t know what this says about me, but I have a thing for grumpy heroes in popular culture. I guess when I really stop to think about it, I’m the grumpy hero of my own life: I don’t have time for nonsense, my baseline descriptors are sarcastic and pessimistic, but deep down inside I’m a romantic puddle of mush. Maybe that’s why I adore Clark Gable so much in this week’s film It Happened One Night (Disc/Download)—we are two cynics who found love, despite our better instincts.

Hailed as one of the greatest romantic comedies of all time, It Happened One Night 100% lives up to the hype. It’s amazing to me how this 1930s screwball comedy about a scandalized socialite falling for a wisecracking journalist still manages to feel fresh and relevant nearly a century later. Featuring tropes as old as time (enemies-to-lovers + forced proximity), Frank Capra’s ode to romance on the road is smart, daring, and unbelievably funny. While the script is great, it’s the acting that really sells it for me. Claudette Colbert is both ballsy and vulnerable, so desperate to get to The Wrong Man that she jumps off a yacht, hops on a Greyhound, spends the night with a total stranger (The Right Man), and flashes her gams while hitchhiking. And yet, she still needs Clark Gable to tell her how bus schedules work, and the proper way to dunk a donut, and how to not stand out like a sore thumb among the plebeians. Meanwhile, he needs a woman who makes him laugh, calls him out on his oversized ego, and is ready and willing to take the leap into a life of adventure. These two may be on opposite sides of the curtain, but we know it’s only a matter of time before those walls of Jericho come tumbling down.

Claudette Colbert’s character Ellie Andrews is described as a spoiled brat, but I think she’s more of a pissed-off brat. She’s tired of other people calling the shots in her life, and she’s ready to take the reins. This cocktail I found a few months ago in the New York Times cooking section seems tailor-made for Ellie- The Bitter Heiress!

The Bitter Heiress

3 oz Lillet

1 oz Fresh-squeezed Orange Juice

½ oz Campari

Orange peel

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice, and add the first three ingredients. Stir until chilled, then strain into a chilled martini glass. Take the orange peel, hold it over the glass with the skin facing down, then strike a match and hold it between the peel and the drink. Squeeze peel toward match to spray citrus oil onto the surface of the drink, and discard. Garnish with a fresh slice of peel.

If you need a fun romp for an at-home date night, or just a solo screening that’ll make you feel a little less pessimistic about the world, quit bawlin’ and give It Happened One Night a chance. Here’s to the merry go round!

Jurassic Park

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Jurassic Park

Image Credit: Jurassic Park, 1993

Admit it- the second you saw Jurassic Park (Disc/Download) had hit Netflix this summer, you cheered a little bit inside. I’m typically not one for big blockbusters, but I’ll always have a special place in my heart for that old T-Rex with the tiny hands. I remember seeing this in the theater when it came out in 1993, and during the parts where my eyes were actually open, I knew I was witnessing something incredible. Twenty-seven years later, it still gives me chills.

There have been a lot of sequels, but in my opinion, Steven Spielberg’s original is the undisputed best. Special effects have come a long way since this was made, becoming slicker and smoother as the years passed, but damn if these dinos don’t look insanely real, even by today’s high standards. Watching this as an adult, I can appreciate the true awe these characters must have felt, in a way I couldn’t before. Imagine, you’re an archeologist who’s spent your whole life trying to piece together dinosaur bones, then some crazy nut in a Panama hat tells you he’s extracted dino DNA from fossilized mosquitoes, hatched some new creatures in the lab, and you can actually go see them in a Central American amusement park. This would be like someone telling me there’s a classic Hollywood theme park and for the price of admission I get to ride around in a vintage Corvair and shake hands with the cloned, VERY REAL versions of Doris Day and Cary Grant. What wouldn’t I give for a chance like that? Of course, Doris doesn’t have the claws of a raptor or the natural instinct to tear the flesh from my bones, but nevertheless, we don’t really know what she’s like without her morning coffee. Things could get ugly.

With any jungle-set film, I enjoy a good tiki beverage. Of course I had to incorporate those dino eggs somehow, plus the whole gory death motif. While you take a trip to Isla Nublar, I recommend drinking this Isla de Sangre cocktail!

