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The Sixth Sense

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Image Credit: The Sixth Sense, 1999

Cinema Sips has gone back in time to cover 1967, 1976, 1985, and now <drumroll please> I’m ready to party like it’s 1999! In my opinion, I’ve saved the best for last on my mini journey through late-20th century cinema. Maybe this is my favorite movie year because I was sixteen and impressionable at the time, or maybe it’s because the movies were SO DAMN GOOD. I’ve already covered many of my favorites (The Talented Mr. Ripley, Notting Hill, 10 Things I Hate About You, etc), but now I’m turning my attention to a few other films that made a hell of a lot of money, started a lot of conversations, and represented what audiences were most looking for at the time. Kicking things off is M. Night Shyamalan’s thriller, The Sixth Sense (Disc/Download).

I saw this movie with my dad during its initial theatrical release, and I remember him being decidedly pissed off by the ending. It was a bait-and-switch, overturning everything we thought we were watching for the last two hours. I believe his direct quote was, “Those JERKS!” But it was this very ending that made people keep talking about the movie, giving it box office staying power beyond any other psychological thriller at the time. Similar to Hitchcock’s Psycho, this movie about a young boy who sees ghosts lives and dies by its final ten minutes, and if anyone spoiled the twist before you had a chance to see it, I hope only bad things have happened to them over the ensuing twenty-three years. I’m not going to go into it here in case you’re very young or have been living under a rock, but what I will say is that Bruce Willis gives a career-highlight performance as the child psychologist tasked with helping a scared little boy (an adorable Haley Joel Osment), and Toni Collette has somehow aged backwards in the last several decades?? This goes to show that a dark lip color and heavy eye makeup did us no favors in the late ‘90s.

The thing about the ghosts in this movie is that they don’t actually know they’re dead. Similar to its charming rom-com counterpoint Ghost Town, spirits between worlds come to Haley Joel Osment in crisis, and he has to fix their problems in order to set them free. I know what you’re thinking—how do they not know they’re dead? Well, this is conveniently explained away as “they only see what they want to see.” I guess one of the things they turned a blind eye to was their obituary, but I’m not making the same mistake. While watching The Sixth Sense, I recommend drinking a classic Obituary cocktail.

Obituary

2 oz Gin

¼ oz Dry Vermouth

¼ oz Absinthe

Lemon twist

Pour ingredients into a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir until well combined, the strain into a chilled martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

I previously featured this cocktail as a pairing for Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but it’s just as lethal now as it was then. You need something strong and spirit-forward for this movie (see what I did there??) because you don’t want to end up like my dad, angry and bitter that M. Night Shyamalan pulled a fast one. Instead, you want to ease into this psychological mind-bender on a cloud of absinthe fumes, ready to be spooked and surprised. Cheers!

Switched for Christmas

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Image credit: Switched for Christmas, 2017

Whether you consider it a Christmas miracle or pandering gimmick, you can’t deny Hallmark set the bar high with a film featuring not just one, but TWO Candace Cameron Bures. Back when she was D.J. on Full House, crimping her hair and developing a one-day eating disorder before Kimmy’s pool party, this actress made me feel seen.  And now that she’s starring in all these Christmas movies, making cookies and wearing cute outfits, I feel seen all over again. I love planning parties, hanging with my nieces, and petting my rescue dog, so naturally I had to check out this week’s Cinema Sips pick, Switched for Christmas (Disc/Download).

I went into this expecting a standard brain-swap plot a la Freaky Friday, but was pleasantly surprised to find that no, it was just twin sisters who enjoy deceiving their friends and family. One sister likes fancy, fussy parties, while the other likes homey, sentimental parties. Each thinks the other has it easier, so they decide to switch places for the Christmas season. Because it wouldn’t be a Hallmark movie without a bland romance, the twins each find love interests, and there’s a confusing bit of name explaining at the end. I admit, I had difficulty keeping the characters straight, especially when both Candaces started dressing well and wearing their hair long and loose. Would a ponytail or side bun have been so hard??

One of the main plots involves Schlubby Candace planning a Christmas party for Fancy Candace’s real estate development firm. She enlists the help of a hunky architect (who is WAY too excited about Christmas parties), and together they make an intricate gingerbread village. Let’s enjoy a little taste of the Hallmark holidays with this Gingerbread White Russian. 

Gingerbread White Russian

2 oz Whole milk

2 oz Vanilla Vodka

2 oz Kahlua

1 1/2 tsp. Molasses

1/8 tsp Ground Ginger

Cinnamon

Sugar

Gingerbread Man Garnish

Mix the cinnamon and sugar together, and pour onto a plate. Wet the rim of a glass and dip in cinnamon/sugar. Fill with ice, and set aside.  Combine milk, vodka, Kahlua, molasses, and ginger in a shaker with ice.  Shake until chilled, then strain into prepared glass.  Top with gingerbread man.

