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A Room With a View

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Image credit: A Room With a View, 1985

Spring has sprung, my orchid is blooming, and you know what that means—it’s time to watch a gorgeous movie about travel. I get the itch to watch beautiful people gallivant through Europe around the same time every year, and while this normally takes the form of yet another Talented Mr. Ripley viewing, this week I decided to abandon Mongibello to venture up the coast and inland to Firenze. A Room With a View (Disc/Download) is a Merchant Ivory masterpiece that will have you longing for sun-soaked days staring at the Duomo and passionate kisses among the flowers.

Like Helena Bonham Carter as Lucy Honeychurch, I was nineteen the summer I lived in Florence, Italy. I still remember laying on my lumpy twin bed in a tiny, rented flat, reading E.M. Forster’s classic novel, swatting mosquitos and waiting for my George to appear. My view was not of the Arno, but of terracotta rooftops and other peoples’ laundry. Still, at the time it felt romantic.  The thing I loved about the book then, and still love about the movie now, is how it portrays the emotions of frustration, desire, and indecision. Lucy wants to rebel against the life prescribed for her, but she doesn’t have the faintest idea how to do that, or what she wants as an alternative. Then somebody comes along to shake things up, providing the catalyst for the fire inside her. I love angsty stories about women in their late-teens/early-twenties because it’s such a fraught but important time. This is when the big decisions get made, when the forks in the road appear. I love the direction this story eventually takes because although Lucy does choose one of her suitors, she chooses herself first. Isn’t that how every great love story should begin?

If you’re looking for a cinema vacation, this film provides a perfect one. From crowded Florentine squares, to the rolling hills of Fiesole, to the bucolic villages of England, this whole movie is a sun-dappled work of art. However, my favorite scenes are the ones set in Florence, which is why I’m pouring a refreshing spritz cocktail, perfect for sipping on a balcony of the Pensione Bertolini. While watching A Room With a View, I recommend drinking this Elderflower Spritz.

Elderflower Spritz

½ oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur

Fresh Mint

4 oz Prosecco

2 oz Club Soda

Muddle mint with St. Germain in the bottom of a glass. Let it sit for a few minutes, then add ice. Top with Prosecco and club soda, stirring gently to combine.

Speaking of elder, Maggie Smith does a terrific job in this as Lucy’s spinster-cousin and chaperone Charlotte, and I adore Judi Dench as the saucy romance novelist they meet in Italy. A Room With a View is a movie world to get lost in, and that feels pretty good right now. Summer, and all its adventures, will be here before we know it. Cheers!

California Suite

California Suite

Image credit: California Suite, 1978.

Well, I don’t know what to say about the Oscars this year except they’ve really mucked it up, haven’t they? From the host debacle, to the televised category back-and-forth, to the lack of female nominees, it’s enough to make even the most die-hard film fan skip the ceremony altogether. Me, I love a good train wreck.  But if you REALLY must skip,  I suggest watching California Suite (DVD/Download) instead. In this delightful gem of a film, Maggie Smith perfectly sums up the Academy Awards in one sentence: “I’ve been getting ready for this horseshit affair for THREE HOURS!!!!” I feel ya, Mags. All they have left are the dresses.

Adapted from a Neil Simon play, California Suite follows four couples who are all staying at the Beverly Hills Hotel. In these vignettes, we get to enjoy the following highlights: Maggie Smith, shit-faced after losing the Academy Award, arguing with her semi-closeted gay husband played by Michael Caine. Walter Matthau, waking up next to a sex worker he has to hide from his wife. Jane Fonda and Alan Arkin, bickering over custody of their daughter. Richard Pryor and Bill Cosby, playing tennis, wrestling, and showing us why it’s a bad idea to travel with friends. Shot on location at the Beverly Hills Hotel, this film is a vintage textile lover’s dream. That banana leaf wallpaper— SWOOOOON! I know I’ll never be Maggie Smith, and I know I’ll never be up for an Academy Award, but I can sure as hell get drunk in the hall and fondle that wallpaper. One might even say it’s on my bucket list.

While Maggie prepares to lose the Oscar, her fabulous husband is busy pouring the gin. As he says, “three gins, one tonic”. Sounds like the perfect ratio. You could make one strong drink, or you could join me during the red carpet coverage in trying ALL THE GINS, and a little bit of tonic. Cheers!

Gins and Tonic

We love to hate on this year’s Academy Awards broadcast, but California Suite proves that people have been hating on this damn dog-and-pony show since the 1970’s.  Probably even before.  Whether you watch this movie to mock the absurdity along with Maggie Smith (who incidentally, did win an Oscar for her role in this), or watch it for the wonderful slice-of-life script, just watch it. Preferably with three gins of course ;-). Cheers!