Isla de Sangre

1 1/2 oz Black Rum

1/2 oz Beet Juice

1/4 oz Angostura Bitters

1/2 oz Lime Juice

1/2 oz Orgeat Syrup

1 Egg White

Dried Blood Orange garnish

Combine rum, beet juice, bitters, lime juice, orgeat syrup, and egg white in a shaker. Shake vigorously for 10-15 seconds, then add ice. Shake again for another 15 seconds, and strain into a glass filled with fresh ice. Garnish with a dried blood orange slice.

Isla Sangre

I want to give a special shout-out to sexy mathematician Jeff Goldblum, in his finest performance to date. It takes a special kind of person to show up to the jungle in a black leather jacket, but he’s got the confidence to pull it off. Me? I like the looks of that Panama hat. Cheers!

 

Jeeps

Movie jeeps, spotted in the Bastrop, TX Dinosaur Park

 

TRex

Lucky to be alive.

Summertime

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Summertime

Image credit: Summertime, 1955

It’s official- the summer doldrums are here. Every July, I become a thoroughly unpleasant person to be around as I slog through a Groundhog Day existence of air conditioning and double showers. But this year, I made the wise choice to take a short jaunt to Venice with Katharine Hepburn in the lush 1950s drama Summertime (Disc/Download). And cookie, I’m glad I did.

When this film begins, Hepburn’s character Jane is excited about her trip to Venice. She’s saved up for it, made all the arrangements, and idealized the Italian city in her mind. She knows it’s a place for romance, but she doesn’t even dare hope for that. She’s been single a long time, and well…it’s enough just to see the beautiful canals. That’s what she tells herself, anyway. But then she actually arrives and discovers that Venice is THE WORST place to go if you’re single. I should know—I went there alone in 2002 and it was the loneliest trip of my life. Thankfully, she meets a charming antiques dealer, who may or may not be trustworthy, but still manages to pull her out of her shell and turn this trip from depressing to romantic. It’s here that Hepburn makes you feel what it is to fall for someone. To hope, but not let yourself hope too much, then to take that first tentative step before rushing in with open arms and saying “I love you” on the first date. She may get her heart broken, but oh, that first, initial joy is worth it. To truly live, is worth it.

Aside from my admiration for this character’s wardrobe (an enviable mix of shirt dresses and plucky hair bows), I also love that Jane travels with her own bourbon. You just can’t count on a foreign country to have all the comforts of home. Lucky for Jane, her pensione has all the ingredients on hand to turn that bourbon into a classic Boulevardier.

Boulevardier

1.5 oz Bourbon

1 oz Campari

1 oz Cinzano Sweet Red Vermouth

Orange Twist and Cherry garnish

Combine first three ingredients in a shaker with ice. Stir until chilled and combined, then strain into a glass filled with a large ice cube. Garnish with a twist of orange and Luxardo cherry.

Boulevardier

Cousin to the more popular Negroni, I actually prefer a Boulevardier if I’m going to commit to a heavier, alcohol-forward cocktail. And really, that’s what this movie needs. Something a little bitter, a little sweet, and very strong, just like Jane’s heart. Cheers!

Sweet November

Sweet November

Image credit: Sweet November, 2001.

Is there honestly a better month than November?  Finally, the heat of the summer has broken, the fire pit gets used again, and as Americans, we get several days off to do nothing but eat, drink, and watch movies. This week’s film Sweet November (DVD/Download) couldn’t take place at any other time because the rest of our months aren’t nearly as perfect. Sweet January? I don’t think so.

Sweet November is the Lifetime-movie-with-actual-celebrities that made a star of Charlize Theron and fueled my decades-long crush on Keanu Reeves. So, points for that.  However, what self-respecting woman takes in loser men as a 30-day pet project, sleeps with them, turns them into reasonably dateable human beings, then sends them on their way? I know Charlize’s character is supposed to be a “free spirit”, but….. it’s a little gross. However I’m prepared to ignore all the other randos she’s shacked up with in the past because the one currently occupying her love nest is Keanu. Brash ad exec (it’s a HOT. DOG.) turned dreamy boyfriend who rescues puppies and croons “Time After Time” (badly), Keanu is proof that the love of a good woman can fix anyone. Without it, he could end up like super-villain Frank Langella. Frank kinda makes me cry here, along with the waitress. Damn he’s good.

