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Sense and Sensibility

Image credit: Sense and Sensibility, 1995

Image credit: Sense and Sensibility, 1995

Before there were films, there were books. And in fact, before there were good films, good books usually proceeded them. Throughout the month of September, I’ll be paying tribute to my favorite literary adaptations in cinema. I know my readers must think I spend most of my time watching movies and drinking cocktails, and while those activities are certainly a part of my weekly routine, most of my spare time is actually spent reading. Because I consider myself first and foremost a lover of books, it pains me to see filmmakers get a literary adaptation wrong (I’m looking at you Simon Birch!). Conversely, when they get it right, it can be pretty magical (hip hip hooray The Door in the Floor!). Although there have been a lot of contemporary adaptations lately, I’m adhering to the classics this month. School just started again, so if you’re stuck explaining Jane Austen or Charles Dickens to your middle or high-school age child, don’t worry- Cinema Sips to the rescue!

This week I’ll be watching my favorite Jane Austen adaptation, Sense and Sensibility (DVD/Download). I am a functioning, breathing female, so yes, I love all things Austen. I even love all things about loving all things Austen (ie. the wonderfully charming film Austenland). By far I think Sense & Sensibility does the best job of depicting a classic Austen tale featuring two unlucky-in-love sisters- one pragmatic, the other a dreamer. Emma Thompson’s screenplay perfectly captures the rich language of Austen’s novel, while making it understandable to modern audiences. The cast is superb, featuring Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Hugh Grant, Alan Rickman, and Hugh Laurie, along with the usual cavalcade of minor British character actors who seem to be in every film coming out of the UK. It was an unusual choice to hire Ang Lee as the director, but he fills the movie with so many simple, quiet moments and beautiful costumes and scenery that one feels almost transported to Austen’s world.

Because the Dashwood sisters are forced into simple country living upon the death of their father, I decided to choose a British cocktail that evokes summertime country flavors. I can almost picture one of the Dashwood sisters getting her dress caught in a bramble bush, relying on Willoughby or Edward to come rescue her. While watching Sense and Sensibility, I recommend drinking a Gin Bramble.

Gin Bramble

2 oz Gin

1 oz lemon juice

1 oz simple syrup

Drizzle of Blackberry Liqueur (crème de Mure)

Fresh Blackberries

Combine gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a shaker, shake until well mixed, then pour into a tumbler or mason jar filled with crushed ice. Drizzle blackberry liqueur over the top, and garnish with a fresh blackberry.

Gin Bramble

My favorite part in Sense and Sensibility is when Colonel Brandon (Alan Rickman) sees Marianne Dashwood (Kate Winslet) for the first time as she’s singing a song at the piano. He enters the room, and you can just see the waves of attraction and obsession wash over him. It’s moments like this that make the film a wonderful complement to the words on the page, and a rare case of a screen reality being even better than my imagination. Cheers!

Bridget Jones’s Diary

Image credit Miramax Films, 2001, Bridget Jones's Diary

Image credit Miramax Films, 2001, Bridget Jones’s Diary

Last weekend I was invited to an ugly sweater Christmas party, and to get inspiration for my costume, I decided to watch a film featuring the ugliest of Christmas sweaters, Bridget Jones’s Diary (DVD/Download). While Bridget Jones isn’t totally a Christmas movie throughout, it does feature Colin Firth in some very festive holiday sweaters and ties. Plus, a movie starring Colin Firth AND Hugh Grant- well, Merry Christmas to me!

Bridget Jones’s Diary was adapted from the entertaining book by Helen Fielding, which loosely borrows the plot from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. This was the novel that launched a thousand Chick Lit ships (my own book included), wherein smart but insecure 30-something women live in a city, date inappropriate men, go out drinking with their friends, have fabulous careers, and worry about dieting and finally finding “the one”. I have to say, this is one of the better books (and films) in the genre, and although there was a great deal of outcry over American Renee Zellweger playing beloved Londoner Bridget Jones, I think she did a great job. Plus, she’s never looked better than she did in this film, causing me to wonder what other stick-figure actresses would look like with a little meat on their bones. Probably, greatly improved.

