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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!

Gattaca

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gattaca

Image credit: Gattaca, 1997

I am well aware that Cinema Sips is severely lacking in the sci-fi genre, but this is largely because so few good ones get made. Robots, hovercrafts, bad makeup- ugh. However this week, I’m excited to watch a futuristic film that is one of my long time favorites.  Gattaca (DVD/Download) features rockets, gadgets, and gene selection, yet somehow manages to remain an intelligent, thought-provoking drama.  Finally- sci-fi I can get behind!

In addition to beautiful art deco-meets-postmodernist sets, lead actors Ethan Hawke, Jude Law, and a vacant Uma Thurman round out the eye candy quota. It’s actually no coincidence that this film stars two ridiculously good looking men. Hawke’s character Vincent buys the identity of Jude Law’s character Jerome, in an effort to qualify as a genetically superior candidate for the space program. This entitles him to blood, urine, skin samples, hair samples, and endless pithy quips from a drunken, wheelchair bound Law. In essence, it’s the inVALid with the INvalid, in a hot Odd Couple-esque pairing.

In Gattaca, Hawke and Law are like vodka and gin. They look the same, but beneath the surface are wildly different. Therefore my cocktail this week combines these two spirits, with a dash of Lillet thrown in to balance it out (the Thurman of the drink, if you will). While watching Gattaca, I recommend drinking a Vesper.

Vesper

½ oz Vodka

2 oz Gin

¼ oz Lillet Blonde

Lemon twist (for garnish)

Shake vodka, gin, and Lillet over ice until well chilled. Strain into a martini glass, and garnish with a lemon twist.

vesper

While the Vesper is more well-known for being the drink of James Bond, I think this classic cocktail is equally at home in Gattaca. While certain parts are very futuristic, there are many stylistic elements which make the viewer feel transported to the Golden Age of Hollywood cinema. Is Gattaca a sci-fi film masquerading as chic poetic drama? Or the other way around? Either way, it’s even better with a cocktail. Cheers!

Anna Karenina

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anna karenina

Image credit: Anna Karenina, 2012

Continuing with this month’s theme of powerful corseted women and the ineffectual men who love them, I turn my attention now to 19th century Russia and the classic tale of Anna Karenina (DVD/Download). There have been several adaptations over the years, but my favorite is the most recent film starring Keira Knightley. She’s, to be honest, not that amazing as Karenina, but the film itself is beautifully stylized. Is it a play? Is it a film? Is it Gigi without the singing? Who knows! Who cares!

In Oscar winning creations from costume designer Jacqueline Durran, Knightley frets her way through train stations, lavish balls, theatrical sets, and her chilly home with husband Alexei Karenin, played by Jude Law (with what I fear is his actual receding hairline). I must be getting old if Jude Law is playing the cuckolded husband instead of the dashing young Count Vronsky. I guess it’s not 1997 anymore. For anyone who has ever felt that Tolstoy was inaccessible, director Joe Wright proves you wrong. Through his vision, this classic tale becomes a stylish soap opera- The Cold & the Beautiful, perhaps? Adultery, illegitimate children, unrequited love, suicide- St. Petersburg seems downright scandalous.

My beverage of choice may cause some laughs, but I decided to go literal this week. While watching Anna Karenina, I recommend drinking a White Russian.

White Russian

1.5 oz vodka

.75 oz Kahlua

.75 oz heavy cream

Shake well with ice, then pour into a chilled glass.

White russian

I was surprised to see Alicia Vikander pop up in this film as Kitty, although I shouldn’t have been because she is EVERYWHERE now. Somehow, I managed to watch Burnt, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Anna Karenina all in one week, not knowing this It Girl was in all three. It’s easy to forget about her truly lovely Karenina subplot involving a country boy’s love for a city girl, but next to the flash of Anna and her man triangle, it’s a welcome respite. Critics were certainly torn on this heavily stylized film, but in my opinion, it makes a classic story even more exhilarating. Cheers!*

*Side note, I tried to find the Russian equivalent of “cheers”, but Google tells me a classic toast in Russia involves the telling of a short story or anecdote. That sounds awfully complicated and very Tolstoy. So perhaps this entire post is one long toast. You’re welcome, Russia.

