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I Heart Huckabees

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I Heart Huckabees

Image Credit: I Heart Huckabees 2004

No, this is not a film about Mike Huckabee and his daughter Sarah (thank goodness). Rather, I Heart Huckabees (DVD/Download) is a bizarre existential comedy that’s like the most interesting philosophy class you never took in college. It makes me ponder the meaning of life, as well as the inexplicable popularity of Shania Twain.

Directed by David O. Russell (pretty aggressively according to the infamous viral video ), Huckabees stars so many great actors it’s almost impossible to keep track. Jason Schwartzman is perfect as the environmental crusader struggling to understand the meaning of coincidences, Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin play his hired “existential detectives”, Isabelle Huppert is a sexy rival detective, Jude Law and Naomi Watts play corporate shills for the Huckabees Corporation, and even Mark Wahlberg turns in a surprisingly brilliant performance as the petroleum-hating fireman and fellow philosophy student of Hoffman/Tomlin/Hubert.  What is Huckabees really about? It’s hard to say. But if we’re examining philosophy in relation to this film, I find myself squarely in the “everything is the same, even if it’s different” camp. There are so many characters and subplots that it’s dizzying at times, but in the end, they’re all under the blanket of this wonderfully unique movie.

I’ve wanted to try experimenting with activated charcoal cocktails for a while, and Huckabees provides a perfect opportunity. A favorite existential method of discovery is to place a person inside a zipped bag, allowing the darkness to let one’s subconscious thoughts rise to the surface. The great thing about this black cocktail is that there could literally be anything inside of it. I’ve chosen a recipe that is light and tart, but if you want a heavier kick, that’s your call. Who’s to know?  Bonus points if you smear the charcoal all over your face like Naomi Watts while wearing a bonnet. While watching I Heart Huckabees, I recommend drinking a Blanket Statement.

Blanket Statement

1 ½ oz aged rum

Pinch of activated charcoal*

½ oz grapefruit juice

½ oz lime juice

¼ oz Orgeat syrup

¼ oz Maraschino liqueur

Shake all ingredients together over ice, and strain into a chilled martini glass.

*Note: Activated charcoal can be risky combined with certain medications. If unsure, check with your doctor before imbibing.

photo by @pop_up_cobra

David O. Russell would go onto many more acclaimed pictures such as American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook, but I’ll always have a soft spot for I Heart Huckabees. I love to celebrate the truly original, and there’s definitely nothing like this film. If you find yourself wondering “How am I not myself?” in the middle of the day on a Wednesday, it’s worked its magic. Cheers!

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Tootsie

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Tootsie

Image credit: Tootsie, 1982

Anybody who knows me is aware that I am slightly obsessed with soap operas. Unfortunately my long-time daytime favorites were cancelled a couple years ago, and grief prevented me from latching on to a different show. But, the memories remain. Evil twins, medical emergencies, drug additions, torrid affairs- how could anyone not get hooked? Any time I want a taste of the ridiculousness, I head for my closet and pull out this week’s film, Tootsie (DVD/Download). Dustin Hoffman as a man playing a woman to land a part on a TV soap opera is pure genius, and a fabulous love letter to the genre it skewers.

What shocks me about Tootsie is its expert handling of the still-contentious notions of feminism, sexual harassment in the workplace, and gender roles. As we are ensconced in a 24-hour news cycle about the first major US female presidential candidate, and the implications it has for women the world over, I can’t help but think- didn’t Dorothy Michaels already say everything that needed to be said on this subject in 1982? Did we just stop listening? As Dorothy, Dustin Hoffman becomes a better man as a woman than he ever was as Michael Dorsey. Dorothy tells off condescending directors, fights against chauvinism and harassment, increases the ratings for her show, and does it all while battling a five o’clock shadow. As our politicians fight about transgender bathrooms and reproductive rights, I can’t help but wish that everyone would stop and ask themselves the simple question- What Would Dorothy Do? Hand out electric cattle prods, that’s what!