Ultimately, I liked this extended Balsam Hill ornament commercial a whole heck of a lot.  It wasn’t too sweet or sentimental, Candace looked great (as always), and we got the added casting bonus of a Center Stage alum. I call that a win, win, win.  Cheers!

Beauty and the Beast

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Image credit: Beauty and the Beast, 2017

Ask any female bookworm who grew up in the ’90s what her favorite Disney movie was, and you’d probably get the same answer- Beauty and the Beast (Disc/Download). Smart, shy girl doesn’t fit in with the people in her small town, longs for the type of adventure she’s only read about in stories, but feels resigned to a quiet life with her dad and his gadgets. Then, a gruff hero comes into her life and woos her with a library and fancy soup. To say that I idolized this character in 1991 would be an understatement. I had Belle dolls, Belle posters, Belle Halloween costumes, and even a prized Belle Trapper Keeper gracing my desk. I also had a Beast doll you could pull the head off of to make him magically transform into a human (which, looking back on it, was a little creepy). In short, I was A FAN. I was skeptical that a live action version of this tale could ever work, but I should have known Disney would make all my adult Belle dreams come true too.

I remember the first time I saw this adaptation in the theater a few years ago. Emma Watson opened her mouth to sing “Little town, it’s a quiet village….” and reader, I got goosebumps. These songs were so ingrained in my memory that I could recall every word and note with perfect precision. It was like a trip back to childhood, where movies seemed completely wondrous, and characters lived in your head in a way they simply don’t when you’re an adult. I loved A Star Is Born, but let’s just say I don’t have Jackson or Ally dolls in my bedroom. But hey, if Disney wants to make a Dan Stevens “Beast” doll, or even a Luke Evans “Gaston” doll with that show-stopping baritone voice recorded on a pull string, they’ve still got a buyer in me.

Taking place in a small French village, and featuring a magic rose that slowly drops its petals, this movie deserves the kind of cocktail you could enjoy sipping for hours in a gigantic library by the light of a talking candelabra. While watching Beauty and the Beast, I recommend drinking a Rosewater Gimlet.

Rosewater Gimlet

2 oz Gin

1 oz Lime Juice

¾ oz Simple Syrup

½ oz St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur

3 drops Rosewater

Rose Petal garnish

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass containing an ice ball. Garnish with a rose petal.

Although there are some new tunes added to this version, the standout song is still “Tale as Old as Time”, sung here by Emma Thompson instead of Angela Lansbury. Really, this is the perfect anthem, for what’s more classic than an enemies-to-lovers story featuring a plucky girl and a gruff hero with a heart of gold? Thirty years later and it’s still bringing me as much joy as it did when I was eight. Cheers!

Me Without You

Image Credit: Me Without You, 2001

I love a film that feels like a really great book, especially when it falls under my favorite “women’s fiction” umbrella (and yes, I still HATE that publishing term). Me Without You (Disc/Download) is exactly this type of movie, full of complex characters, pitch perfect style, and the realistic portrayal of a toxic female friendship. Written and directed by Sandra Goldbacher, this one will have you itching for a cozy night in bed with your books and fingerless gloves while the world outside feels like a cocaine-fueled underground party in the ’80s. (And yes, you can probably already tell which of the two women pictured above I most relate to. Although, to be fair, Anna Friel’s leopard coat IS fabulous.)

Holly and Marina (Michelle Williams and Anna Friel) are childhood friends, growing up next door to one another in an English suburb. Holly’s the shy one, Marina the bold one, and their codependent relationship carries them through thirty years of bad boyfriends, wild fashion fads, and family drama. At first we feel sorry for Marina, coming from a house where mom (Trudie Styler) likes to drink gin & tonics in her shag-covered sunken living room while dad is out cheating with anything that moves, but her constant betrayals of Holly become almost too much to bear. Sabotaging any chance her friend has for happiness, over and over again, we start to see how manipulative and needy this girl really is. Honestly, if I were Marina, I’d have been done with this relationship the second my “friend” fashioned an unflattering dress out of a garbage bag on their way to hang out with The Clash, but that’s just me.

Shot in Surrey and along the coast of the Isle of Man, this movie is extremely British. Therefore it calls for one of my favorite British exports, Sloe Gin. A simple drink gussied up with a little edible glitter, I can almost imagine Marine and Holly mixing this on their endless afternoons when they’re so bored. Frankly, until they’ve experienced a pandemic lockdown, these girls don’t know “bored”. While watching Me Without You, I recommend drinking a Sloe Gin Mule.