The Aviator

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Image credit: The Aviator, 2004

Image credit: The Aviator, 2004

I’m sure I’ve previously mentioned that I adore movies about old Hollywood. The glamour, the scandals- I can’t get enough. This week I’ll be watching Scorsese’s The Aviator (DVD/Download), one of the best films to feature re-imagined classic film stars. Cate Blanchett as Katherine Hepburn; Gwen Stefani as Jean Harlow; Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner- the list goes on and on. And yes, there is Leonardo DiCaprio as mogul Howard Hughes, but who are we kidding here- the ladies are the stars of this show.

The Aviator follows Howard Hughes’ career as a movie producer and aviation pioneer, his success overshadowed by a raging case of OCD. Hughes’ money and charm attract a cavalcade of beautiful starlets, but it’s Hepburn who really connects with him. I know, I know, she was meant to be with Spencer Tracy, but a part of me wanted her to end up with Howard Hughes. Cate Blanchett does Hepburn like nobody’s business, completely nailing the WASP-y New England accent and athletic stride. I was less impressed by Kate Beckinsale’s breathy portrayal of Ava Gardner, though of course I loved her costumes! Really though, the best part for me is the fabulous wallpaper in the bathroom of the Beverly Hills Hotel. That iconic giant palm-leaf design is a welcome distraction from DiCaprio’s sweaty overacting mess below it.

The 1930’s must have been an amazing time to be in Hollywood. Not just for the films (though those were good too), but also for the cocktails! Imagine sipping a gin cocktail at the Cocoanut Grove, a drunken Errol Flynn at the next table over, hitting on starlets left and right. Paying tribute to classic drinks and Hughes’ obsession with flying, while watching The Aviator I recommend drinking an Aviation cocktail.

Aviation

1 ½ oz gin

½ oz lemon juice

¾ oz maraschino liqueur

¼ oz crème de violette

Maraschino cherry (optional)

Add all ingredients to a shaker filled with ice, shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry (optional).

Aviator

Obviously, The Aviator focuses a great deal on Hughes’ aviation experience (including one harrowing plane crash over Beverly Hills), but it’s also a love letter to cinema. Watching the filming of Hell’s Angels is pure fun, and I love seeing how the coloration and technology of cinema changes over time. In short, come for the glitz and action, but continue watching for the style and history. Cheers!

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

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Image credit:  Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Warner Bros, 1997

Image credit: Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Warner Bros, 1997

I got inspired this week when my brother-in-law sent me a clipping on southern cocktails from Garden & Gun magazine. Yes, you read that right, such a magazine actually exists. I could think of no better film to celebrate guns, gardens, southern society, and cocktails, than Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (DVD/Download). This was one of my favorite movies of the 1990’s, and it still holds up well today. It paints Savannah as a mythical place full of people who drink at all hours of the day, sassy drag queens, and gun-toting antiques dealers. I’d say I’m eager to catch a plane there, but who am I kidding- I live in Austin! We’re practically twin cities.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is based on the bestselling non-fiction book of the same name by John Berendt. In it, he chronicles the trial of a wealthy member of Savannah society who is accused of murdering his gay lover. Kevin Spacey plays the antiques dealer/bon vivant on trial, and Jude Law has a few brief scenes as his victim/lover. This film was a great place for Kevin Spacey to hone his eventual House of Cards accent, which he does to perfection. Not so great in the accent dept. is Jude Law, who does a sort of cockney/southern hybrid, but I’m willing to overlook it because he’s young and gorgeous (albeit in a redneck-psycho sort of way). The true star of this film (and the book) is of course The Lady Chablis. Can I just say, this is maybe the best drag name I’ve ever heard. I love that the character was played by the real life Chablis Deveau because really, who else could possibly do this part justice? She steals every scene she’s in, delivering one-liners that keep me laughing for days. And I love John Cusack as the fish out of water reporter who stumbles into this world of, as he puts it, “Gone With the Wind on mescaline.” Gardens and guns- Savannah in a nutshell.

As I have said, this film is excellent with a cocktail pairing because most of the characters treat drinking like a competitive sport. As one person says, “If you’re thirsty, a drink will cure it. If you’re not, a drink will prevent it. Prevention is better than a cure.” My favorite cocktail of those featured in the magazine article is definitely the Antebellum Julep, conceived by bartender Alba Huerta. I’m not a frequent bourbon drinker, but I do like a cold, minty concoction on an unbearably hot day. This drink solves both of those problems at once with a refreshing combination of rum, cognac, and LOTS of ice. When watching this film, I recommend drinking an Antebellum Julep.