The supporting cast of Tootsie is also stellar, with top notch performances by director Sydney Pollack, Bill Murray, Terry Garr, Charles Durning, and Jessica Lange. Oddly, the only Oscar awarded for this film went to Jessica Lange, for her performance as boozy soap actress Julie. In honor of Julie, who is never without a glass of white wine, while watching Tootsie I recommend drinking a White Wine Sangria.

White Wine Sangria

1/8 cup sugar

2/3 cup water

¼ cup mint leaves

1 bottle dry white wine

½ cup Cointreau

2 cups lemon-lime soda

1 sliced Orange, Lemon, and Lime

Boil sugar and water together until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, let stand 10 minutes. Combine sugar mixture, wine, mint, and Cointreau in a pitcher. Cover and chill 4 hours. Stir in soda and fruit just before serving in ice-filled wine glasses.

Sangria

Part of what I loved most about soap operas was the frequent incorporation of current events into the plotlines. From the AIDS crisis, to campus sexual assault, to mental health issues, daytime TV has always been at the forefront of social consciousness. The characters may make their point in designer clothing and perfectly coiffed hair, but like a cocktail, you need a little sugar to make the hard stuff go down easier. Dorothy Michaels may give a man a scathing lecture, but she’ll do it with a smile and a touch of charm.  Cheers!

The Graduate

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Image Credit: The Graduate, 1967

Image Credit: The Graduate, 1967

One of my favorite movies to watch in the summer is Mike Nichols’ classic The Graduate (DVD/Download). The image of Dustin Hoffman floating aimlessly in a turquoise pool while his dad harasses him about his plans for the future makes me long for hot summer days free from responsibility. Now there’s work, and blogging, and writing, and all the normal things that come with being an adult. But for a typical 21-22 year old, the biggest thing that’s expected of you is remembering to put on sunblock. Those were the days.

The Graduate is essentially a film about relationships. Dustin Hoffman’s character Benjamin Braddock begins an affair with the older Mrs. Robinson, then later falls for her daughter Elaine. A weird, disturbing love triangle ensues, and I’m not even sure I want him to end up with the age-appropriate but fickle Elaine. By the end of the movie, I just want Benjamin to leave Pasadena and finally start that career in plastics. As a recent college graduate, he wanders through life looking perpetually depressed, even when lying next to sexy Anne Bancroft in a hotel bed. She’s absolutely the best thing in this movie, and I’m still stunned that she was only 36 when she was cast.  Frankly, I might have been better off not knowing this little piece of trivia (since that’s currently only 4 years older than me.  Yikes.).  The other thing that draws me into this film is the Simon & Garfunkel soundtrack. It always reminds me of the summer when I was 11 or 12 years old, waiting all day for the Pittsburgh oldies radio station to play “Mrs. Robinson”. If I was really lucky, I’d get to hear it more than once over the span of the afternoon. (Kids today- they have no idea what it was like before iTunes.)

For a sophisticated, mature, fashion-forward woman like Mrs. Robinson, who makes even leopard print seem classy, I’m mixing up a drink that fits her lifestyle. Bold and refined, this cocktail recipe was something I found in the fabulous book Death & Co: Modern Classic Cocktails (a true must-read for any cocktail aficionado). While watching The Graduate, I recommend drinking an Elder Fashion.

Elder Fashion

2 oz Plymouth Gin

½ oz St. Germaine elderflower liqueur

2 dashes orange bitters

Grapefruit twist

Stir all ingredients over ice, then strain into a glass containing 1 large ice cube. Garnish with a grapefruit twist.

elder fashion

My favorite scenes take place in Mrs. Robinson’s swanky living room bar. I have no words to describe how much I love the décor. If I could decorate my whole house in her Palm Springs/vintage style, I totally would (as it is, I settled for just my living room). She may be kind of a crazy mess, but Mrs. Robinson will always be an icon of sophistication. Cheers!