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Isle of Dogs

Isle of Dogs

Image credit: Isle of Dogs, 2018.

Sorry cat-lovers, you’re out of luck. Wes Anderson takes a hard line in this week’s film Isle of Dogs (Download), and it’s one I happen to agree with. Cats are evil, and dogs are wonderful human-like creatures full of empathy, intelligence, and courage. For those who disagree, I hear there’s a nonsensical, star-studded musical coming out this Christmas, just for you….

It’s rare to find an animated film that appeals to adults, but this is Wes Anderson we’re talking about. Isle of Dogs isn’t just a stop-motion animation film. It’s a quirky, delightful journey full of humor, pathos, and heart that’ll make you want to snuggle your four-footed friend extra hard. Because nobody wants to see dogs relegated to Trash Island, where they eat bags of garbage and fight each other for rancid fish. We want a world where every dog is entitled to a memory foam bed and endless puppy snaps. And the thing is, every dog should have the good life, because that’s what they give their humans. Comfort in the dark times, laughter during the good, and an ever-present companion for whatever comes your way. This movie about a boy rescuing his dog from Trash Island shows us what animal-lovers have known all along—it’s usually our pets who rescue us right back.

Because this film takes place in the Japanese archipelago, it’s a great excuse for a sake cocktail. This riff on a Greyhound uses the Japanese rice wine in place of vodka, resulting in a tasty variation. While watching Isle of Dogs, I recommend drinking a Megasaki-Sake.

Megasaki-Sake

2 oz Dry Sake

1 oz Lime Juice

1 oz Ginger simple syrup

2 oz Grapefruit Juice

Lime Twist

Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a lime twist.

As a pet owner myself, I believe that dogs should ALWAYS be named after food. My girl Peaches is a prime example, but let’s not forget Nutmeg and Peppermint in this film. Sometimes I wonder how Peaches would describe her life if she could talk like these cinema hounds do. Probably brag about all the puppy snaps she gets.  And complain that we don’t throw the tennis ball enough.  Cheers!

Breaking Away

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Breaking Away

Image credit: Breaking Away, 1979.

For anybody who thinks Breaking Away (Disc/Download) is only about cycling, let me enlighten you to the real reason we watch this movie— Dennis. Quaid’s. Abs.  All kidding aside, this is a great flick for when you find yourself in the summer doldrums, waiting for something to change, even when it seems like nothing ever will. It’s a movie about feeling like you’re on the precipice of… something.  You just don’t know what yet.

Starring Beck doppelgänger Dennis Christopher as a teen obsessed with Italian cyclists, Breaking Away follows Dave and his three buddies as they figure out how to go from high school to adulthood.  As “townies” in Bloomington, IN, they’re ridiculed by the university jocks and frat boys, their ambitions reduced to pipe dreams that’ll never come true.  But Dave doesn’t care—he goes after the pretty sorority girl, pretends he’s Italian, and trains obsessively to compete in the local bike race.  His friends think he’s a little nuts, his parents think he’s really nuts, but none of that matters.  He’s got a goal, and nothing’s gonna stop him.

When the Italian racers come to Indiana, they’re sponsored by the Cinzano alcohol brand.  How fortuitous for Cinema Sips!  But the thing is, these Cinzano racers are evil.  Threatened by Dave’s natural talent, they sabotage his bike, leaving him broken and bloody on the side of the road.  So I’m boycotting Cinzano, in favor of my other favorite summertime Italian aperitif Aperol.  While watching Breaking Away, I recommend drinking this Cutter Collins.

Cutter Collins

1 ½ oz Gin

1 ½ oz Aperol

¾ oz Lemon Juice

¼ oz Simple Syrup

4 basil leaves, roughly torn

½ oz Prosecco

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice, and shake until well chilled and combined.  Strain into a glass filled with crushed ice, and top with prosecco.  Garnish with a sprig of basil.

Cutter

For anyone who’s ever felt like their dreams are unattainable, this is a good reminder that hard work and dedication can go a long way.  Also, it’s okay to ask for a little help from your friends. Especially if that friend is a glistening, shirtless Dennis Quaid. Cheers!

 

Shag

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Shag

Image credit: Shag, 1989.

If you’re a fan of Dirty Dancing and Where the Boys Are, let me introduce you to their love child- Shag (Disc).  This 80s-made/60s-set gem is the kind of movie I would have watched in my VCR until the tape finally wore out.  It’s the summer fling flick I’ve been waiting my whole life for, and luckily, it found me after I was of legal drinking age.

Set in 1963, Shag follows four female friends who take a road trip to Myrtle Beach.  One is escaping a fiancé she’s just not that into, one is escaping her reputation as the “fat girl”, one is trying to be a Hollywood starlet, and then there’s Luanne- the buzzkill with the rad car.  Think Sex and the City, but at the beach in retro dresses.  Of course they meet boys, of course they drink, and of course they find themselves during this wild weekend.  But what I love even more than the production design, costumes, and cheesy script is witnessing the bonds of female friendship.  These girls are there for each other, through sexist beauty pageants, TP’d houses, and beyond.

