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On the Rocks

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Image credit: On the Rocks, 2020

2020 was indescribably hard for everyone, but for those of us who love movies, it was particularly bleak. Instead of frequent trips to the local cinema, we endured a string of forgettable indies on the couch while struggling to focus on literally anything. I know there were probably good films I just couldn’t give my full attention to (lookin’ at you Sylvie’s Love), but for the most part I sat through a lot of 2 ½ hr-long “edgy” movies that made me desperate for a recognizable star, a decent wardrobe/production design budget, and most of all a skilled editor. Eventually, I just gave up, got a Criterion subscription, and said to hell with modern films. It was during this frustrating time that I missed a rare gem in the 2020 wasteland, Sofia Coppola’s On the Rocks. I’m still annoyed it’s only available on Apple TV+, but I’m here to tell you it’s worth signing up for YET ANOTHER streaming platform to see this perfect marriage between Murray and martinis.

Truthfully, I will always give a lot of leeway to any movie that includes a swimming pool, cocktails, a cool classic car, and iconic hotel bars. The thin plot involving a woman trying to discover the truth about her husband’s affairs is almost irrelevant—I just want to watch rich people do their thing. It’s an escape for me; a glimpse into a world I can only visit for brief stretches of time. But oh, what a world. In this rarefied section of New York, Bill Murray plays Felix, a charming art dealer trying to reconnect with his estranged daughter Laura (played by Rashida Jones) through impromptu cocktail parties, drinks at the Carlyle, a late-night stakeout fueled by caviar and champagne, and a spur-of-the-moment trip to Mexico. Is he dad of the year? No. He’s a misogynistic asshole. But he is uniquely himself—unapologetic, wildly entertaining, caring in the only way he knows how.

I know this is not the first movie I’ve paired with a martini on Cinema Sips, but there really is no other option for this one.  You MUST watch it with a Sapphire Martini, and imagine it was brought to you in a chilled carafe on a little silver tray. Picture yourself back out in the world, sitting in an iconic Manhattan bar, where you’re paying more for the real estate and history than the gin. While watching On the Rocks, I recommend drinking a Sapphire Martini.

Sapphire Martini

2 oz Bombay Sapphire® Gin

½ oz Dry Vermouth

2 olives

Combine gin and vermouth in a mixing glass with ice, and stir to chill- about 45 seconds.  Strain into a chilled martini glass, and garnish with olives.

In a year when most new releases made me want to either curl into a ball and cry, or spend two hours restlessly browsing social media on my phone, On the Rocks felt like a fun breath of fresh air. There were no major problems, no big issues to overcome—these people would all be fine whether Laura’s husband is faithful or not. Felix tries to force his daughter to give herself permission to enjoy life again, and that’s what this movie feels like to me. Permission to make a cocktail, watch some pretty people, and have fun for a tight ninety-six minutes.  Cheers!

California Suite

California Suite

Image credit: California Suite, 1978.

Well, I don’t know what to say about the Oscars this year except they’ve really mucked it up, haven’t they? From the host debacle, to the televised category back-and-forth, to the lack of female nominees, it’s enough to make even the most die-hard film fan skip the ceremony altogether. Me, I love a good train wreck.  But if you REALLY must skip,  I suggest watching California Suite (DVD/Download) instead. In this delightful gem of a film, Maggie Smith perfectly sums up the Academy Awards in one sentence: “I’ve been getting ready for this horseshit affair for THREE HOURS!!!!” I feel ya, Mags. All they have left are the dresses.

Adapted from a Neil Simon play, California Suite follows four couples who are all staying at the Beverly Hills Hotel. In these vignettes, we get to enjoy the following highlights: Maggie Smith, shit-faced after losing the Academy Award, arguing with her semi-closeted gay husband played by Michael Caine. Walter Matthau, waking up next to a hooker he has to hide from his wife. Jane Fonda and Alan Arkin, bickering over custody of their daughter. Richard Pryor and Bill Cosby, playing tennis, wrestling, and showing us why it’s a bad idea to travel with friends. Shot on location at the Beverly Hills Hotel, this film is a vintage textile lover’s dream. That banana leaf wallpaper— SWOOOOON! I know I’ll never be Maggie Smith, and I know I’ll never be up for an Academy Award, but I can sure as hell get drunk in the hall and fondle that wallpaper. One might even say it’s on my bucket list.

While Maggie prepares to lose the Oscar, her fabulous husband is busy pouring the gin. As he says, “three gins, one tonic”. Sounds like the perfect ratio. You could make one strong drink, or you could join me during the red carpet coverage in trying ALL THE GINS, and a little bit of tonic. Cheers!

Gins and Tonic

We love to hate on this year’s Academy Awards broadcast, but California Suite proves that people have been hating on this damn dog-and-pony show since the 1970’s.  Probably even before.  Whether you watch this movie to mock the absurdity along with Maggie Smith (who incidentally, did win an Oscar for her role in this), or watch it for the wonderful slice-of-life script, just watch it. Preferably with three gins of course ;-). Cheers!

My Girl

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My Girl

Image credit: My Girl, 1991

This week, I really had a hankering for a classic Bee’s Knees cocktail. And really, what better movie to watch with this honey-laden beverage than My Girl (DVD/Download).  After all, it’s the film where Macaulay Culkin kicks the bucket after a severe bee attack. As Dan Aykroyd tearfully informs us, “There were just too many…..” I could say the same about cocktails after a wild Saturday night.

I’m not sure if I should admit this, but my love of 60’s pop music originated from the My Girl soundtrack (on cassette, which I would play in my purple Casio while sitting on the cement stoop of our apartment. All. Summer. Long.) As a pre-teen bookworm living in Pennsylvania when this film came out in 1991, I strongly identified with Vada Sultenfuss. If you’ve ever been teased by mean girls, and/or had a weird relationship with the nerdiest kid in the class, and/or were oddly close to your English teacher (the only person who really gets you), then you understand the character of Vada. She’s dealing with the death of her mom, her dad’s remarriage to a free-spirited makeup artist (hey Jamie Lee Curtis, where ya been?), and the fact that she lives in a funeral parlor. It’s a lot for anyone. Luckily, she has a mood ring, Macaulay, and a showtune-singing grandma to ease the pain.

Perhaps it’s in bad taste to reference poor Thomas J’s bee allergy, but how can something bad taste this good? While watching My Girl, I recommend drinking a Bee’s Knees.

Bee’s Knees

2 oz gin

¾ Fresh Lemon Juice

½ oz Honey Syrup (equal parts honey and water, boiled then cooled)

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Bees Knees

What’s the one soundtrack I loved more than My Girl? The My Girl 2 soundtrack. Elton John, Jackson Browne- it was the musical education I needed. I’m a little amazed that we haven’t had a My Girl 3 yet, since all the actors are still around, but maybe Dan Aykroyd is too busy making vodka to bother with playing an aging funeral director. I mean, I know which career I’d rather have. Cheers!