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The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

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secret life of walter mitty

Image credit: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, 2013

When I started on my journey with Campari, I had no idea where it would take me. But as is so often the case, when you venture into the unknown, great things can happen. Such was my experience watching this week’s film, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (DVD/Download). The classic film fan in me wanted to put this Ben Stiller remake in a large box labeled ‘why???’, but then I sat down and watched it. And loved it.  And wanted to tell everyone I know about it. So here we are.

What The Secret Life of Walter Mitty does so well is incorporate special effects in a way that’s, well, special. Life magazine employee Walter Mitty seems to enjoy a rather mundane existence cataloging negatives, but deep inside his head he’s got the ultimate blockbuster on constant stream. Only within his daydreams do we see buildings blowing up, crazy fight sequences, and luscious Tom Cruise hair. But then slowly, in a way you don’t even notice it’s happening, Walter’s life becomes actually exciting, and magic, and it’s not all a celluloid trick.  It’s real. Ben Stiller does an amazing job both as a director and actor, bringing relatability to this character who has me wondering if maybe I need to take more risks- to see behind walls, to draw closer, to feel.

Taking inspiration from Walter’s mom’s clementine cake, beloved by warlords and Sean Penn alike, this cocktail is the perfect beverage to toast the adventurer’s spirit.  While watching The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, I recommend drinking a Clementine Negroni.

Clementine Negroni

1 clementine, peeled

3 dashes orange bitters

1.5 oz gin

1.5 oz Campari

1.5 oz sweet vermouth

Clementine Twist for Garnish

Place peeled clementine and orange bitters in a shaker and muddle until clementines are broken down and pulpy. Add gin, Campari, vermouth, and ice. Shake vigorously to chill, then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a clementine twist.

In a way, I often feel like Cinema Sips is my secret life.  Hum-drum publishing accountant by day, mixologist and cinephile by night, this blog has always felt like an opportunity to reveal more of myself; to find the ‘special’.  And maybe, when my readers take the time to watch these films, and enjoy a well-mixed beverage, they’ll find it too.  Cheers!

Sunset Boulevard

 

gloria swanson & william holden 1950 - sunset boulevard

Image Credit Paramount Pictures 1950, Sunset Boulevard

Long before Orange is the New Black, there was the original Crazy Eyes- Norma Desmond. As depicted in this week’s Cinema Sips film Sunset Boulevard (DVD/Download), she really was the benchmark against which crazy should be measured. It wasn’t only her eyes; this lady dressed up like Charlie Chaplin, played poker with Buster Keaton, hired silent film director Erich Von Stroheim to be her butler, and held a funeral for her pet monkey. I know Halloween has been over for weeks, but I couldn’t resist one more ghoulish picture. This is a Hollywood horror story for the ages, and absolutely one of the greatest films ever made.

Released in 1959, Sunset Boulevard was written and directed by Billy Wilder. In a deliciously meta twist, it stars former silent movie star Gloria Swanson as former silent movie star Norma Desmond, an actress who was wildly popular during the 1920’s, but could never quite make the leap to talking pictures. This was the unfortunate case with many silent-era stars (ie. Mary Pickford and Clara Bow), and it’s been said that the character of Norma is an amalgam of many real-life actresses from the time. Struggling screenwriter Joe Gillis (played by William Holden) stumbles into her time capsule of a mansion (which bears striking resemblance to Disney World’s Tower of Terror), and because he’s flat broke, he agrees to move in and help her with a terrible screenplay that she thinks will be the start of her career renaissance. Eventually, improbably, they form a romantic relationship, and things pretty much unravel from there.

For my cocktail this week, I’m paying homage to one of the great cinematic funeral scenes. No, I’m not talking about (SPOILER ALERT) Joe Gillis facedown in the pool with a few bullet holes. I’m of course referencing Norma Desmond’s other poor dead companion. Like Michael Jackson, this looney woman has an unhealthy relationship with her pet monkey and upon his death, decides to give him a proper wake in her bedroom. When Joe Gillis stumbles into her mansion in the middle of the afternoon, I’m sure a dead monkey was the last thing he expected to see. Thus this week, my cocktail has to be that old Hemingway favorite, Death in the Afternoon.

Death in the Afternoon

1.5 oz Absinthe

5 oz chilled champagne

Pour absinthe into the bottom of a champagne flute, then slowly pour the champagne over it. The mixture will emulsify, forming a cloudy liquid.

(Note: Be prepared to giggle helplessly for the rest of the night after you drink this. I did.)*

*(Side Note: Is this why Absinthe was illegal in the US for so many years? Too much giggling?)

death-in-the-afternoon

There are so many wonderful, quote-able lines in this film, but I think my favorite has to be “I am big. It’s the pictures that got small.” This really is an unfortunate truth about Hollywood these days. I’m hard-pressed to think of a movie star that is as big as say Mary Pickford once was, and I could name about ten films just in 2014 alone that to me signal the apocalypse of the film industry (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, anyone?). Sure there are still great films being made, but every year it seems like they are fewer and farther between. Particularly when you hold up a blockbuster, or even Oscar contender from today’s era next to this genius script by Wilder, they seem so, so small. So follow my lead and enjoy a truly classic film noir with your Death in the Afternoon, and get ready for that close-up. Cheers!

(For an extra treat, visit the Cinema Sips Facebook page for a great clip of Kristen Wiig as Norma Desmond, posted on Halloween.  I died laughing).