Because Luanne lays down the law early that her daddy’s bourbon is strictly off-limits, we’ve gotta make do with tequila.  For a fun, summertime movie like this, you need something sweet, sparkling, and deceptively boozy.  I recommend drinking this Strawberry Shag.

 Strawberry Shag

4 strawberries + 1 for garnish

½ oz agave nectar or simple syrup

1 oz lime juice

2 oz tequila

2 basil leaves

6 oz club soda

Blend strawberries, agave nectar, lime juice, tequila, and basil in a blender, without ice.  Strain, and set aside.  Then, add crushed ice to a glass, and pour in the blended mixture.  Top with club soda, and garnish with a strawberry.

Strawberry Shag

I didn’t know until this movie that “shag” was a kind of dance, and not a particularly sexual one.  Plus, Bubble Flip is a hairstyle, not a drink.  JFK is a sweet potato, which means he’s dreamy; but also, I never realized how much he actually looks like a sweet potato. Thank you Shag, for expanding my sixties slang horizons.  Cheers!

Notting Hill

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Julia Roberts & Hugh GrantNotting Hill

©Universal Studios

Image credit: Notting Hill, 1999

It’s been twenty years since Julia Roberts walked into Hugh Grant’s travel bookshop in Notting Hill (Disc/Download), but to me it feels like yesterday.  Everything seems to be right where I left it—the house with the blue door, the inedible guinea fowl, the “fruitarian”— and it’s all still as endearing as it once was.  Hugh may have lost the stutter and floppy hair IRL, but thankfully, William Thacker is immortal.

In this script written by the master of rom-coms Richard Curtis, average guy Will meets-cute with movie star Anna on the colorful streets of London’s Notting Hill.  He plays it cool while selling books, then gets adorably flummoxed after spilling orange juice on her.  Hugh Grant is the perfect blend of respectful and starstruck, with a dash of charm he just can’t turn off, and Julia Roberts is at her best, making us believe she really is just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.  She makes us understand that to her,  fame doesn’t matter, and if she had it her way, she’d get to hang out at quirky dinner parties with normal folks and act, without having to choose between the two.  Given her gradual real-life retreat from the big screen, I have to think maybe Julia took some lessons from Anna Scott.

My favorite way to spend an afternoon is watching Hugh Grant stutter his way through a love scene. Notting Hill, Four Weddings and a Funeral, and Sense and Sensibility are the trifecta of Grant awkwardness, and in Notting Hill, this results in the famous Apricot & Honey scene. Personally, I don’t need apricots soaked in honey, but I wouldn’t say no to some apricots soaked in brandy! While watching Notting Hill, I recommend drinking this Low Point cocktail.

Low Point

1 1/2 oz Apricot Brandy

3/4 oz Orange Juice

4 dashes Orange Bitters

Apricot Sparkling Water

Champagne

Dried apricot for garnish

Combine Apricot brandy, orange juice, and bitters in a shaker with ice.  Shake until chilled, then top with sparkling water.  Stir gently to combine, then strain into a coupe glass.  Top with champagne, and garnish with a dried apricot.

Low Point

You certainly don’t need a fizzy cocktail to enjoy this film, but it doesn’t hurt.  And if you spill some orange juice on your t-shirt, take a cue from Anna and put your couture on instead.  Notting Hill—I’ve missed you. I promise I won’t stay away so long next time.  Cheers!

Call Me by Your Name

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call me by your name

Image credit: Call Me By Your Name, 2017.

I’ve already featured this week’s film Call Me by Your Name (Disc/Download) on my Top Five list for 2017, but now it’s time for an official cocktail pairing.  And let’s face it- I’ll use any excuse to sink into the eyes of Timothée Chalamet for a couple hours. Join me in remembering what it was like to be young, in love, and very very passionate about fruit.

Based on the gut-wrenchingly beautiful novel by André Aciman, Call Me by Your Name is set in a small Italian village in 1983. Archaeology grad student Oliver (Armie Hammer) travels to a professor’s villa in Italy to help with research for the summer.  There he meets the professor’s teenage son Elio, and the two share flirtatious glances across the breakfast table.  Tension builds and builds, until at long last they become lovers.  Everything about this movie is beautiful, from the romantic script by James Ivory, to the lush scenery of Italy, to the haunting Sufjan Stevens soundtrack, and it feels like a vacation that’s just too perfect to last.  Kind of like the love story of Elio and Oliver.

I’ll admit, the peach scene in this film left me pretty aghast and/or awestruck, but it also inspired me to make a tasty summertime cocktail.  While watching Call Me by Your Name, I recommend drinking a Peach Collins.

