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Shakespeare in Love

Shakespeare in Love

Image credit: Shakespeare in Love, 1998.

This Valentine’s Day, I know just what I’m in the mood for- love, and a bit with a dog. Throw in some sumptuous Elizabethan-era costumes, one of the most genius scripts of all time, a saucy Judi Dench, and what have you got? This week’s Ultimate Romance film Shakespeare in Love (DVD/Download).

Before GOOP, before vagina steaming, Gwyneth Paltrow was Viola de Lessups, beautiful muse to Will Shakespeare and feminist icon to every girl who ever dreamed of doing a “man’s job”. I wanted to hate her, she of the dewy pore-less skin and perfect hair that doesn’t even need a comb in the morning. Except, damn it- she’s just radiant in this film. Her chemistry with Ralph Fiennes is amazing, and her joy at playing this character is completely contagious. Plus there’s that script, which takes all the brilliance of Shakespeare’s plays, adds some subtle, witty nods to Elizabethan history, and sparkles with one double entendre after another.

I love a good “putting on a show” storyline, so naturally I’m enamored with The Rose theatre’s production of Romeo and Juliet née Mercutio née Romeo and Ethel- The Pirate’s Daughter. This film does a fantastic job of showing the humorous side of Shakespearean theatre, and therefore it deserves a light, rose-inspired cocktail to put you in the mood for romance. While watching Shakespeare in Love, I recommend drinking a Rose by Any Other Name.

Rose by Any Other Name

2 oz gin

2 oz Elderflower Liqueur

1 ½ oz lime juice

½ oz simple syrup

½ tsp Rosewater

Fresh rose petals

Combine liquid ingredients over ice, shaking well to combine and thoroughly chill. Strain mixture into a glass, and garnish with rose petals.

Rose by Any Other Name

Can a play (or a film) show the us the very truth and nature of love? I certainly believe it can, and this film does it perfectly. By the final scene, I’m a true believer in the idea that it will all come out right in the end. How? It’s a mystery. Cheers!

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Great Expectations

great expecatations dinsmore

Image credit: Great Expectations, 1998

I’ve thus far featured a couple of films during Literary Adaptation Month that have stayed pretty close to the source material.  This week however, I’ll be watching an adaptation that uses the original book as inspiration, but then veers wildly, excitingly off course.  A long-time favorite film of mine is Alfonso Cuarón’s 1998 version of Great Expectations (DVD/Download). Based on the novel by Charles Dickens, this film captures the classic Dickensian struggles of wealth vs. poverty and good vs. evil, while updating it for the modern era.

In the Cuarón version of Great Expectations, Pip is renamed Finn, and played by Ethan Hawke. A very bored Gwyneth Paltrow plays Estella, the focus of his unrequited love. Robert DeNiro’s portrayal of convict Lustig (Magwitch) is still a career highlight to me, and Anne Bancroft shines as Ms. Dinsmoor (aka Miss Havisham). I absolutely want to be Ms. Dinsmoor when I get old, sitting in a Florida mansion, drinking martinis, wearing crazy wigs and listening to Bossa Nova records. Strike that- can I just start that life now?? In this version, Finn becomes an artist (side note: I’m madly in love with the Francesco Clemente paintings and drawings done for the film), and Lustig’s secret patronage lures him to New York, and Estella. Great Expectations relies on visuals a great deal, and it’s this beauty (and the lovely words written by David Mamet in the voiceover narrations) that keep me coming back time and again.

A common visual motif in several of Alfonso Cuarón’s films is the color green. It’s been characterized as the color of hope, and in this film that could not be more true. Finn is always hopeful, even when he shouldn’t be. Cuarón seamlessly weaves the color into nearly every scene, through the lush tropical backdrops, Finn’s paintings, the costumes, and most notably in Gwyneth Paltrow’s TO DIE FOR Donna Karan dress. It’s so fabulous, I just have to share:

Great Expecations donna karan

For my drink this week, I’m picking up on that green motif and mixing up a martini that Ms. Dinsmore would surely be sipping in her gilded bedroom. While watching Great Expectations, I recommend drinking a Paradiso Perduto.

Paradiso Perduto

1 oz Midori

1 oz vodka

1 oz lemon juice

¼ oz simple syrup

Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled. Strain into a chilled martini glass. 

Paradiso Perduto

I’m not usually one for radioactive-looking cocktails, but this one is actually quite tasty.  And with such a visually-focused film, why not match it?  There have been other Great Expectations adaptations, and I expect there will be several more in the future, but this one will always be special to me.  Modern art, martinis, and Donna Karan-  what’s not to love?  Chicka-boom!

