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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 hooker 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!

The Prestige

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the prestige

Image credit: The Prestige, 2006

The upcoming David Bowie tribute concert at Carnegie Hall has me waxing nostalgic about the Starman’s long and eclectic career. While he’s more often associated with the fantasy classic Labyrinth, for me one of his best roles was Nikola Tesla in this week’s film The Prestige (DVD/Download). With this character, Bowie manages to blend science, magic, and faith in a commanding performance that makes us wonder- Edison who?

Tesla is actually a minor part in this fantastic Christopher Nolan film about turn of the century illusionists. Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman play rival magicians who go to extreme lengths to outdo one another with their Disappearing Man acts. Christian Bale’s character Alfred seems to possess a true magic, while Hugh Jackman’s character Angier follows a path of science, eventually leading him to Tesla’s lab in Colorado Springs. This film demands repeat viewings in order to fully understand all the plot twists and turns. Truly, the script itself is a work of magic, making us feel like we’re participating in a grand act of illusion.

One of the more popular magic tricks of the Victorian era was the Bullet Catch (the magician appears to catch a bullet out of thin air). As with any magic trick, it’s quite interesting once you understand the science behind it, and Angier uses it for devious purposes. While watching The Prestige, I recommend drinking a Bulleit Catch.

Bulleit Catch

1.5 oz Bulleit™ Bourbon

Dash of bitters

1 teaspoon sugar

Splash of water

1 lemon slice

1 orange twist

1 maraschino cherry

In a rocks glass, muddle sugar and bitters. Add the bourbon, splash of water and a large ice cube. Twist the lemon slice over the glass, then drop in the orange twist and maraschino cherry.

bulleit catch

Like the art of illusion, mixology is heavily based on science. I love knowing that I can add seemingly random ingredients together and somehow, due to flavor profiles and molecular structures and all the things I stopped paying attention to halfway through chemistry class, the drink just works. Is it magic? No. Is there even such a thing as magic? After watching this film, I still don’t have the answer. But I’m inclined to say yes. Cheers!