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Tag Archives: Coen Brothers

Hail, Caesar!

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hail-caesar

Image credit: Hail, Caesar! 2016

It was with a heavy heart that I had to exclude this week’s film from my Top 5 Films of 2016 list last month. If it had been the Top 6 films, Hail,Caesar! (DVD/Download) would have certainly been included. My only hesitation? That I might be among a small minority of people who think this film was hilarious and brilliant. Thankfully, the Coen Bros. are doing their part to keep classic film buffs like me happy. Trendiness be damned.

Hail, Caesar! is a screwball satire of the 1950’s Hollywood studio system, where genre films were churned out at an alarming rate, and the scandals of the stars got handled by the studio’s “fixer”.  Eddie Mannix (that name!!!) has his work cut out for him as he deals with blockhead matinee idols, kidnapping plots, pregnant mermaids, communist musical stars, not to mention threats from competing gossip columnists (both played splendidly by Tilda Swinton). And you thought Hollywood in the 50’s was idyllic? Would that it were so simple.

I knew I loved this picture when the Frank Lloyd Wright house from A Summer Place came on the screen. Situated on the beach in Carmel-by-the-Sea, it has a classy, retro, Bond-villain appeal to it. Perfect for a bunch of intellectual communist sympathizers, and the kind of house that begs you to sit back and relax with a cocktail. While watching Hail, Caesar! , I recommend drinking a Red Scare Martini.

Red Scare Martini

1.5 oz Russian Vodka

1.5 oz Pomegranate Juice

.5 oz Cointreau

.5 oz Sweet Vermouth

.5 oz Lemon Juice

Lemon Twist

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker over ice, and shake until chilled. Strain into a chilled martini glass, then garnish with a twist of lemon.

red-scare-martini

One of the true delights of watching this film is seeing Channing Tatum channel Gene Kelly in his musical dance number. I haven’t seen such joyous, athletic grace in a musical since, well, Kelly himself. Maybe Hail, Caesar! wasn’t the biggest box office success, but it felt like a special gift to fans like me. My message to Joel & Ethan Coen: you keep making your films, and I’ll keep championing them. Cheers!

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

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obrother

Image Credit: O Brother, Where Art Thou?, 2000

For a great movie soundtrack, sharp wit, and the screwball comedy genius of George Clooney, look no further than this week’s film O Brother, Where Art Thou? (DVD/Download). One of the top films in the Coen Bros. canon, the plot is loosely based on Homer’s Odyssey. Except here we have a hair tonic-obsessed Clooney standing in for Ulysses.  He’s a Dapper Dan man, dammit!

Upon its release, the bluegrass-inspired soundtrack sold like gangbusters, even surpassing the film’s box office. Set against the backdrop of the Great Depression, this film perfectly captures the look and sound of the Mississippi Delta. Of course, it wasn’t all banjo riffs and sepia tinted landscapes. Chain gangs and KKK rallies also find their way into the journey of Ulysses Everett McGill and his two prison buddies. It’s an epic tale that must be seen (and heard) to be believed.

One of my favorite scenes involves a group of beautiful sirens calling to the three travelers along the banks of a stream. They feed the men moonshine and lure them into a trap. I’m not advocating getting black-out drunk (there are still a lot of good scenes to watch!) but moonshine can be a fun spirit to experiment with. While watching O Brother, Where Art Thou?, I recommend drinking a Siren Song.

Siren Song

1 ½ oz white moonshine

¾ oz fresh lemon juice

¾ oz pineapple juice

½ oz honey syrup (1 part honey, 1 part water, boiled)

1 dash angostura bitters

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker and shake until chilled. Strain and serve in a mason jar filled with shaved ice.  Garnish with lemon peel, if desired.

siren song

The big hit song from this film is “Man of Constant Sorrow”, but there are also so many other great examples of Appalachian music. With this flawless soundtrack, and the silver screen charm of Clooney, it’s no wonder that O Brother became an instant classic. To me, it will always be bona fide. Cheers!

Top Five Movie Remakes

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I know I often rant and rave about how tired I am of beloved Hollywood films being dusted off and repackaged for today’s audiences, but sometimes lightning does strike twice.  It’s rare, and in fact, I could not think of more than 5 films that managed the remake successfully.  Everything else just makes me want to drink, even more than I already do.  Here is my list of Top Five Movie Remakes (note:  sequels and classic lit adaptations are not included on this list-  we all know Pride and Prejudice will continue to be done to death, in many iterations, for centuries to come.  That’s just the way it is).