Duets

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Image Credit: Duets, 2000

Image Credit: Duets, 2000

When my husband requested a pairing with the movie Duets (DVD/Download), I laughed until I realized he was serious. I’m pretty sure everyone in the world has forgotten that this Bruce Paltrow oddball of a movie ever existed, but after screening it again, I’m officially ready to start the campaign to turn this into the newest cult classic. I think it could be the next Wet Hot American Summer or Gentlemen Broncos, if enough people get bored and curious enough to watch it. What other movie out there features Gwyneth Paltrow, HUEY LEWIS, Paul Giamatti, Andre Braugher, Maria Bello, Maya Rudolph, Scott Speedman, Angie Dickinson, John Pinette, AND Michael Buble???

The only place in which all of these seemingly random entertainers could co-exist is in the karaoke arena. Having just tried karaoke for the first time myself a few weeks ago, I see how it can happen. You have a couple drinks (or, okay, maybe half a bottle of pink champagne), you enter a small dark room filled with total strangers, random people get up and start singing “Rapture” and “Rocket Man”, and eventually, you’re up there, belting out the high notes on Minnie Riperton’s “Lovin’ You”. It’s fun and addictive, and if you never see these karaoke strangers again for the rest of your life, who cares? That’s kind of what happens in Duets. All of these random souls converge at a karaoke contest, and suddenly you have John Pinette belting out “Copacabana” in front of Gwyneth Paltrow, while Paul Giamatti sits nearby wearing a George Michael earring, and Huey Lewis waits his turn to go up and sing THE WORST songs in the movie. Seriously, how did they give the one professional singer of the bunch stinkers like “Lonely Teardrops”? Paltrow and Giamatti hold their own, and as much as Ms. Goop annoys me, her duet of “Cruisin’” with Huey Lewis is pretty solid (it even went to #1 on the Australian music charts!). But wow- Paul Giamatti. Who knew he had such a voice? This movie is worth watching, if only to see him channel Otis Redding.

For a movie like Duets, I had to pick a two ingredient cocktail. Think of it as a duet in a glass- two simple ingredients, making beautiful music together. I also wanted to choose a beverage that I might actually drink in a karaoke bar. Something strong enough to get me on stage, but easy enough that even a bartender at the seediest bar in Omaha could manage it. While watching Duets, I recommend drinking a Whiskey Ginger.

Whiskey Ginger

1.5 oz Jack Daniels Whiskey

3 oz Ginger Ale or Ginger Beer

Lime wedge

Pour the whiskey and ginger ale into a glass over ice. Give it a generous squeeze of lime, then top with the lime wedge.

Whiskey Ginger

Although the plot and pacing of Duets leaves a lot to be desired, I was thoroughly entertained for 2 hours while waiting to see which rando celebrities would make an appearance. Does it make me want to get back into a karaoke room? Not really. Does it give me newfound appreciation for 80’s pop star Huey Lewis? Absolutely. Cheers!

The Royal Tenenbaums

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Image Credit Touchtone Pictures 2001, The Royal Tenenbaums

Image Credit Touchtone Pictures 2001, The Royal Tenenbaums

A recent screening of The Grand Budapest Hotel has inspired me this week to revisit my favorite Wes Anderson film, The Royal Tenenbaums (DVD/Download). Of course I love any film by this director who has such a keen eye for style, but my personal favorite is still this 2001 ode to dysfunctional families and Nico. It’s quirky, it’s stylish, and it’s heartfelt (I dare anyone not to feel saddened to their core as Elliott Smith’s ‘Needle in the Hay’ frames a character’s suicide attempt), but it’s also delightfully funny in other moments. With The Royal Tenenbaums, Wes Anderson has created a world that seems so real that I feel like I could just put on a Lacoste polo dress and aviator sunglasses and step right in.

This film tells the story of the wealthy Tenenbaum family and the struggle of the patriarch Royal to bring them back together. Gene Hackman does a phenomenal job of playing the hilarious and conniving Royal, and Anjelica Houston brings an unexpected softness to the part of his estranged wife Etheline. Their three children are played by Gwyneth Paltrow, Luke Wilson, and Ben Stiller, and all three are former child prodigies who have grown up to be adult messes. Anderson regulars Bill Murray and Owen Wilson round out the cast, along with the sadly now-deceased Kumar Pallana (or Pagoda as I’ll always think of him). Of course the sets and costumes are phenomenal, like a 1970’s dollhouse come to life. There are the typical Wes Anderson quirks, like a pet hawk named Mordecai, and Dalmatian mice, and of course the soundtrack is perfect in every way. A mix of The Rolling Stones, Velvet Underground, Paul Simon, and a plucky orchestral score, the music of The Royal Tenenbaums always makes me feel like I’ve just raided the record collection of a very cool relative.