8-10 mint leaves, roughly torn

2 tsp simple syrup

2 oz cognac

1/2 oz dark rum

Mint Sprig

Powdered Sugar

In a cup (a metal julep cup is great if you have it, but I’m going even more southern and using a mason jar), muddle mint leaves and simple syrup. Pour in cognac, to rinse off muddler; remove muddler. Fill the cup ¾ full with crushed ice and stir with a bar spoon. Add a small dome of crushed ice, and pour the rum over the top. Garnish with a mint sprig and a dusting of powdered sugar.

Antebellem Julep

This drink is so refreshing that it might be my summer go-to when the temperature spikes above 100. It’ll always make me think of Spanish moss, long languorous afternoons that stretch into warm, humid nights, and genteel southerners with secrets for miles. As you watch Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, concern yourself less with whether or not Kevin Spacey is guilty, and more with the eccentric group of people that populate Savannah. In this instance, the truth is definitely stranger than fiction. 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!

The Holiday

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Columbia Pictures 2006

Columbia Pictures 2006

Welcome to Cinema Sips: Holiday Version! During each week of December, I’ll be featuring a holiday-themed movie and festive accompanying cocktail. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, this should be an enjoyable time because there are some truly great holiday movies out there, and who doesn’t like an excuse to eat and drink more than usual? For my first choice, I went with a no-brainer: The Holiday. I think this is a great film to ease into the Christmas spirit because it’s not overtly about Christmas. It does take place during the end of December, but there aren’t any of mentions of Santa and his elves. Rather, this movie gets me excited for the main reason I enjoy Christmas- VACATION TIME!

The Holiday is really two movies in one. It follows Kate Winslet’s lovesick character Iris and Cameron Diaz’s jaded character Amanda as they trade houses with one another for the Christmas holidays. Iris journeys to Amanda’s gorgeous mansion in Los Angeles, and Amanda travels to Iris’ charming cottage in Surrey, England. I should have prefaced all of this by pointing out that this is a Nancy Meyers film, which means that the interior design of each of these homes is to-die-for (seriously, I want whoever designs these sets to come over and do my house). Iris and Amanda each find romance on their vacations with Jack Black and Jude Law, respectively, and they learn how to be happy again in their lives. It’s a truly enjoyable film, and really the only weak link in the bunch is Cameron Diaz. I would fast-forward through her scenes, if not for Jude Law (aka Mr. Napkin-Head), his adorable British children, and the gorgeous shots of Iris’ cottage that I want to go live in right now. For me, the heart of the movie rests with Kate Winslet, her hilarious and charming relationship with Jack Black, and the scroo-di-li-doo next door Arthur (played by Eli Wallach). When screenwriter Arthur tells her, “You, I can tell, are a leading lady, but for some reason you are behaving like the best friend,” it is so profound, and I want to scream at the television- Yes! Now get Cameron Diaz out of there and re-make this movie as Iris’ Holiday!

For my cocktail pairing, I’m using kind of an unusual ingredient I found in my local grocery store- Candy Cane Sparkling Water. I don’t know if I’ve missed this in years past or if it’s a new thing, but I thought why not try it out. As it happens, it’s AMAZING! For watching The Holiday, I recommend making a Peppermint Vodka Tonic.

Peppermint Vodka Tonic

2oz Candy Cane Sparkling Water (you can use club soda and peppermint extract if your store doesn’t have it)

1oz Vodka

Candy Cane for garnish

Pour liquid ingredients into a highball glass over ice. Garnish with the candy cane, and enjoy!

peppermint-vodka-tonic

I like to drink a cocktail while I watch The Holiday and start getting excited for a two week break from work, and the inevitable traveling that goes with that. I’m lucky to have found my one true love already (and yes he does bear a striking resemblance looks and personality-wise to Jack Black’s character in this movie) so I get to focus on the fun stuff- reading books, eating junk food, watching movies, and laughing with friends. Even if you don’t have a long break from work or a trip planned, watch this movie, have a cocktail, and for 2 hours pretend that you do. Cheers!