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I Heart Huckabees

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I Heart Huckabees

Image Credit: I Heart Huckabees 2004

No, this is not a film about Mike Huckabee and his daughter Sarah (thank goodness). Rather, I Heart Huckabees (DVD/Download) is a bizarre existential comedy that’s like the most interesting philosophy class you never took in college. It makes me ponder the meaning of life, as well as the inexplicable popularity of Shania Twain.

Directed by David O. Russell (pretty aggressively according to the infamous viral video ), Huckabees stars so many great actors it’s almost impossible to keep track. Jason Schwartzman is perfect as the environmental crusader struggling to understand the meaning of coincidences, Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin play his hired “existential detectives”, Isabelle Huppert is a sexy rival detective, Jude Law and Naomi Watts play corporate shills for the Huckabees Corporation, and even Mark Wahlberg turns in a surprisingly brilliant performance as the petroleum-hating fireman and fellow philosophy student of Hoffman/Tomlin/Hubert.  What is Huckabees really about? It’s hard to say. But if we’re examining philosophy in relation to this film, I find myself squarely in the “everything is the same, even if it’s different” camp. There are so many characters and subplots that it’s dizzying at times, but in the end, they’re all under the blanket of this wonderfully unique movie.

I’ve wanted to try experimenting with activated charcoal cocktails for a while, and Huckabees provides a perfect opportunity. A favorite existential method of discovery is to place a person inside a zipped bag, allowing the darkness to let one’s subconscious thoughts rise to the surface. The great thing about this black cocktail is that there could literally be anything inside of it. I’ve chosen a recipe that is light and tart, but if you want a heavier kick, that’s your call. Who’s to know?  Bonus points if you smear the charcoal all over your face like Naomi Watts while wearing a bonnet. While watching I Heart Huckabees, I recommend drinking a Blanket Statement.

Blanket Statement

1 ½ oz aged rum

Pinch of activated charcoal*

½ oz grapefruit juice

½ oz lime juice

¼ oz Orgeat syrup

¼ oz Maraschino liqueur

Shake all ingredients together over ice, and strain into a chilled martini glass.

*Note: Activated charcoal can be risky combined with certain medications. If unsure, check with your doctor before imbibing.

photo by @pop_up_cobra

David O. Russell would go onto many more acclaimed pictures such as American Hustle and Silver Linings Playbook, but I’ll always have a soft spot for I Heart Huckabees. I love to celebrate the truly original, and there’s definitely nothing like this film. If you find yourself wondering “How am I not myself?” in the middle of the day on a Wednesday, it’s worked its magic. Cheers!

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Shopgirl

shopgirl

Image credit: Shopgirl, 2005

If you’re like me, the end of November is a panic-inducing time where I realize that I have a million people on my Christmas shopping list and NO IDEA what to buy. The rise in online shopping options means that I haven’t been to a mall in years, however I almost wouldn’t mind going if it meant I could run into Claire Danes at the Saks glove department in this week’s film Shopgirl (DVD/Download).

Adapted from the novella by Steve Martin, Shopgirl stars Claire Danes as Mirabelle Buttersfield, a 20-something visual artist caught in a love triangle between clueless hipster Jeremy and emotionally distant millionaire Ray. Steve Martin’s performance as Ray is quiet and nuanced, and refreshingly different from his broader comedic roles.  And as the well-meaning but utterly oblivious suitor Jeremy, Jason Schwartzman brings to mind so many hapless men of his generation.  With less-than-ideal romantic options such as these, it’s no wonder Mirabelle spirals into depression.

I love that one of Jeremy’s steps toward maturing is a newfound appreciation for cocktails. He tries a mojito for the first time, and we see the wheels spinning. Yes- there is more to life than cheap beer. As further ode to this film’s stunning visual depiction of the city of Los Angeles, while watching Shopgirl I recommend drinking an Echo Park Mojito.

