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Tag Archives: Joaquin Phoenix

To Die For

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To Die For

Image credit: To Die For, 1995.

This story is the type of salacious true-crime stuff I live for. Local weather girl hires her sixteen-year-old lover to kill her husband so she can pursue a career in television? It’s a dark, twisted soap opera, and I am HERE FOR IT. To Die For (Disc/Download) is a great example of a ‘90s indie film with a pedigreed cast, many of whom would go on to win multiple Oscars and accolades in the coming decades. But let’s be clear—it’s still a soap opera.

To Die For came back on my radar after the recent death of screenwriter Buck Henry. He wrote one of my all-time favorite scripts, The Graduate, but this later film is equally brilliant. It was a mockumentary before every TV sitcom adopted the format, and through these faux interviews we see a Hard Copy-style tale of a power-hungry woman who would stop at nothing to achieve her dreams. Is it weird that I feel a strong kinship with Nicole Kidman’s Suzanne Stone? I too am a fan of the alliterated name, and I’ve chosen a career that’s next to impossible to break into. I haven’t gone to the lengths of prostituting myself, but anyone who’s ever done a Twitter Pitch event for writers knows it’s not all that different. You feel pretty cheap and debased by the end. I wouldn’t murder for my art, but I would rock a Donna Karan knock-off suit and French twist at my next writer’s conference.

The thing that really sells me on this movie is the torrid affair Nicole Kidman has with the much younger Joaquin Phoenix. And we’re talking yooooooung Joaquin, with a mullet and sad little stutter. It’s an icky relationship for sure, but I can’t help but feel for this horny kid who just wants attention from a beautiful woman. And Nicole is stuck in a lame marriage to Matt Dillon—need I say more? While watching To Die For, I recommend drinking this Forbidden Fruit cocktail:

Forbidden Fruit

1 ½ oz Frankly® Apple/Ginger vodka

½ oz Hofland Meesterbitter liqueur

½ oz Lemon Juice

4 oz Ginger Beer

Apple garnish

Combine vodka, liqueur, and lemon juice in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into an ice-filled glass. Top with ginger beer, and stir gently to combine. Garnish with an apple slice.

Forbidden Fruit

Finally, I’d like to give props to adorable Pomeranian Walter (after Walter Cronkite), who is the unsung hero of To Die For. I genuinely feel his distaste for his mom’s actions, but also his narcissistic need to look cute in his little outfits. Out of anyone in this film, Walter is the only character deserving of a happy ending. Cheers!

Walk the Line

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Walk the Line

Image credit: Walk the Line, 2005.

Ah… March. That special month when hordes of musicians descend upon my city of Austin and turn every square inch of space, from the sidewalk outside a grocery store to the floor of a tiny boutique, into a stage. This year, Cinema Sips is getting in on the action by highlighting some quintessential biopics, guaranteed to make you want to dance, drink, and never EVER date a musician. Kicking things off is the love story of Johnny and June, Walk the Line (Disc/Download).

One of my first SXSW shows happened, coincidentally, at a Johnny Cash-themed bar, the Mean Eyed Cat. I remember thinking at the time, wow—this guy must’ve been pretty amazing to have a whole bar dedicated to his music. After watching Walk the Line, I get it. While schmaltzy in the way that most biopics tend to be, you still leave the film with an awakening that Cash’s music was truly something special. Though he had his demons, he didn’t shy away from them—he put them into his music so that others could feel a little less alone. Joaquin Phoenix plays Cash with an effortless cool, doing such a good job on the vocals that I get chills. And Reese Witherspoon as June Carter!! Be still my heart. She’s saccharine sweet, but one tough cookie. The contrast between her bubbly on-stage persona and her real-life “ain’t got time for this crap” attitude is such a joy to watch. Plus, you know I love a good backcomb!

To celebrate Johnny and June’s fiery chemistry, I’ll be mixing up a cocktail that’s equal parts sweet and hot. While watching Walk the Line, I recommend drinking this Ring of Fire.

Ring of Fire

1 shot Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire

12 oz Hard Cider (I use Austin Eastciders Original)

Pour shot into a pint of cider, and enjoy!

Ring of Fire

If you enjoy Walk the Line and all its standard-issue music biopic beats, you’ll probably also get a kick out of its satirical cousin, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Honestly, I can’t watch one and not the other. It’s easy to make fun of the formulaic way that musicians’ stories are handled in cinema, but my heart truly bursts at the sight of Johnny and June finally turning their onstage chemistry into a real-life love for the ages. Bradley and Gaga—ARE YOU LISTENING??? Cheers!

Inherent Vice

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Inherent Vice

Image credit: Inherent Vice, 2014

I’ve received several requests on Cinema Sips to feature The Big Lebowski, to which I always say, what’s the point? We can all quote it endlessly and drink White Russians without my advocating it. To satisfy the stoner-noir fans out there, I’d rather talk about a movie that is a little more bizarre, and a little less well-known. Like Lebowski, Inherent Vice (DVD/Download) is a movie that demands repeat viewing, almost as much as it demands viewing with a cocktail.