1. Ocean’s Eleven

Image credit: Ocean's Eleven, 2001

Image credit: Ocean’s Eleven, 2001

This film is sort of the holy grail of movie remakes.  Steven Soderbergh managed to turn a moldy Rat Pack lark into one of the greatest caper films of all time.  Who needs Sinatra when you’ve got Clooney?  It’s a tough choice between this one and The Italian Job (also a remake), but since they’re basically the same movie, I must choose Danny Ocean’s crew.  Every time.

2.  Sabrina

Image credit: Sabrina, 1995

Paris is always a good idea.  Even when it’s with Julia Ormond instead of my beloved Audrey.

3.  You’ve Got Mail

Image credit: You've Got Mail, 1998

Image credit: You’ve Got Mail, 1998

As much as I love The Shop Around the Corner, I have to give credit to Nora Ephron for turning a classic Jimmy Stewart film into a perfect modern romantic comedy.  Bookstores and Brinkley- I’m hooked.

4.  True Grit

Image credit: True Grit, 2010

Image credit: True Grit, 2010

I am NOT a fan of Westerns, yet even I couldn’t resist this Coen Bros. update of a John Wayne classic.  Jeff Bridges was born to play Rooster Cogburn, maybe the greatest name in the history of names (sorry, Dude).

5.  The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Image Credit: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, 2013

Image Credit: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, 2013

I went into this one with zero expectations, but was pleasantly surprised.  The Danny Kaye version is beloved by classic movie buffs, but Ben Stiller makes it his own here.  It may have flown under the radar upon its release, but as a grizzled Sean Penn says, “Beautiful things don’t ask for attention.”

The Hudsucker Proxy

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Image credit PolyGram Entertainment, 1994, The Hudsucker Proxy

Image credit PolyGram Entertainment, 1994, The Hudsucker Proxy

Every year in December, I get out my boxes of ornaments and the plastic Christmas tree and put on that classic holiday record by Alvin and the Chipmunks. You know the main song, where Alvin longs for a hula hoop? Well, the hula hoop inspired this week’s Cinema Sips pick, an underrated Coen Brothers gem The Hudsucker Proxy (DVD/Download).

An homage to so many wonderful films of the 1930’s and 40’s (His Girl Friday, It’s a Wonderful Life, Sullivan’s Travels, etc.), The Hudsucker Proxy follows everyman Norville Barnes (played by Tim Robbins) on his journey from Muncie, Indiana to New York City circa 1958. He gets a job in the mailroom of Hudsucker Industries, but dreams of bigger things. His dream includes a piece of paper with a circle on it, which would later turn out to be the hula hoop. Through a complicated series of events, Norville finds himself promoted to CEO of Hudsucker, where he takes the company to great heights with the hula hoop idea. Eventually, things spiral out of control as his ego gets larger and larger, until he finds himself on the ledge of the forty-fourth floor of the Hudsucker building on New Year’s Eve, ready to jump. Unfortunately this film was a box office flop when it was released, but I still love it for the amazing production design (think Art Deco meets Bauhaus), fabulous costumes, and sparkling script. Plus, any film featuring Paul Newman is okay by me.

My drink this week is inspired by Norville and his lady love Amy Archer’s love of martinis. A great festive version of the classic martini is the pear martini. I like to dress it up with a little fresh pear and cranberries to give it a holiday feel.  When watching The Hudsucker Proxy, I recommend drinking a Holiday Pear Martini.

Holiday Pear Martini

1 ½ oz Vodka

3/4 oz Pear liqueur

3/4 oz St. Germain

1 oz lemon juice

Fresh Pear and cranberries for garnish

Combine vodka, St. Germain, lemon juice, and pear liqueur over ice in a cocktail shaker and shake until chilled. Strain into a chilled martini glass, and garnish with fresh pear and cranberries.  Bendy straw optional.

holiday-pear-martini

The Hudsucker Proxy is classic Coen Brothers holiday fun, and I’m so excited to watch it again this year. It makes me wish that women still wore hats and talked like Rosalind Russell. As the stress of the holiday sets in, remember to take a two-hour break with this film and a tasty cocktail, and maybe even put on that old Alvin and the Chipmunks record. You know, for kids ;-).