Sloe Gin Mule

2 oz Sloe Gin

3/4 oz Lime Juice

6 oz Ginger Beer

Pinch of edible glitter

Lime Slice

Build drink over ice, stirring gently to combine. Top with lime slice, and a pinch of edible glitter.

With a fantastic soundtrack, gorgeous costumes, and stellar production design, this movie completely immerses the viewer in the decades of the late 20th century. It may not have been based on a novel, the likes of which Holly would love to write, but Me Without You still feels perfectly literary to me. Cheers!

Staying Alive

Image credit: Staying Alive, 1983

Two great things came out of the year 1983—me, and this week’s Cinema Sips pick, Staying Alive (Disc/Download). I know what you’re thinking: isn’t this the movie where John Travolta does hip thrusts next to Jamie Lee Curtis? The answer is no, that’s a weird little flick called Perfect. Which, I admit, is what I thought I would be watching when I put on Staying Alive. Nevertheless, my accident turned into a happy one when I realized I might be the only person on the planet who thinks this is a decent sequel to Saturday Night Fever. Allow me to make my case.

First, I think we’re far enough away from that Bee Gee’s disco fever dream to admit that while SNF had some gritty, hard-hitting moments, it was still John Travolta in a tight white leisure suit strutting his hips on a light-up floor. It’s cheesy as hell. So when Sylvester Stallone directed him to shake those hips again in a Broadway chorus line, why was that suddenly too cheesy? Any fan of Showgirls will be wowed by Tony Manero’s big Broadway debut in “Satan’s Alley”, and yacht rock fans will delight in the soundtrack, featuring the vocal talents of Cynthia Rhodes of Dirty Dancing fame. Honestly, I want to believe that Penny left the trauma of her back-alley abortion behind in the Catskills and reemerged twenty years later as a successful Broadway dancer. This all seems totally plausible to me.

Back when I covered Saturday Night Fever, I paired it with a Brooklyn cocktail, a lower borough version of the Manhattan. But now that Tony’s moved downtown, it’s time to class things up with this brandy version. While watching Staying Alive, I recommend drinking a Metropolitan cocktail.

Metropolitan

2 oz Brandy

1 oz Sweet Vermouth

½ tsp. Simple Syrup

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine all ingredients. Shake well, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon, if desired.

Maybe I have an overly generous view of Staying Alive because I’ve been where Tony is (hell, at the time of writing this, I am Tony). I’ve crossed some hurdles in the road toward publication, but I still have a few more to go. Like Tony, I’m hustling, trying to make sure my dream stays alive. It can be a hard thing to accept the fact that not everyone can be “one of those people” who encounter success incredibly early in their lives. To feel like you’re not good enough, never going to be good enough, because it didn’t happen fast for you. Tony and I really have to work for it, but man—do we have potential. Cheers!

Driving Miss Daisy

Image Credit: Driving Miss Daisy, 1989

The question I’m asked most frequently when I tell people about this blog is, “Do you come up with the movie first, or the drink?” Nine times out of ten, it’s the movie. But in rare cases, such as this week, I stumble upon a cocktail I want to make and find a movie to fit. The cocktail in question is a Whiskey Daisy, and unfortunately, I’ve already covered The Great Gatsby, Harold & Maude, and You’ve Got Mail. That leaves me with either Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, Inside Daisy Clover, or the Jessica Tandy/Morgan Freeman classic Driving Miss Daisy (Disc/Download). As much as I love Doris and Natalie, I decided to go with the pick that gets talked about most frequently, for better or worse.

I’ll be honest, despite dozens of Miss Daisy jokes made while my husband drives me around in the classic car I recently inherited, I’d never actually seen this movie. A heartwarming friendship between a black chauffeur and the surly, clueless white woman he drives around? Pass- I’ve already watched Green Book, and didn’t feel like I needed its role-reversed ancestor. However, despite some problematic content that simply comes with the territory of a story set in a less-enlightened time period, I found myself solidly charmed upon my initial watch. Jessica Tandy is a delight, especially when paired with Morgan Freeman and perennial friend-to-vodka-lovers Dan Aykroyd. What could have been a one note allegory about racism in America actually ended up being a really touching illustration of the aging process and loss of independence. As the wrinkles get more pronounced, the glasses thicker, and the memories more jumbled, all the social constructs seem to strip away, leaving these two people with the realization that they were always more than the labels society thrust upon them. They were friends.

Now, back to that cocktail. I like the sound of this drink because it seems easy to make and uses ingredients I already have. Driving Miss Daisy isn’t really a booze-heavy movie, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it one. Just remember- no drinking and driving!

