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Emma.

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Image credit: Emma. 2020

As any frequent moviegoer will tell you, 2020 was pretty much our worst nightmare. While theaters began to shut their doors last March, we saw our hopes for carefree, popcorn-scented afternoons dashed as quickly as that animated roller coaster flings itself around a cartoon soda in the opening pre-show. Perhaps you spent some time thinking about the last movie you saw before lockdowns, wondering if you made the right call. In my case, I could rest easy knowing I went out on a high note with Emma. (Disc/Download).

Though any Jane Austen scholar will likely critique this film’s deviation from its source material, to me it captures the spirit, whimsy, and fun of the book. Plus, in contrast to Clueless (my other favorite Emma adaptation), we get to enjoy the sumptuous costumes and polite society of the Regency era. I’ll always have a fondness for “Rollin’ With the Homies,” but there’s something about a choreographed quadrille that just makes me grin from ear-to-ear. Autumn de Wilde’s directorial style shows similarities to that of Wes Anderson or Sofia Coppola- heavy on style and symmetry, light on melodrama and manic performances. Anya Taylor-Joy is perfection as our meddlesome title character, and of course I adore Bill Nighy as her lovable, hypochondriac father whose greatest foe is a chill draft. It’s a pastel world of manners and manipulation, and in a year when literally everything seemed beyond our control, it was comforting to think of another character who had to abandon her controlling ways to find happiness. I was not alone in the struggle.

In the dark days of the pandemic, I often thought about the candy-coated costumes and production design of this film. Even down to the tiniest stitch or ribbon of paint, every element was an important piece of the visual tableau. In my beverage choice, I wanted to celebrate Emma’s love of flowers and bold pastel colors. While watching Emma., I recommend drinking this Night Bloom cocktail.

Night Bloom

1 1/2 oz Gin

1/2 oz Creme de Violette

1 Egg White

1/2 oz Lemon Juice

1/2 oz Simple Syrup

2 dashes Orange Bitters

Flower Garnish

Combine Gin, creme de violette, egg white, lemon juice, bitters, and simple syrup in a shaker. Shake vigorously for ten seconds, then add ice. Continue shaking until chilled and frothy, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a flower.

As I write this, I’m about to head back to the movie theater after sixteen months away. The flick: To Catch a Thief. Hollywood still has a long way to go before it lures me back with new material, so until then I’ll be enjoying some old favorites and savoring the memory of watching Emma Woodhouse dance with Mr. Knightley for the very first time (*sigh*). Cheers!

Purple Noon

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Image Credit: Purple Noon, 1960

We’re traveling back to good ole’ Mongibello this week with the original Tom Ripley, 1960s French sex symbol Alain Delon. Purple Noon (Disc/Download), née Plein Soleil, is a striking adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley, which was adapted once again by Anthony Minghella in 1999 to become one of my top ten films of all time. I’m a sucker for beautiful people in beautiful places, and it doesn’t get much more beautiful than these two movies.

If you’ve seen The Talented Mr. Ripley, much of Purple Noon will appear familiar. Tom and “Philippe” cavorting around Rome while Marge sits at home and waits for her man to get his act together. Tom forging signatures, impersonating voices, acting almost too agreeable, too charming. Brash American Freddie Miles showing up to ruin all of Tom’s fun, before meeting his doom at the butt end of an ugly sculpture. Gorgeous Italian vistas, sailboats, and the sparkling Mediterranean. If you like Minghella’s Ripley because of the visuals, then I can guarantee you’ll love Purple Noon even more. The film is a little more poetic, lingering longer on the beauty of the coastline as well as the beauty of Delon. Like a young Jared Leto who actually cares about how he looks on-screen, Delon is all suntan, six-pack, and cheekbones, and director René Clément certainly knew what he had in this then-unknown actor, giving him ample opportunity to strut around shirtless. Thank you René. Thank you very much.

A lot of what I love about this story hinges on the idea of American decadence, so it seems like the perfect opportunity to indulge in a beautiful niche liqueur, Creme de Violette. Let’s be clear- this stuff exists only so we can have purple cocktails. Like Midori or Blue Curacao, you’re buying this for the color. But hey- nothing wrong with that! Sometimes it’s all about the visuals. While watching Purple Noon, I recommend drinking this Twilight Martini.

Twilight Martini

2 oz Gin

1/2 oz Dry Vermouth

1/2 oz Creme de Violette

1/4 oz St. Germain

Combine all ingredients in a shaker over ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a slice of dried blood orange.

Ultimately, I think I still prefer the 1999 version of The Talented Mr. Ripley to the 1960 version. A lot of that has to do with the ending, and without spoiling Purple Noon too much, I’ll just say that I like a world where Tom Ripley gets away with it. We never see him hauled away in handcuffs in either adaptation, but Purple Noon gives him a more limited chance of escape. If you ask me, that pretty face just doesn’t belong in prison. Cheers!

Hugo

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Hugo

Image credit: Hugo, 2011

There are few things I love more than movies about movies, so imagine my delight when I first realized Martin Scorsese’s Hugo (DVD/Download) was a love letter to the works of silent cinema artist/pioneer/magician Georges Méliès. I went into this film thinking I’d be watching an Oliver Twist-like tale about an adorable Paris street urchin; I left gutted, and enthralled by the magic of the cinema.

Based on the graphic novel about young orphan Hugo Cabret, this film takes the viewer on a journey from a bustling train station all the way back to the earliest days of silent cinema. Stealing random parts to fix an automaton his deceased father left him, Hugo serendipitously meets the aging Georges Méliès, brought low after interest in his beautiful films like A Trip to the Moon has faded. In fixing the automaton, Hugo finds a connection to his father, to Méliès, and to his dreams. And as this story lovingly points out, that’s what silent cinema was- our dreams come to life.

As a tribute to Georges Méliès and his awe-inspiring A Trip to the Moon, I’ll be mixing up a moon-inspired cocktail. Crème de Violette gives it such a pretty color, almost like the hand-painted celluloid from those early Méliès films . While watching Hugo, I recommend drinking a classic Blue Moon cocktail.

Blue Moon

2 oz gin

½ oz Crème de Violette

½ oz lemon juice

Lemon twist

Mix gin, crème de violette, and lemon juice in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Blue Moon

When you get into the business of film criticism (even boozy, lighthearted film criticism), you sometimes forget about what drew you to the medium in the first place. Hugo is the reminder I needed that movies really are magic. In the right hands, they have the ability to delight, inspire, and transport. And sometimes, like this week, they even bring tears to your eyes when you realize just how much they’ve shaped your life. Cheers!