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To Die For

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To Die For

Image credit: To Die For, 1995.

This story is the type of salacious true-crime stuff I live for. Local weather girl hires her sixteen-year-old lover to kill her husband so she can pursue a career in television? It’s a dark, twisted soap opera, and I am HERE FOR IT. To Die For (Disc/Download) is a great example of a ‘90s indie film with a pedigreed cast, many of whom would go on to win multiple Oscars and accolades in the coming decades. But let’s be clear—it’s still a soap opera.

To Die For came back on my radar after the recent death of screenwriter Buck Henry. He wrote one of my all-time favorite scripts, The Graduate, but this later film is equally brilliant. It was a mockumentary before every TV sitcom adopted the format, and through these faux interviews we see a Hard Copy-style tale of a power-hungry woman who would stop at nothing to achieve her dreams. Is it weird that I feel a strong kinship with Nicole Kidman’s Suzanne Stone? I too am a fan of the alliterated name, and I’ve chosen a career that’s next to impossible to break into. I haven’t gone to the lengths of prostituting myself, but anyone who’s ever done a Twitter Pitch event for writers knows it’s not all that different. You feel pretty cheap and debased by the end. I wouldn’t murder for my art, but I would rock a Donna Karan knock-off suit and French twist at my next writer’s conference.

The thing that really sells me on this movie is the torrid affair Nicole Kidman has with the much younger Joaquin Phoenix. And we’re talking yooooooung Joaquin, with a mullet and sad little stutter. It’s an icky relationship for sure, but I can’t help but feel for this horny kid who just wants attention from a beautiful woman. And Nicole is stuck in a lame marriage to Matt Dillon—need I say more? While watching To Die For, I recommend drinking this Forbidden Fruit cocktail:

Forbidden Fruit

1 ½ oz Frankly® Apple/Ginger vodka

½ oz Hofland Meesterbitter liqueur

½ oz Lemon Juice

4 oz Ginger Beer

Apple garnish

Combine vodka, liqueur, and lemon juice in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into an ice-filled glass. Top with ginger beer, and stir gently to combine. Garnish with an apple slice.

Forbidden Fruit

Finally, I’d like to give props to adorable Pomeranian Walter (after Walter Cronkite), who is the unsung hero of To Die For. I genuinely feel his distaste for his mom’s actions, but also his narcissistic need to look cute in his little outfits. Out of anyone in this film, Walter is the only character deserving of a happy ending. Cheers!

Singles

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Image credit:  Singles, 1992

Image credit: Singles, 1992

Talk about a 90’s time capsule. Watching Singles (DVD/Download) is like curling up in a flannel shirt, putting on a Pearl Jam CD and sipping a tall Costa-Rican blend coffee from Starbucks. You can literally feel the grunge rock pulsating from the screen. Singles set the stage for other, perhaps better, movies and TV shows about a group of friends in their 20’s talking about relationships (ie. Reality Bites and Friends), but this film has something nothing else does. That’s right, I’m talking about young Eddie Vedder.

Singles follows the lives of several young attractive people all living in the same apartment complex in Seattle. They talk about dating, breast implants, calling vs. not calling, exes, music, etc. Basically, Melrose Place with an actually decent script. And, Matt Dillon has…. maybe the worst movie wardrobe I’ve ever seen.

I’m extremely tempted to make a Matt Dillon to go with this movie*, but I’m not that mean (though it would be pretty grunge). No, this week I’m paying tribute to that great Seattle export, coffee. Specifically, coffee shops where you can sit and talk for hours, or work on your laptop, and act like you’re doing something meaningful with your life. Seattle-born Starbucks has given rise to a whole slew of coffee-related beverages that, let’s face it, have very little to do with coffee. Pumpkin-caramel-soy-latte anyone? This week, while watching Singles, I recommend drinking a Caramel Macchiato Martini.

Caramel Macchiato Martini

1.5 oz Patron XO Café

1 oz butterscotch schnapps

1 oz white crème de cacao

2 oz half and half

Cinnamon Sugar

Rim a martini glass with cinnamon sugar and set aside. Mix Patron XO, schnapps, crème de cacao, and half & half in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into prepared glass. Put on some Soundgarden and contemplate wearing that pork pie hat in the back of your closet.

Caramel macchiato martini

What excites me to no end is the fact that director Cameron Crowe used young grunge newbies Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell as musicians/actors in the movie. I’ve always had a bit of a crush on both of them, and my GOD Eddie Vedder looks so young. Also, kudos for the jokes about video dating – I love that this was once a thing, and I love that we can now watch these gems whenever we want: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bomkgXeDkE . Thanks YouTube! And Cheers!

*for those not in the know, a Matt Dillon is the drink that bartenders offer you when you’re out of money. They take a well-used spill mat, fold it, and pour the contents into a shot glass. Bottoms up.

The Outsiders

Image credit: The Outsiders, 1983

Image credit: The Outsiders, 1983

I was shocked to learn recently that The Outsiders is STILL being taught in middle school classrooms. With the intense boom of YA literature over the last decade, I would have thought that S.E. Hinton’s classic tale of greasers and soc’s had since been edged out by John Green or Stephen Chbosky- but no. Apparently Ponyboy lives on. Part of what made reading The Outsiders so great back in middle school was the inevitable arrival of the clunky TV cart hauled in on a rainy day, long after we’d finished our discussion of what the heck Robert Frost meant with that poem. The lights would dim, as 25 seventh graders focused their attention on Francis Ford Coppola’s iconic film adaptation of the novel. Even now, the opening notes of the theme song conjure up sensory memories of dry air, mildewed backpacks, and the smell of sharpened pencils. Ah youth.

The Outsiders (DVD/Download) is actually a fairly accurate adaptation of the book.  We still get the same retro S.E. Hinton dialogue, the same wacky character names, and the same great lines like “Do it for Johnny!” and “Stay Gold, Ponyboy”. The casting is pretty perfect, featuring a who’s who of 80’s stars like C Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Tom Cruise (pre-dental work), Rob Lowe, Diane Lane, Leif Garrett, Emilio Estevez, Ralph Macchio, and the late great Patrick Swayze (rocking his signature too tight black t-shirt). Let me say, as a 14 year old girl watching this for the first time, I finally understood where all the cute boys were. Certainly, not at my school.

How fortunate we all are that Hinton gave her characters such unusual names. Cherry, Sodapop- I can do a lot with those beverage-wise. If you’re watching this with an actual middle schooler, you can just serve up an ice cold Cherry Coke. But if you’re of legal drinking age, desperate to enhance your teenage memories, I recommend drinking a Spiked Cherry Soda.

Spiked Cherry Soda

1 tablespoon maraschino cherry juice

1.5 oz white rum

8 oz Cherry Coca-Cola

1 maraschino cherry

Build drink over ice in a tumbler. Top with maraschino cherries.  Bonus points for a gold rimmed glass!

spiked cherry coke

After enough cocktails, you may find yourself giggling hysterically at Matt Damon’s big crescendo, “DO IT FOR JOHNNY!” Or maybe weeping when Ponyboy leaves his copy of Gone With the Wind for a bandaged and burnt Ralph Macchio. Robert Frost says nothing gold can stay, but the fact that we’re still reading this book and enjoying the movie so many years later is proof otherwise. Cheers!