One of my favorite scenes in the film is when Colin Firth and Hugh Grant get into a fist fight outside Bridget’s apartment. Thus my cocktail this week is inspired by Colin Firth’s fists-o-fury, and is a great addition to any holiday party. While watching Bridget Jones’s Diary, I recommend drinking Darcy’s Milk Punch.

Darcy’s Milk Punch

1 oz brandy

1 oz dark rum

½ oz simple syrup

4 oz whole milk

Dash of vanilla extract

Whipped Cream

Grated Nutmeg

Combine brandy, rum, simple syrup, milk, and vanilla extract in a glass with ice.  Stir to combine, and top with whipped cream and nutmeg.

milk-punch

I love to watch this movie around the holidays because, like Bridget, it’s around this time of year that I tend to take stock of my life and figure out what my resolutions should be for the New Year. Like her, my list usually includes dropping a few pounds and cutting back on alcohol units. At least I don’t have to worry about pressure to find a nice, sensible boyfriend- I already have a nice, sensible husband to sport that tacky Christmas tie I’m making him wear. Cheers!

Love Actually

Image Credit Universal 2003

Image Credit Universal 2003

Moving on from the hijinks of the Griswolds, this week’s holiday movie is my personal favorite, Love Actually. It’s the movie I always watch while wrapping gifts, and if it takes me longer than the film’s running time, I know I’m being very generous with the presents this year. To me, it’s not Christmas yet until I’ve seen Bill Nighy butcher the song ‘Love is All Around’, or Hugh Grant shaking his hips to the Pointer Sisters’ ‘Jump For My Love’. There are so many great things about this movie that it’s impossible to list them all. I love every single one of the actors and actresses, the stories are both hilarious and heartbreaking, and it truly illustrates the many kinds of love that a person will experience in their lifetime.

Love Actually crisscrosses back and forth among the stories of over a dozen or so Londoners during the month of December. We see unrequited love, forbidden love, love’s betrayal, new love, the love between siblings, between a father and a son, and between longtime friends. A lot for one movie! Director Richard Curtis manages to make it all come together seamlessly, and he’s done an absolutely brilliant job of casting. Remember when I said I wanted to cut Cameron Diaz out of The Holiday? Well, there are no Cameron Diaz’s in this movie. It’s difficult to pinpoint which of the stories are my favorite, but the girlie girl in me has to go with Colin Firth falling in love with his Portuguese cleaning lady, even though neither of them speak the same language. He learns Portuguese so he can talk to her, while she learns English so she can talk to him- talk about a meet cute!

For my cocktail this week, I’m utilizing a liqueur that I didn’t have in my bar already, but I thought it was a worthwhile purchase for the holidays- Sloe Gin. This is a traditional British liqueur that is made with sloe berries that grow wild throughout England. The berries are soaked in high-proof gin, along with a little bit of sugar, resulting in a tart liqueur. I’m told that it does make a difference which brand you buy, as the less expensive varieties have a tendency to taste like cough syrup. I suggest Plymouth, if you can find it. I’m mixing it with a few other simple ingredients to make a Sloe Dance, in reference to Laura Linney’s sweetly hopeful dance scene with her hot Brazilian co-worker midway through the movie.

Sloe Dance

2oz sloe gin

1oz lemon juice

½ oz simple syrup

Club Soda

Mix together sloe gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker over ice. Shake until cold, then strain into a glass. Top with club soda, and enjoy!

sloe-dance

This drink is sweet and bitter at the same time, which could also be said about love. Emma Thompson proves this toward the end of the movie when she realizes her husband bought a gold locket for another woman. Her private tears as she listens to the smoke-addled voice of Joni Mitchell just breaks my heart every time. I think that’s what makes this movie so great- it doesn’t sugar-coat things. Yes, there are wonderful, uplifting, magical love stories, but there are also sad love stories too. Love Actually really reminds me to appreciate the many kinds of love I have in my life, because at Christmas it really is all around. Cheers!