To celebrate November and the sweetness of Keanu, I’ll be mixing up a drink with all the fall flavors. While watching Sweet November, I recommend drinking an Autumn Leaf.

Autumn Leaf

6 oz Austin Eastciders Spiced Cider

1.5 oz Pumpkin liqueur

Cinnamon stick for garnish

Build drink over crushed ice, stirring well to combine. Garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Autumn Leaf

For those looking for a rom-com with a happy ending, you may be disappointed with Sweet November. But to me, a tragic ending seems appropriate for a film heavily scored by Enya and featuring a plethora of knit shawls. It just… works. Like November, perfection never lasts. My advice: drink it up while you can! Cheers!

Out of Sight

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out of sight

Image credit: Out of Sight, 1998

I tend to spend a lot of time explaining the romance genre to people.  The books I read (and attempt to write) usually feature intelligent, capable heroines who find love in unexpected places, and never compromise their own integrity for a roll in the hay.  Elmore Leonard and Steven Soderbergh tackled romantic suspense with this week’s film Out of Sight (DVD/Download).  And the weird thing is, they got it SO RIGHT.

I’m going to warn all you ladies who are still mourning the loss of bachelor George Clooney- he is at absolute peak sexiness in this film. As Jack Foley, the bank robber with a heart of gold, he’s charming, a little dangerous, and oh so chivalrous. When he meets-cute with Jennifer Lopez’s federal marshal Karen Sisco, sparks fly along with bullets. They’re trapped in the trunk of a car together, and instead of copping a feel, he banters with her about old movies. Be still my heart! Karen follows him from Miami to Detroit, Jack gets caught up in a burglary gone bad, and even when things get dark (as they always do in an Elmore Leonard novel), Lopez and Clooney still share a crackling chemistry.

One of my favorite scenes is when these two star-crossed lovers pretend to be strangers in a bar, just for one night. With the snow falling outside, they’ve got bourbon and a steamy attraction to keep them warm. Let’s keep this cocktail simple with just a dash of ginger liqueur.

Bourbon & Ginger

2 oz Bourbon

.75 oz Ginger Liqueur

Combine bourbon and ginger liqueur over a large ice cube. Stir to chill.

Out of Sight is smart, sexy, and everything I love about romance. As Jack says, you’d be surprised what you can get when you ask for it the right way. Hollywood- I’d like more films where love is inconvenient, yet unavoidable. I want an intelligent script, and I want the heroine to be a total badass. And if it’s not too much to ask, I would like more Don Cheadle. Is that clear enough?  Cheers!

Father Goose

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Father Goose

Image credit: Father Goose, 1964.

If you like Cary Grant, whiskey, and WWII-era naval intrigue, you’re in luck this week. Father Goose (DVD/Download) is that rare movie that will please every member of the family.  Men, women, young, old- no matter what your situation is, it’s enjoyable to watch Cary Grant be awkward around small children.  Plus, booze in the jungle! LOTS of booze.

One of Cary Grant’s final films, Father Goose is a delightful romantic comedy that showcases the full spectrum of this iconic actor’s charm. As the salty expatriate Walter Eckland (who for some reason thinks that the South Pacific is a good place to retire in the 1940’s), Grant spends the majority of the movie sporting a 5 o’clock shadow and beach bum couture (think captain’s hat, topsiders, wrinkled oxford shirt). After the British navy destroys his boat, he’s forced to live on a remote island to watch for Japanese planes.  But fear not Cinema Sippers- the navy has hidden whiskey bottles all over the island like a fun easter egg hunt. He eventually ends up rescuing a beautiful French schoolmistresses from a nearby island, along with her female pupils. They bicker like they’re in an episode of Moonlighting, then eventually decide that marriage is a good idea. Hey, he’s a man with a boat and a history degree.  She could do worse.

Given the time period and setting of this film, I think a tiki drink is in order.  While most cocktails of this ilk use rum, I’ve just got to sub in whiskey here.  After all, provisions are limited in times of war.  While watching Father Goose, I recommend drinking a Filthy Beast.

Filthy Beast

1 oz bourbon

1 oz whiskey

1 oz lemon juice

½ oz simple syrup

½ oz orgeat

3 dashes tiki bitters

Lemon wheel garnish

Combine all ingredients except the lemon wheel in a shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a tiki glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a lemon wheel.

