RSS Feed

Tag Archives: Kevin Spacey

The Ref

Image credit: The Ref, 1994

Never has there been a more requested holiday film in the history of Cinema Sips than this week’s pick, The Ref (Disc/Download). After finally watching it, I understand why. In a year when we’ve all essentially been held hostage inside our homes, it makes sense that people would want to watch a Christmas film about a couple held hostage inside their home. This is exactly the type of dark yuletide comedy we need right now.

In a lot of ways, The Ref reminds me of a stage play. Most of the action takes place in one setting, the dialogue is quick and clever, and the choreography within the larger group scenes is perfectly executed. Denis Leary plays a cat burglar on the run after a botched jewelry heist (for those of you who’ve seen To Catch a Thief, picture the complete opposite of Cary Grant), but before he can set sail for the Caribbean, he’s got to hide out in the home of a bickering Connecticut couple on the brink of divorce. It was a little jarring to see Kevin Spacey in…well…anything, but as Lloyd, the eye-rolling, sarcastic husband of Judy Davis’s snobby, perpetually unhappy Caroline, he really pulls me into this scene of marital discord. There are a lot of side plots that seemingly go nowhere, but overall I appreciate the way this film uses Christmas to highlight the absurdity of wealthy suburban America. These people are heinous on a normal day, but throw Christmas into the mix and you’re one ugly pair of L.L. Bean slippers away from total meltdown.

Something I can personally relate to in The Ref is the bourgeois tendency to “try something new” for your holiday meal. I’m thinking in particular of the time I thought it would be fun to make Spanish Tapas for Easter. In The Ref, Caroline’s absurd theme is Scandinavian Christmas, resulting in a smorgasbord of unpronounceable dishes. Let’s celebrate her good intentions with this traditional Swedish Glögg. If you want to get very authentic, you can throw in some Aquavit. But if you’re like me and don’t want to be stuck with a bottle of Aquavit for the next twelve months, bourbon will do just fine.*

Swedish Glögg

1 bottle Red Wine

1 ½ cups Bourbon

½ cup brown sugar

Zest of 1 orange

2 tablespoons raisins

1 tablespoon cardamom pods

2 tablespoons fresh ginger, sliced

1 Cinnamon stock

8 Cloves

Garnish: Blanched, slivered almonds, raisins, or dried cranberries

Combine all ingredients except the garnish in a pot on the stove. Heat, and let simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, and let it steep for an hour. Finely strain to remove the spices, and reheat to warm. Put a few almonds and raisins in the bottom of each serving glass, and pour in glögg.*

This might seem like a lot of prep for a drink, but really, what else are you doing this year? And if you’re trapped at home with a spouse you’ve come to detest, maybe you need a whole pot of this stuff to get through the holiday. So Merry Christmas, and let’s hope that by next year we’ll all be on a boat to Jamaica. Cheers!

*Note: If you’re pressed for time, and/or incredibly lazy about making things on the stove, you can always warm up some Trader Joe’s Winter Wassail Punch and throw in some red wine and bourbon. Still festive, still delicious, and extremely easy.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Posted on

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

This week, I’m surrounded by gardens, southern society, cocktails, and guns in the Southern classic 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 paramour. 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. I love that the character was played by the real life Chablis Deveau because really, who else could possibly do this part justice? And I also 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.”

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.” This beverage definitely feels medicinal, with its refreshing combination of rum, cognac, and LOTS of ice. When watching Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, I recommend drinking this Savannah 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 cocktail 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 Jim Williams is guilty, and more with the eccentric group of people that populate Savannah. In this instance, the truth is definitely stranger than fiction. Cheers!

 

L.A. Confidential

Posted on

la-confidential-1997-russell-crowe-kim-basinger-pic-1

Image Credit Warner Bros. 1997, L.A. Confidential

 

Gangsters and high-class hookers. 1950’s movie stars. Glamorous fashions. Russell Crowe when he was young and thin. That’s right, I’m talking about L.A. Confidential (DVD/Download). This 1997 film based on a James Ellroy novel and directed by Curtis Hanson is one of my all-time favorites, and an absolutely perfect movie to pair with a cocktail. L.A. Confidential deserves and needs your undivided attention, so put down the iphones and laptops, and make your drink before you press Play because the plot has more twists and turns than a street in the Hollywood Hills.

L.A. Confidential centers on three cops in the LAPD who find their cases intersecting in one riveting vice/homicide mash-up. Guy Pearce plays bookish detective Edmund Exley, Russell Crowe plays the heavy-handed goon/good guy Bud White, and Kevin Spacey is the fun-loving Jack Vincennes who stumbles onto a vice case that was more than he bargained for. I love the way the script weaves back and forth between their cases, until eventually they are knotted together. Kim Basinger turns in a great performance as Lynn Bracken, the hooker dolled up to look like Veronica Lake. I love movies that reference classic cinema, and it’s a lot of fun to see actresses/models cut to look like Lake, Ginger Rogers, and Rita Hayworth. Of course one of the best scenes comes at the hands of Vincennes and Exley interrogating Lana Turner and Johnny Stompanato. I laugh every time because it’s one of the rare comedic moments in this pulpy noir film (outside of any scene with Danny DeVito of course).

For my cocktail this week, I’m serving up a drink that would have been fashionable around the time this movie takes place. It was popularized by Raymond Chandler, another noir writer, though I’m making it a little differently than he would have. In The Long Goodbye, he called for simply “half gin and half Rose’s lime juice,” but I like to add a little simple syrup to my gimlet. After all, Bud White is a sweetie at heart!

White Gimlet

2 oz gin

½ oz Lime Juice

½ oz simple syrup

Lime wedge for garnish

Mix gin, lime juice, and simple syrup together in a cocktail shaker over ice. Strain into a cocktail glass, and garnish with lime.

White Gimlet

 

Enjoy this drink and pretend you’re Lynn Bracken entertaining either Russell Crowe or Guy Pearce in her glamorous Art Deco bungalow, or perhaps you’d rather be sipping it at the Brown Derby. This film makes me so nostalgic for the glamour of Tinseltown, because even when they’re crawling around looking for dead bodies or roughing up a gangster at an abandoned motel, these cops still call each other by their full names and wear hats. Things were so civilized back then! So enjoy L.A.Confidential as you sip your gimlet, and try not to get so drunk that you end up whispering Rollo Tomasi in your husband’s ear for the millionth time while he tries not to become annoyed with you (not that I’m speaking from experience, *wink*). Cheers!