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La La Land

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La La Land

Image credit: La La Land, 2016

There are some things in life that you just never get over. Your first birds-and-bees talk. The cancellation of My So-Called Life after only one season. And new in 2017- the snub heard round the world, La La Land losing the Academy Award for Best Picture. Faye and Warren tried to cover for the Academy’s oversight, to no avail. It was too late. Somebody put Moonlight on that card and dashed the hopes of all the fools who dream. A year and a half later, I’m still not over it. Time to drink.

To say I love La La Land (DVD/Download) would be a gross understatement. This film encompasses everything I adore about classic movie musicals, a period of cinema when actors (not necessarily singers) were cast in these roles, and directors cared about things like mise en scene and appropriate song transitions. In using Los Angeles as a backdrop for the story of two struggling artists falling in love and struggling to make it in Hollywood, La La Land is able to take advantage of classic movie backdrops we all know and love. The Griffith Observatory; the Sunset Strip; a swanky home in the Hollywood Hills- all become touchstones within this saturated ode to moving pictures. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone make me laugh and cry with their performances, but it’s Los Angeles that makes me dream.

As a struggling jazz musician, Ryan Gosling spends a lot of time in windowless underground martini bars. Bonjour, heaven!  I love the cocktail culture that goes hand-in-hand with this music, so this week I’m using a recipe from one of my new favorite books, Booze & Vinyl by André and Tenaya Darlington.  Their cocktail accompaniment for Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, this martini-relative also pairs well with “City of Stars”.  While watching La La Land, I recommend drinking a Martinez.


2 oz Old Tom Gin

1 oz sweet vermouth

1 tsp Maraschino liqueur

2 dashes orange bitters

Lemon twist, for garnish

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice, and stir until combined.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist.


I think La La Land means so much to me because I really see myself in these characters.   Like them, I have dreams that have yet to be realized.  And even when that door seems like it’ll never open, and my fist gets sore from banging on it with all my strength, I still have to smile and say I’d do it all again. Because that’s what dreamers do. Cheers!



Image credit: Shopgirl, 2005

If you’re like me, the end of November is a panic-inducing time where I realize that I have a million people on my Christmas shopping list and NO IDEA what to buy. The rise in online shopping options means that I haven’t been to a mall in years, however I almost wouldn’t mind going if it meant I could run into Claire Danes at the Saks glove department in this week’s film Shopgirl (DVD/Download).

Adapted from the novella by Steve Martin, Shopgirl stars Claire Danes as Mirabelle Buttersfield, a 20-something visual artist caught in a love triangle between clueless hipster Jeremy and emotionally distant millionaire Ray. Steve Martin’s performance as Ray is quiet and nuanced, and refreshingly different from his broader comedic roles.  And as the well-meaning but utterly oblivious suitor Jeremy, Jason Schwartzman brings to mind so many hapless men of his generation.  With less-than-ideal romantic options such as these, it’s no wonder Mirabelle spirals into depression.

I love that one of Jeremy’s steps toward maturing is a newfound appreciation for cocktails. He tries a mojito for the first time, and we see the wheels spinning. Yes- there is more to life than cheap beer. As further ode to this film’s stunning visual depiction of the city of Los Angeles, while watching Shopgirl I recommend drinking an Echo Park Mojito.

Echo Park Mojito

1 oz blood orange juice

1 Tbsp lime juice

1 oz light rum

2 Tbsp simple syrup

Topo Chico sparkling water

5-6 sprigs of mint

Pour blood orange juice, lime juice, and simple syrup into a glass. Add the mint leaves and muddle them. Add rum and crushed ice, then top the rest of the way with Topo Chico. Stir gently.  Garnish with fresh mint.


I can identify with Mirabelle’s plight of having to take a retail job to support her dreams of being an artist, because I too have been a shopgirl in the past. It’s just what you do when you have a creative dream. You stand behind that counter and hope that maybe someday, somebody looks at you and declares, “this one has value”. And in the meantime, there are cocktails.  Cheers!