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Love & Mercy

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Love & Mercy

Image credit: Love & Mercy, 2014.

The above photo says it all. I cannot resist 1960’s California modern architecture and will watch literally any movie that features it. Lucky for me, Brian Wilson apparently owned a seriously cool house, straight out of Blake Edward’s The Party. Wilson also wrote some great songs with The Beach Boys, but let’s be clear- I’m here for his swimming pool. Grab your sunblock and antidepressants—we’re watching Love & Mercy (Disc/Download).

As far as music biopics go, this one doesn’t follow the standard formula. Switching back and forth between 1960’s and 1980’s Brian Wilson, the film stars Paul Dano and John Cusack as two versions of the same complicated man. In the heyday of The Beach Boys, he was the mad genius behind so many of their hits, crying out for help in his lyrics, with a family unwilling and/or unable to see that he needed serious medical attention. By the time the 1980’s hit, he’d lost a brother, spent a decade in bed, and hooked up with crooked doctor Eugene Landy (played by a villainous Paul Giamatti). Shuffling through life like a sad, lonely child, he’s trapped in a haze of pharmaceuticals until he meets Cadillac saleswoman Melinda Ledbetter (played by Elizabeth Banks), who helps him find a way out from under Landy’s control. While Paul Dano gets the splashier role of young Brian, mixing it up in the studio and harmonizing over Pet Sounds, John Cusack’s performance is so quiet and lovely you almost miss it. The romance he shares with Melinda makes you feel like this is what he’d been singing about all that time– he just didn’t know it yet. God only knows what he’d be without her.

Although I love the ‘60s aesthetic in half of the movie, I also adore Elizabeth Banks going full-on ‘80s with her hot-rolled hair and pastel sweaters. If this lady were a cocktail, she would be something light, refreshing, and sweet. She would be a Sea Breeze.

Sea Breeze

1 ½ oz Vodka

4 oz Cranberry Juice

1 oz grapefruit juice

Lime Wedge

Combine vodka, cranberry, and grapefruit juices in a shaker with ice.  Shake until well mixed, then dump entire contents of shaker into a glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.

The real Brian Wilson is still touring the country, packing venues full of middle-aged men in Hawaiian shirts and one very nostalgic Liz Locke. And good for him! Between this film, his records, and those concerts, I’m left with nothing but Good Vibrations, and a Smile. Cheers!

Wet Hot American Summer

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Image Credit Eureka Pictures 2001, Wet Hot American Summer

Image Credit Eureka Pictures 2001, Wet Hot American Summer


How do I get through summer in Texas? Day b’day, people. One thing that helps is watching a hilarious movie about summer camp, and no I don’t mean The Parent Trap (although I do LOVE Hayley Mills). This week on Cinema Sips, I’m featuring the cult classic Wet Hot American Summer (DVD/Download). Spoofing raunchy 80’s movies like Meatballs and Porky’s, this film is so unabashedly silly that you can’t help but laugh at the bad one-liners, the poor production value, and the plot points that make absolutely no sense. I was lucky enough to see this in a movie theater when it was briefly released in 2001, and I remember wondering why the entire world was not as obsessed with this film as I was. It was the funniest thing I’d seen in years. Well, the world has caught up, and WHAS fever has swept the country, even spawning an upcoming Netflix prequel series. Will all of the original actors make it their beeswax to be in the new series? God I hope so!!

Wet Hot American Summer launched the careers of many of the top comedic actors popular today, including Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, Bradley Cooper, Elizabeth Banks, Ken Marino, and even Christopher Meloni (who plays the scene-stealing Vietnam vet, Gene). Janeane Garofalo and David Hyde Pierce are amazing as always, and kudos to Molly Shannon for playing weepy divorcee/art teacher Gail von Kleinenstein, who pulls off a romantic relationship with a very mature 12-year old in a surprisingly non-creepy way. Because this was a David Wain film, we’re also seeing a lot of his usual cadre of actors, including Michael Ian Black and the hilarious Michael Showalter, who plays both lovelorn Coop and Borscht Belt comic Alan Shemper. There are so many quoteable lines in this film, but my favorite has to be the Paul Rudd classic, “You taste like a burger. I don’t like you anymore.” What??!

In an ode to summer camp, I’m making an adult version of Bug Juice. Traditionally made with powder packets (let’s not even think about where Gene claims to keep his packets), I’m eschewing that sugary version for something a little more boozy. Of course if you don’t have the energy for a complex drink, vodka and green Kool-Aid will do the trick, but I think we can do better than that. This week, I’m serving up some Adult Bug Juice

1 oz Blue Curaçao

1 oz Orange Juice

1 oz Pineapple juice

2 oz Lemon lime soda

Pineapple Sherbet

Fill a glass (or mason jar) 3/4 full with chipped ice.  Add the first 3 ingredients one at a time over the ice.  Top with soda, and then the pineapple sherbet.


When I watch Wet Hot American Summer, I always feel like the actors who were in this film must have had the best time making it. I’ve read accounts that it was ridiculously cold and rainy during the filming of it, which makes me really feel for Elizabeth Banks in that skimpy bikini (wait a minute- with that body, I do not feel bad for her). No matter what Amy Poehler does with the rest of her career, I’ll always think of her as the controlling drama-nerd counselor, and ditto for Bradley Cooper, who despite various Academy Award nominations, will always be making out with Michael Ian Black in a tool shed in my mind. So mix up a big batch of Bug Juice, get out your “arts & farts & crafts” supplies and D&D dice, and blast some Loverboy because we’re headed back to 1981 like you’ve never seen it before. Cheers!

*Note:  This week’s cocktail can easily be made non-alcoholic.  Just leave out the Curaçao.  Also, my drink looks great perched on one of my new coasters from Monday Morning Crafts!