Echo Park Mojito

1 oz blood orange juice

1 Tbsp lime juice

1 oz light rum

2 Tbsp simple syrup

Topo Chico sparkling water

5-6 sprigs of mint

Pour blood orange juice, lime juice, and simple syrup into a glass. Add the mint leaves and muddle them. Add rum and crushed ice, then top the rest of the way with Topo Chico. Stir gently.  Garnish with fresh mint.

blood-orange-mojito

I can identify with Mirabelle’s plight of having to take a retail job to support her dreams of being an artist, because I too have been a shopgirl in the past. It’s just what you do when you have a creative dream. You stand behind that counter and hope that maybe someday, somebody looks at you and declares, “this one has value”. And in the meantime, there are cocktails.  Cheers!

Saving Mr. Banks

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Image Credit Walt Disney Pictures, Saving Mr. Banks, 2013

Image Credit Walt Disney Pictures, Saving Mr. Banks, 2013

Pop quiz- what film seamlessly merges a favorite childhood movie with the style and jet-set look of Mad Men? Answer: Saving Mr. Banks (DVD/Download). This was one of my favorite films of 2013, and it’s my personal opinion that Emma Thompson was robbed by not getting an Academy Award nomination- ROBBED. Since it’s maybe a little weird to be pairing a cocktail with a kid’s movie (though Disney World is selling alcohol in the Magic Kingdom now), I’ll forgo my fantasies of getting drunk and singing along with Burt the chimney sweep in favor of a cocktail pairing with a more adult movie about the making of Mary Poppins (DVD/Download). Showbiz movies are my favorite Netflix niche genre, and this particular film is one of the greats.

Saving Mr. Banks offers a behind-the-scenes look at the process of bringing Mary Poppins to the big screen. Based on the books by P.L. Travers, this was a property highly coveted by Mr. Disney, and highly protected by the author. She finally agreed to consider selling him the rights to the stories, only after making sure she had script approval. So, the cranky Englishwoman journeys to Los Angeles circa 1961 and wreaks havoc on the smiley, giddy, happy-to-be-alive Disney employees working on the film. Tom Hanks does a fine job of playing Walt Disney, and particular kudos go to B.J. Novak and Jason Schwartzman for playing the Sherman brothers, who wrote the music and lyrics for so many classic Disney songs. Hearing the songs I know so well being crafted in Saving Mr. Banks gives me a new appreciation for the artistry behind them, and I give credit to these men for strengthening my childhood vocabulary with words like fiduciary and precocious. The movie veers off periodically to discuss Travers’ childhood trauma and how Mary Poppins came to be, and yes Colin Farrell is magnetic as her father, but it’s the adult scenes with Emma Thompson where the movie really shines. I laughed, I cried, I wanted to get up and dance to “Let’s Go Fly a Kite”. I call that a cinematic success.

My cocktail today references the medicinal flavor-of-choice for Mary Poppins. As she says, a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, and while this drink is never actually consumed in Saving Mr. Banks, I couldn’t help referencing that wonderful scene in the original film. Thus, when you’re watching Saving Mr. Banks, follow Mary Poppins’ lead and drink some Rrrrrum Punch.

Rrrrrum Punch

1/2 cup fresh lime juice

1/2 cup grenadine syrup

1 cup white rum

½ cup dark rum

1 cup pineapple juice

1 cup orange juice

1 pinch nutmeg

Orange slice

Mix all ingredients together in a pitcher, punch bowl, or bottle. Chill in the refrigerator at least an hour before serving over ice. Garnish with nutmeg and orange slice.

rrrum-punch

I’m not sure what kind of “medicine” this is, but it does certainly make me happy to drink it. Even if Saving Mr. Banks was really just one big Disney propaganda film to make you want to go out and buy Mary Poppins and visit Disneyland, all I can say is- sign me up! Walt Disney had a knack for making people see the magic in our world, and I think he would have been pleased with this film- for even though we’re seeing the real story behind the magic, it doesn’t make it any less delightful. Cheers!