Peach Collins

1 ½ oz Deep Eddy Peach Vodka

1 oz lemon juice

½ oz simple syrup

Splash of club soda

Peach slice for garnish

Combine vodka, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a shaker with ice.  Shake until combined and chilled, then strain into a glass filled with ice.  Top with club soda, and stir gently to combine. Garnish with a peach slice.

peach collins

There’s been talk of a sequel to this film, which excites me to no end.  Having read the book, I can say there’s definitely more to Elio and Oliver’s story that’s deserving of screen time.  In the meantime, we can sit in front of the fireplace and sob, wishing things could be different.  Wishing more movies like this got made- movies that show us love, and all its many forms, in beautiful, sun-dappled light.  Cheers!

The Virgin Suicides

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Virgin Suicides

Image Credit: The Virgin Suicides, 1999.

Ninety-nine percent of the time, I watch an adaptation of a work of literary fiction and think, “The book was better.” But The Virgin Suicides (Disc/Download) is one film where this phrase does not apply. Though I loved Jeffrey Eugenides’ novel, Sofia Coppola made me see things within the pages that I missed the first time around. The angst of adolescence, the impulsivity, the dreaminess—I definitely need a cocktail if I’m going to put myself back in the mind of a thirteen-year-old girl.

Starring Kirsten Dunst as the rebel within a family of five beautiful sisters, the film’s narration uses Eugenides’ words as a roadmap, treating us to his gorgeous prose. Set in 1970’s suburban Detroit, we get to know the Lisbon sisters through the eyes of their admirers, a group of hopelessly besotted neighborhood boys. When one of the sisters commits suicide, their overbearing parents (James Woods and Kathleen Turner) place the remaining girls under house arrest, and their only contact with the outside world is through their vinyl collection and a vintage phone. The boys try to rescue them, but that’s the thing about being a teenage girl—nobody can really save you from it.

One of my favorite parts of the film is when the Lisbon sisters attend a homecoming dance. They laugh and drink peach schnapps and make out with inappropriate boys, and it’s such a microcosm of what we expect adolescence to be, but rarely is. For these characters, it was like a dream that couldn’t last. While watching The Virgin Suicides, celebrate the hope of being a teenage girl with a First Blush.

First Blush

1 oz peach schnapps

1 oz grenadine

5 oz champagne

Pour chilled peach schnapps and grenadine into a flute, and top with champagne.

First Blush

What Sofia Coppola does so well as a director is capture a specific time and place with her unique artistic flair. ‘70s suburbia looks like a Formica fantasy filled with patterned wallpaper, female grooming detritus, and records strewn across the floor. It looks like a place where nothing bad could ever happen, until of course, it does. It always does. Cheers!

 

Love Story

Love Story

Image credit: Love Story, 1970

We all know the classic line: Love means never having to say you’re sorry. But really… does it?? I may have only a decade of marriage under my belt, but I would’ve thought that love means defying your family to be with the person you want. Or working a crappy job to support the dreams of someone else. Or maybe love is holding your spouse in a hospital bed while they die from a mysterious illness that only makes them look more beautiful. Really, there’s a lot of love in Love Story (Disc/Download). It’s just not where the script wants it to be.

Oliver (Ryan O’Neal) and Jenny (Ali MacGraw) meet in college, trade barbs, then kisses, and eventually wedding rings. They struggle to make ends meet while he’s in law school, and just as things start looking up financially, Jenny gets sick. From what, we’re never told. All we know is she looks ah-mah-zing during mournful winter scenes in snowy New York, and especially on her death bed. We know from the very first line of this movie that Jenny’s not going to make it, and yet I spend 90 minutes thinking somehow, someone made a mistake. Maybe Ryan O’Neal is talking about a long-lost little sister, not the wisecracking wife who’s way too good for him.

For such a sad, serious movie set in a bitterly cold climate, all I can think about when I watch this film is an earthy, warming cocktail. Aptly named, this Widow’s Kiss will have you thinking about poor Oliver, cradling his wife for the last time. I’m not crying, you’re crying!!!!

Widow’s Kiss

1 ½ oz Calvados apple brandy

¾ oz Yellow Chartreuse

¾ oz Benedictine

2 dashes Angostura bitters

Luxardo Maraschino Cherry for garnish

Combine Calvados, Yellow Chartreuse, Benedictine, and bitters in a shaker filled with ice. Stir until chilled, then strain into a glass. Garnish with a cherry.

Widows Kiss

One of my great disappointments in life is that Ali MacGraw did not make more films. It’s through her performances in Love Story and Goodbye, Columbus that I learned how to dress with confidence, and how to stand up for myself in relationships. In Love Story, she’s brash, she swears, and she doesn’t take sh*t from anybody. But she also looks fabulous doing it, in wool peacoats, tights, and a scarf for every occasion. If clothes are a woman’s armor, she’s ready for anything, even the inevitabilities of love and death. Cheers!