Filthy Beast

Mr. Eckland and I share a very similar view toward children. They’re annoying, and needy, and anybody in their right mind wouldn’t sign up to have one, but if you happen to be stuck with one (or ten), at least you can put them to work. And by work, I mean bringing you the whiskey bottle. Cheers!

The Invisible Man

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The Invisible Man

Image credit: The Invisible Man, 1933.

For my final “man” film, I’ve chosen to reach all the way back to the 1933 James Whale classic, The Invisible Man (DVD/Download). Although considered by many to be one of the best early horror films, it’s not so much scary as it is fascinating. How the hell did they make Claude Rains invisible, with no computers or digital technology??  I’m still scratching my head.

Based on the novel by H.G. Wells, Rains plays a scientist who’s injected himself with a serum that causes both invisibility and dangerous psychosis. He’s got a soft spot for Gloria Stuart (hey, old lady from Titanic!!), but even that can’t save him from the monster inside. I must say, it’s terrifically creepy when he peels the bandage off his face to reveal an empty hole where a nose should be. And the maniacal laugh as he strangles his victims will haunt my nightmares for weeks.  In the end, I’ve decided the only thing scarier than a villain is the villain you can’t see.

What does mad scientist Dr. Griffin use to become invisible you ask? Monocane. Working with some British spirits he might have had at his disposal, I’ll be putting my beakers and flasks to use this week. While watching The Invisible Man, I recommend drinking a Monocane cocktail.

Monocane

1 oz Pimms No. 1

1 oz Rye

1/2 oz Lemon Juice

3/4 oz Simple Syrup

Twist of Lemon

Mix ingredients together in your favorite scientific glassware. Pour into a tumbler over a large ice cube. Garnish with twist of lemon.

Monocane

The thing that’s great about this classic film is that it doesn’t need blood and gore to inspire terror. Just a few bandages, a disembodied voice from the backseat of a car, some floating props, and boom- instant lifelong fear of an “empty” room. Go ahead and shiver. Cheers!

The Triplets of Belleville

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Triplets of Belleville

Image credit: The Triplets of Belleville, 2003.

This week, I found the rare film that bridges the gap between my Mad Max-loving husband and myself.  By the time we finished The Triplets of Belleville (DVD/Download), we were both humming “Belleville Rendezvous”, and he enthusiastically admitted that this was the best French (mostly silent) cartoon he’s ever seen. Small pool, but I’ll take it!

Similar to The Artist, this film is largely dialogue-free, thus opening it up to a world-wide audience. You don’t need to speak French to laugh at Bruno the dog barking at trains, or the whistle-blowing little old lady with one oversized orthopedic shoe.  It’s ALWAYS going to be funny.  When her grandson gets kidnapped by the French mafia and forced into a simulated Tour de France, Grandma and Bruno travel across stormy seas to Belleville, a strange Metropolis-esque city up to no good. Their rescue operation gets some help from three aging singers with a hearty appetite for frogs, and soon they’re all making some strange, fantastic music. It’s delightful, it’s moving, and it’s a glorious love letter to old-school animation.

I don’t know much about cycling, but I do know that in the Tour, the Lanterne Rouge is the cyclist in last place who refuses to drop out. If that isn’t a metaphor for this whole movie, I don’t know what is. Break out the French aperitifs for a Red Lantern cocktail!

Red Lantern

1 ½ oz vodka

½ oz Cointreau

½ oz Chambord

1 oz cranberry juice

½ oz lime juice

Fresh Blackberry or raspberry

Lime Twist

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice, shake, and then strain into a glass. Garnish with a blackberry and lime twist.

Red Lantern

As I get older, and busier, I regret that I don’t take a chance on foreign cinema or animation the way I used to.  The Triplets of Belleville reminds me that great films come from unexpected places, and in unexpected formats.  And it also reminds me that some things, like the love between a boy and his grandma, or a boy and his dog, are universal. Cheers!

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb)

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Dr Strangelove

Image credit: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, 1964.

