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Tag Archives: George Clooney

The Descendants

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the descendants

Image credit: The Descendants, 2011

Hawaii Month continues with a modern look at island culture, the 2011 Alexander Payne film The Descendants (DVD/Download). Shot on Oahu and Kauai, and starring George Clooney as a man trying to hold his family together, this film leaves you with a sense that you just saw Real Hawaii, and not the postcard version.

Based on the novel by Kaui Hart Hemmings, The Descendants weaves a tale about family drama past and present. Matt King is a descendant of Hawaii’s Royal Family, and just as he and his cousins prepare to sell off the last of their ancestral land for major profits, his estranged wife slips into a coma following a boating accident. Through it all, Clooney is a simmering cauldron in Hawaiian shirts, and I spend the movie waiting for him to blow. Nobody does a withering take-down like Clooney, and his skewering of his wife’s lover, played by Matthew Lillard, (*side note: HOW did Matthew Lillard land an Alexander Payne film??) is classic. Also, I’m not sure what to think about a woman who cheats on George Clooney with Matthew Lillard. While I buy a lot of the “real Hawaii” in this film, I don’t buy that.

As we all know by now (or maybe just those of us who read People magazine), George Clooney has gone from Hollywood actor to tequila mogul. He and his BFF Randy Gerber make one hell of a spirit, so I think it’s high time we feature it on Cinema Sips. While watching The Descendants, I recommend drinking an Añejo Old Fashioned*.

Añejo Old Fashioned

3 oz Casamigos Añejo tequila

1/8 oz agave nectar

4-5 dashes Mole bitters (I used Fee Bros. Aztec Chocolate bitters)

Orange peel

Combine liquid ingredients in a glass over ice and stir gently to chill. Strain into a glass with a large ice cube.  Run a flame over the peel of an orange to release the oils, and drop into the glass.

*Recipe adapted from the fabulous book, Tequila Cocktails.

Anejo Old Fashioned

While I don’t love this movie as much as Payne’s other films such as Sideways and Election, it definitely grows on me with repeat viewings. I notice the subtlety of Clooney’s performance, and the beautiful way in which the script celebrates old and new Hawaii. So many of the islands’ traditions have been lost in the face of progress, but the bond of family isn’t one of them. In The Descendants, we’re reminded of what ties us to a place, and to each other. Cheers!

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Up in the Air

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up-in-the-air

Image credit: Up in the Air, 2009.

When summer break seems too far away, and spring break is oh so short (and expensive), sometimes you have to turn to the movies.  To sooth my wanderlust, all month long on Cinema Sips I’ll be enjoying some travel-focused films. Kicking things off is the George Clooney tragicomedy Up in the Air (DVD/Download). As an HR exec who spends 322 days on the road, he knows a thing or two about air travel. Let’s prepare for takeoff.

Up in the Air does a great job of showing the perks and pitfalls of business travel, from slow moving senior citizens setting off the airport metal detectors, to quiet, perhaps lonely drinks in a hotel bar. Only Clooney could pull off a character whose main purpose is to be the ultimate jerk. He flies in to Omaha or Tulsa or any other nondescript white-collar business town to lay off employees, but he’s just so charming that they almost thank him for the pleasure. When a young whippersnapper played by Anna Kendrick waltzes in to extol the virtues of firing by videoconference, he has to prove his worth on the road. With an “empty bag” devoid of commitment, attachment, or anything of meaning, he’s free to rack up airline miles and casual sex. But is that really living?

I used to dread airline cocktails, until the magical Carry-on Cocktail Kit was released by the Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. Although they have many varieties, I like to stay loyal to the Gin & Tonic kit. It truly does make flying much more civilized, with a linen napkin and tiny metal jigger. Sure, I get funny looks when I VERY SPECIFICALLY order a can of club soda, a separate glass of ice, a tiny bottle of gin, and a lime, but I figure my annoying order for the flight attendant is revenge for the miniscule bag of peanuts I’m about to be given. Nobody likes peanuts. While watching Up in the Air, I recommend drinking a Carry On Gin & Tonic.

Carry On Gin & Tonic

1 can club soda

1 mini bottle gin

1/2 oz tonic syrup (from Carry On Cocktail Kit)

Wedge of lime

Glass of ice

Pour gin and tonic syrup over ice, then top with club soda. Stir gently to combine, and squeeze/drop the lime in.

carry-on-cocktail-kit

Honestly, I am extremely jealous of anyone who gets to travel for business. Your company sends you on a free trip, puts you up in a hotel where you don’t have to make your own bed or do your own dishes, you get to eat out every night, AND you can put your accumulated frequent flier miles into your own personal account? All without spending a dime of your own money? What’s not to love? Sure, there are lonely nights on the road, and missing your family, but it’s a sacrifice I’d be willing to make for all those miles. Cheers!

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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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!

Ocean’s Eleven

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Ocean's Eleven (2001)

Ocean’s Eleven (2001)

Lately, I’ve found myself longing for a fun-filled, ridiculously overpriced trip to Las Vegas. Not having the time or funds to take said trip, I opted for the next best thing- watching 2001’s Ocean’s Eleven. This is one of the few films in existence that my husband and I both equally enjoy, and we never get tired of watching it. I’m hard-pressed to think of another film that combines such a great cast (not a single weak link in the bunch), a hilarious script, beautiful scenery (who doesn’t want to stand and gaze at the Bellagio fountains after seeing this movie?), and masterful editing. This is the heist movie that you want to watch again and again because even though you know how the robbery takes place, you love to see it happening.

Although this film is chock-full of incredible actors, the member of Ocean’s Eleven who stands out the most for me is Brad Pitt’s character Rusty Ryan. I have to admit, I was not a huge fan of Pitt’s before this movie. I didn’t get what all the fuss was about. After seeing him in this, I am converted. Although the title of this film suggests that it’s George Clooney’s Danny Ocean who holds it all together, in fact it’s Rusty Ryan. He is instrumental in finding the right talent to pull off the biggest robbery in the history of Las Vegas, and he keeps the wheels spinning at all times. While Danny is off trying to woo back his ex-wife (played by Julia Roberts), it’s Rusty who keeps the plans churning. And his cameo (if we can call it that) as a badly-toupee’d doctor during the robbery is priceless. He makes the job look fun, which in turn makes the audience have fun.

I knew from seeing the movie previously that this week’s cocktail should be whiskey-based. How fortuitous that one of the great whiskey drinks in cocktail history happens to share the same name as my favorite character in this film. Therefore, this week’s cocktail is The Rusty (Ryan) Nail:

1 ½ oz Scotch whiskey

½ oz Drambuie

1 twist lemon

Combine the scotch and Drambuie in an old-fashioned glass nearly filled with ice cubes. Stir well. Garnish with a lemon twist.

rusty-nail

I like a Rusty Nail with this film because it makes me feel like one of the guys. I don’t know what role I would play in this group (sadly, I fear I’d be hanging out with the Mormon twins) but it’s fun to imagine being a part of this effortlessly cool gang of criminals who look great, are smart enough to pull off a $150 million casino heist, and have a hell of a fun time doing it. Also, I applaud them for their ability to drink whiskey and keep a clear head. I don’t know if it works the same for you or me, but here’s to at least joining the party. Cheers!