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That Thing You Do!

Image Credit: That Thing You Do!, 1996

Anyone who knows me (or really anyone who’s ever read this blog) knows I have a thing for the 1960s. But where did this obsession come from? I blame the following: endless Nick at Night marathons in the ’90s, and this week’s movie, That Thing You Do! (Disc/Download).

Having been raised on the Pittsburgh oldies station in my dad’s car, I knew this era’s music inside and out. So when Tom Hanks “the director” burst onto the scene with his ode to ’60s pop, I was instantly hooked. Add to that Liv Tyler’s cigarette pants and high ponytails, Tom Everett Scott’s electronics shop wonderland (THOSE VINTAGE RADIOS!!!), and all those references to forgotten stars like Gina Lollobrigida and Suzanne Pleshette, and I was officially a goner. I’d found my pop culture home, and the mid-1960s was it. I wanted to live in this world where the One-ders could rise to superstardom on the strength of one hit song, and not flashy boy-band dance moves. This world where rock bands got to pretend-perform in movies as Capt. Geech and the Shrimp Shack Shooters. This world where jazz and rock & roll was still somewhat interconnected, and a talented musician like Guy Patterson could perform in front of screaming teenage girls one minute, and studio icons the next. Maybe, at the end of it all, I just wanted to imagine a world where I could leave Pennsylvania and follow my dreams—wearing those cigarette pants, of course.

It’s still incredibly odd to me that Tom Hanks hasn’t found more projects like this to direct, because clearly the guy’s got skills. He made a perfect gem of a movie that captures a specific moment in time, pulling together exceptionally talented people to realize his vision. Let’s celebrate this maestro of ’60s nostalgia with one of my favorite cocktails, the classic Tom Collins.

Tom Collins

2 oz Gin

1 oz lemon juice

½ oz simple syrup

Club Soda

Lemon garnish

Combine gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a shaker with ice.  Shake until chilled, then strain into a Collins glass with fresh ice. Top with Club Soda, and stir gently to combine. Garnish with lemon.

I did a thing I pretty much never do, which was to watch an unedited version of this movie one lazy Friday night. I know a lot of people enjoy Special Features and Extended Cuts, but to me, theatrical cuts exist for a reason. In most cases, it’s the best version everyone could agree on. But I got curious, wondering what was tossed from my perfect film, and WOW it was a lot. For example, poor Charlize took the biggest hit, and now that strange Spartacus line finally makes more sense. Sort of. Also- Tom Hanks’ manager character was actually gay?? That’s actually something I wish they’d left in. Aside for some great dresses that ended up on the cutting room floor, most of the edits were necessary. Would I watch the extended version again? Probably not—it was extremely long and slow-moving. But as a lesson in how all the parts have to come together in just the right way to tell the best story possible, it was invaluable. Like the difference between the Oneders vs. The Wonders, simple is usually better. Cheers!

Stealing Beauty

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stealing beauty

Image credit: Stealing Beauty, 1996.

The votes are in, and it’s official: Stealing Beauty (Disc/Download) is the sexiest movie ever made.  Nobody is more shocked than I, that Bernardo “Pass the Butter” Bertolucci managed to make a film that speaks to the angst of being a woman rather than just a base exploitation of the female body.  As a director, he carries us on a journey of personal and sexual awakening, and believe me—it’s a trip you want to take.

Stealing Beauty features Liv Tyler as Lucy, a nineteen-year-old American vacationing at a Tuscan villa owned by family friends. She’s come to Italy to find her birth father and lose her virginity, though not necessarily in that order.  A testament to the folly of youth, Lucy thinks she wants her first time to be with predatory playboy Niccoló Donati, never realizing that his shy friend Osvaldo is the real catch.  Everyone staying at the villa seems to have an opinion on her love life, making Lucy alternately blush and/or run off into the scrub brush with no shoes.  Repeatedly. When the loss of her virginity finally happens, we’re so keyed up as viewers that it honestly does feel like a release.  The movie is alive with desire and wanting, placing us right there with her in the rolling, sun-warmed hills of Tuscany.

Because most of the villa’s inhabitants are English, and we all know how the Brits love their gin & tonics, I’ll be enjoying something that combines the flavors of Italy and England.  While watching Stealing Beauty, I recommend drinking this Tuscan G&T.

Tuscan G&T

2 ½ oz London dry gin

3 oz Italian dry red wine

½ oz simple syrup

Tonic Water

Orange and lime wheels for garnish

Combine gin, wine, and simple syrup in a shaker with ice.  Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass filled with ice.  Top with tonic water, and garnish with orange and lime.

tuscan g&t

Despite its visual and thematic sensuality, Stealing Beauty isn’t just about sex; it’s about poetry and art and death and above all, life. It’s about being shaken up, to see if you really know yourself inside and out.  And of course, it’s about finding joy, whether it’s tits out in a sculpture garden, or diving for sunken treasure in the pool. Cheers!

Empire Records

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Rex Manning

Image Credit: Empire Records, 1995

Every year, April 8th rolls around and I kick myself for not having come up with a celebratory cocktail. What is April 8th, you ask? None other than REX MANNING DAY!!!!! I’m posting this a few days in advance to give you time to dust off your Gin Blossoms CDs and prepare yourself for a sugary cocktail. Maybe take the day off work, banish yourself to the couch. Or just the cushion.

Growing up in the 90’s, Empire Records (DVD/Download) was the movie of my people. You know the types- the weird kids from your art class who watched John Waters films and listened to bands nobody’s ever heard of? They may or may not have worn pleated skirts, combat boots, and/or vintage t-shirts. They probably didn’t have a body like Liv Tyler, but then again, nobody did. This little gem of a movie about one day at a suburban record store quickly became my compass for everything cool. Vintage furniture, quarters glued to the floor, funky buttons with weird slogans- I was obsessed. Featuring a who’s who of future stars like Renee Zellweger, Liv Tyler, Robin Tunney, and Ethan Embry, Empire Records was like an alt-rock version of Dazed and Confused, with the added bonus of fading pop star Rex Manning and his ooo-la-la. In a word- superb.

Renee Zellweger got a lot of press for singing in the musical Chicago, but clearly people forgot her triumphant rooftop performance in this film seven years earlier. Sugar plays a big part in fueling the teen drama, so my cocktail this week is on the sweet side. Plus, I’m still in the throes of leftover Easter candy.  While watching Empire Records, I recommend drinking a SugarHigh.


2 oz Svedka Strawberry-Lemonade vodka

3/4 oz lemon juice

3/4 oz simple syrup

3/4 oz pineapple juice

2 oz Prosecco

Lemon sugar

To prepare glass, wet the rim then dip in lemon sugar.  In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine vodka, lemon juice, pineapple juice, and simple syrup.  Shake vigorously, then strain into prepared glass.  Top with Prosecco.

sugar high

Even now, any time I get stressed out with work/blogging/writing/managing a household, I still remind myself of that famous Corey line from this film, “There are 24 usable hours in every day.” Granted, she was chowing down speed to keep up with her calculus homework and cupcake baking, but still, it’s true. And like Corey, sometimes you just have to let go of all that control and give in to having fun. With that, I shall say no more, mon amor. Cheers!