If you’re like me, when the daily news becomes too depressing, and reality is just a little too real, you retreat into fiction. With this in mind, I recently re-watched the classic Kubrick film Dr. Strangelove (DVD/Download).  Despite the fact that the world may now be on the brink of actual nuclear war, and Russians are still being Russians, somehow Peter Sellers manages make me laugh about all of it.  Better than crying right?

This political satire about a lunatic rogue General setting off a chain reaction of nuclear warfare doesn’t sound like my normal cup of tea. But great writing is something I can always appreciate, and this script zings with double entendres, madcap conspiracy theories, and what I fear is frightfully accurate military defense strategy. The film hinges on the brilliant performances by Peter Sellers (in 3 impressive roles), Slim Pickens as the Texan bomb pilot, and George C. Scott as the bumbling military commander. The way Sellers transforms himself into characters is like nothing I’ve seen before or since his time in pictures (sorry Eddie Murphy). Also, keep an eye out for the scenes onboard the plane carrying the nuclear warhead- I spy some Wes Anderson-esque camera work, AND James Earl Jones.

In a toast to the German Dr. Strangelove, ex-Nazi and all around scary creep, I’ll be drinking a spirit I’ve shied away from for many years, Jägermeister. I’ve heard nothing but horror stories of hangovers and blackouts, but like Major King Kong, I’m gonna strap myself to that bomb and go for it. While watching Dr. Strangelove, I recommend drinking a Jägerbomb.

Jägerbomb

1 shot of Jägermeister

1 can of Red Bull energy drink

Pour can of Red Bull into a glass, and drop the Jagermeister into it. Drink quickly before the doomsday device ends us all!

Jagerbomb

The final scene of atomic bomb detonations set to the tune of Vera Lynn’s “We’ll Meet Again” is both funny and frightening. After spending the last 90 minutes giggling at Jack D. Ripper’s antics and his rants about precious bodily fluids, my eyes see the bombs, my ears hear the music, and I start to laugh at the irony. But then the screen goes dark, and a grim thought seeps in- maybe Kubrick was right, about all of it. Maybe we’ll meet the bomb again, some sunny day. All I have to say is: drink up while you can. Cheers!

The Lost City of Z

Lost City of Z

Image Credit: The Lost City of Z, 2017

I’m going to be totally honest here- this week I really just wanted to make a Pisco Sour. This South American classic cocktail is one of my favorite drinks, but up till now I’d never found a movie that it pairs well with.  After 3 years I’d just about given up hope (as tempting as Fitzcarraldo is, I’m not sure it’s “on brand”), so imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered The Lost City of Z (DVD/Download).  Starring a dreamy Charlie Hunnam, the film could best be described as Downton Abbey-meets-Apocalypse Now.  Sorry Klaus, I’ve got to go with this one.

Based on a true story, The Lost City of Z follows early-20th century British explorer Percy Fawcett as he tries to find an ancient lost city deep in the Amazon, fending off attacks from both hostile natives in Brazil and ignorant skeptics back home in England. He’s joined on the way by Robert Pattinson (who has finally shaken off the stench of Twilight), and together they navigate a dangerous river through the jungle. Despite the harsh, unforgiving climate, the costumes are all very Out of Africa, and I find myself expecting someone to show up with crystal stemware and a portable bar at any moment. Maybe I’m getting as feverish as the Malaria-ridden explorers.

Percy Fawcett became obsessed with a lost civilization in the Amazon after finding artifacts in the jungle. I didn’t see a cocktail shaker in with the broken shards of pottery, but you never know- maybe they had their ways. While watching Percy cut his way through dense shrubbery in the punishing humidity, you can relax in comfort with this South American treat- the Pisco Sour.

Pisco Sour

2 oz Pisco

1 oz Lime Juice

½ oz Simple Syrup

1 Egg White

2-3 dashes Angostura Bitters

1 lime wedge

Combine pisco, lime juice, simple syrup, and egg white in a cocktail shaker. Shake well to combine, then fill with ice. Shake vigorously until frothy. Strain into a glass, and top with bitters. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Pisco Sour

If you’re like me, you’ll really appreciate the lush language of this film’s script (drawn heavily from the book on which it was based), as well as the unspoiled beauty of the unknown. I came to it hoping for some eye candy and an excuse to drink a pisco sour. I left wondering what other mysteries the world still has in store for us. Cheers!