Adapted from the novel by Thomas Pynchon, Paul Thomas Anderson’s hilarious take on the 1970’s Los Angeles underworld was a bit of a mystery upon its release. Critics didn’t seem to know whether to love it or hate it. The consensus was- nobody really got it. Do I fully understand all the twists and turns of a plot centered on a Gordita Beach private investigator, played by Joaquin Phoenix in all his mutton-chop glory? No. Do I care? No. The movie is just cool as hell. Featuring Martin Short as a purple-velour suited dentist, Owen Wilson as a heroin-addicted jazz musician, and Reese Witherspoon playing, well Reese Witherspoon, with all this crazy I just can’t look away. Yes the plot meanders, but it’s so well-acted and so funny, that you just get sucked into the lunacy of it all.

I’m not going to say that the movie needs alcohol or marijuana to be more enjoyable, but it certainly helps. If you happen to live in a non-progressive state (like I do), and can’t get legal access to weed, then certainly the next best thing is a strong cocktail. I’ve come up with this zombie-beach bum hybrid to maximize your viewing pleasure. While watching Inherent Vice, I recommend drinking a Golden Fang.

Golden Fang

1 oz lime juice

1 oz pineapple juice

1 oz orange juice

1.5 oz dark rum

1 part apricot brandy

1.5 oz light rum

Splash of lemon-lime soda

Maraschino cherry and citrus fruit for garnish

Build drink over ice in a highball glass, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with a cherry and citrus fruit slice.

Golden Fang

Because of Anderson’s superb directorial skill, Inherent Vice succeeds in immersing the viewer in the world of 1970s LA counterculture. Full of Manson paranoia and unfortunate facial hair, it was certainly a city on the edge. If you’re looking for an escape this week, there’s no better place than Gordita Beach. Cheers!


Image Credit Annapurna Pictures, 2013, Her

Image Credit Annapurna Pictures, 2013, Her

Although I had already seen this week’s film Her (DVD/Download) while it was in movie theaters last year, I decided it was time to check it out again, this time with my significant other and a lovely, bright cocktail. This was by far my favorite film of 2013, calling to mind other personal favorites like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Lost in Translation. It’s an unconventional love story, set against the backdrop of futuristic urban beauty, and  moody instrumental music. I was thrilled when this film won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay because the script by Spike Jonze is truly beautiful. It makes me want to give up writing altogether because I fear that I’ll never be able to string words together as perfectly as he does in this film. Nevertheless, I was thrilled to sit back and let this lovely film wash over me once again.

Her is set in the future, however it feels like a just-out-of-reach future. People basically wear what we wear now (though men’s trousers are a bit more high-waisted), and spend their days glued to their smart phones. The architecture is a little more interesting, and most people don’t read books on paper anymore. Additionally, writing has become such a lost art that the main character Theodore (played superbly by Joaquin Phoenix) has a job crafting personal letters on behalf of others. It’s interesting to watch him writing these romantic love letters while his own love life is crumbling, as he’s still reeling from the dissolution of his marriage. Early on in the film, he gets a new computer operating system, but this OS named Samantha can actually talk to him. They begin a relationship, eventually falling in love. It sounds crazy to think that a man could fall in love with his computer, but oddly enough this is one of the most romantic stories I’ve seen on film in recent years. He’s happy with Samantha (voiced perfectly by Scarlett Johansson) and watching their romance progress is just riveting. I’ve often found that most literary love stories are totally ruined in their translation to film, simply because what I see on the screen never really matches up to the picture I’ve created in my mind. By taking away a physical half in this relationship, Spike Jonze has made a romantic film for the dreamers out there. Samantha the OS is anything I want her to be.

When I started raving about this film many months ago, I had another friend dismiss it by saying “ugh, too much orange.” Well, that’s true, there are a lot of warm colors used in the production design. I actually love all the orange though. Perhaps the reason is because I will always associate the color orange with my time spent studying in Valencia, Spain during college. The city was vibrant and alive, with futuristic architecture by Santiago Calatrava, and I found myself gravitating to bold oranges and reds both in my clothing and design choices. Thus my drink this week is inspired by that time in my life, and really does pair nicely with Her. This week, I’m enjoying Agua de Valencia.

Agua de Valencia

1 cup orange juice

2 oz gin

2 oz vodka

½ bottle cava (sparkling wine)

Sugar to taste

In a large pitcher or bottle, combine all ingredients, adding sugar a little at a time until you get it to your desired sweetness. Chill for an hour, then serve in ice-filled glasses.


This is a great drink for a crowd because it can (and should) be made in advance of your party, and it’s refreshing on those hot days where should be autumn, but unfortunately still feels like summer (hello September in Texas). The drink is a beautiful yellow-orange color, and feels right at home with the visual styling of this film. The characters in Her might be a little lost, and a little sad at times, but they still seem hopeful to me. After watching this, I find myself feeling hopeful too, for even if we’re all eventually tethered to our technology, we’ll still find ways to make personal connections. That’s a world that I’ll still want to live in. Only, don’t expect me to wear unflattering trousers. Cheers!