For my cocktail pairing, I wanted to find something that seemed classic yet eccentric, sort of like the characters in this film. I scoured my bar to come up with a list of ingredients that would be off-putting on their own, yet when brought together would make a wonderful union. I call this week’s concoction the Tenenbaum Toast.

 

1 ½ oz Deep Eddy Grapefruit Vodka
½ oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
½ oz Key Lime Juice
1 oz Club Soda
1 tsp Grenadine

Fill a champagne flute or small glass (the more unusual the better!) with crushed ice. Combine first three ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice, and shake until chilled. Strain into prepared glass and top with club soda and grenadine. Dalmatian straw optional.

 

tenenbaum's-toast
The pink color of this drink is meant to match that beautiful “Wes Anderson Pink” (as I like to call it) that covers the walls of the Tenenbaum house, as well as much of The Grand Budapest Hotel. I like to think that Margot Tenenbaum would enjoy one of these in the bathtub with her clandestine vintage cigarettes, as her old television teeters perilously close to the water. So as Wes Anderson is showered with accolades for his latest film, I urge you to take the time to re-discover one of his older works with a strange and wonderful cocktail. If you want to go all out, layer on the eye liner and watch with a bored expression. Cheers!

The Talented Mr. Ripley

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Photo Credit:  Miramax 1999

Photo Credit: Miramax 1999

As much of the country is in the death grip of winter cold this week, I felt inspired to watch a movie that features sailboat cruises on the Mediterranean, leisurely cocktail hours, fabulous 1950’s fashions, and a suntanned and shirtless Jude Law. Based on the thrilling novel by Patricia Highsmith and produced during Miramax’s heyday of the late 1990’s, The Talented Mr. Ripley is one delicious Italian travel postcard. It tells the story of Dickie Greenleaf (played by the magnetically charismatic Jude Law), a trust fund ex-pat who spends his days lounging on the Italian Riviera with his girlfriend Marge (played by an enviably tanned and beautiful Gwyneth Paltrow). Matt Damon plays the title character Tom Ripley, who travels to Italy at the behest of Dickie’s father in order to lure Dickie back to the US, but instead he ends up befriending him, falling in love with him, and then becoming dangerously obsessed with him.

If you haven’t seen this film before, or if it’s been awhile, I strongly urge you to check it out. Watching it makes you realize why Law, Paltrow, and Damon became the huge stars that they did, and in addition, the fabulous Cate Blanchett turns in a performance as a wealthy American socialite that shows us why she was born to play Kathrine Hepburn in The Aviator. This movie always makes me want to travel back to Italy, and spend my time lounging the days away while moving at a much slower pace than I would ever allow myself to do at home. I want to get tanned, drink martinis, write on a vintage typewriter, travel to underground jazz clubs in Rome, and eat fresh pasta (while still fitting into 1950’s couture dresses). A person can dream can’t they?

For this week’s cocktail pairing, I’m keeping it pretty simple. This is a drink I often serve at parties because it’s easy to make and strong enough that I don’t have to spend all night behind the bar doing refills. When watching The Talented Mr. Ripley, I suggest pairing it with a Limoncello Martini:

Margie’s Limoncello Martini

1 oz Gin

1 oz Limoncello (perhaps you’ve picked up a bottle during your own Italian vacation?)

1 lemon twist

Combine the gin and limoncello with ice in a cocktail shaker. Shake until very cold (COLD being the key here), and strain into a chilled glass. Garnish with the lemon twist.

limoncello-martini

This drink is perfect for the film because it evokes Italian sunsets and is meant to be sipped slowly. Martini-making abilities are a prized commodity with this set of characters, so I feel as though I’d fit in nicely with the 1950’s ex-pats. With a chilled Limoncello Martini in my hand, and two hours spent doing nothing but enjoying this film, I feel like I’m getting there. So set your martini glass outside a minute in these freezing temps to chill, put on The Talented Mr. Ripley, and pretend that the noise you just heard rattling your window is a warm Mediterranean breeze (not a frigid Arctic blast). Cheers!