Whiskey Daisy

2 oz Bourbon Whiskey

1 oz Lemon Juice

¼ oz Simple Syrup

½ oz Cointreau

Club Soda

Add bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup, and Cointreau to a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Top with a splash of club soda.

I’m not about to dive into the controversy of “did this movie deserve all the Oscars it received” because that’s an argument with no winners. But I will say, this is a film that knows how to take an audience along for the ride, whether or not it was a trip you felt like making. I’m glad I finally watched Driving Miss Daisy, and I’m even more glad to add this cocktail to my repertoire. Cheers!

Cleopatra

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Image Credit: Cleopatra, 1963

I hope you stocked up on alcohol this week because Cleopatra (Disc/Download) is a real endurance test. It’ll take at least a few refills to carry you through a runtime of over four hours—and this is the short cut! If the director’s cut ever gets released, you’ll need a barge to carry all your liquor home.

Insane length aside, this is actually an incredibly sexy movie. History buffs will enjoy the scenes of Ancient Rome and Egypt, but personally, I’m here for the sizzling chemistry between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. “Liz and Dick” caused quite the scandal when their onscreen love story moved off-screen, but having now sat through hours worth of footage, it appears their romance was almost inevitable. How could Burton possibly resist Taylor in those cleavage-baring costumes? How could she not want to climb his muscular legs like a tree? It was always a question of when, not if. The film’s plot is interesting, if a little meandering, but if you enjoy a cornucopia of wigs, pink shag bedrooms, opulent baths, and the haughty attitude of Elizabeth Taylor in glittery eye shadow, you will not be disappointed.

Speaking of Taylor, this gal likes her gold. From boats to drinkware, Miss Cleo doesn’t skimp on the opulence. Celebrate her majesty with this gold-flecked drink, perfect for a Baccus-themed party. While watching Cleopatra, I recommend drinking a Golden Girl cocktail.

Golden Girl

4 oz Dry White Wine

1 oz Gin

½ oz Honey Rosemary Syrup (1/2 cup honey + 1/2 cup water + 3 sprigs rosemary, simmered then cooled)

½ oz Lemon Juice

2 ½ oz Club Soda

Pinch of edible glitter

Sprig of Rosemary for Garnish

Combine wine, gin, honey syrup, and lemon juice in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a rocks glass filled with ice. Top with club soda, and a pinch of edible glitter. Stir to combine, then garnish with a sprig of rosemary.

I will admit, it took me over two days to get through this movie. I was so alarmed by the sight of Archie Bunker stabbing Ceasar in the back that I needed a break. However, once Antony and Cleopatra began their epic romance, I was officially hooked. This turkey may be all breasts and thighs, but those parts sure are delicious. Cheers!

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape

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Image credit: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, 1993

After returning from a trek across small-town America, I decided it would be fun to see what the area around my adopted city of Austin used to look like before tech companies and tract housing took over large swaths of land. Did it once resemble the rural areas I’d just driven through, covered in corn fields, scrub brush, and the pathetic vestiges of a lost election? Or was it always papered in little boxes made of ticky-tacky? Research told me that if I wanted a peek at the Austin suburbs of yore, I’d have to go back to the 1993 Lasse Hallström feel-good classic, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (Disc/Download).

Shot on location in the Texas hamlets of Manor and Pflugerville (that’s MAY-nor for all you out-of-towners), this quirky gem has the Lone Star state standing in for the fictional small town of Endora, Iowa. Gilbert (Johnny Depp) is the glue holding his dysfunctional family together, but even the strongest epoxy has a melting point. With a dangerously obese mother, mentally-disabled little brother, angry teen sister, and dead-end job at a failing grocery store, he’s one crisis away from a nervous breakdown. Even friends like Crispin Glover and John C. Reilly can’t pull Gilbert out of his funk, nor can the sexy housewife (Mary Steenburgen) who carries a torch for long-haired, high-cheeked delivery boys. No, it takes the sunny presence of Juliette Lewis, and the wide-eyed innocence of a young Leonardo DiCaprio to make him see there’s still a big life ahead of him– he just needs to grab it. Nominated for an Academy Award, DiCaprio’s performance in this film remains a career highlight, as he all but disappears in to the role of Arnie. It’s worth a watch just to see that level of raw talent.

Austin may not be covered in farmland to the North and East anymore, but the grapes sure are thriving in the West. Using some wine I picked up in the Texas Hill Country, I made a drink that perfectly captures some great local flavors. While watching What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, I recommend drinking this Rosé Lavender Lemonade.

Rosé Lavender Lemonade

4oz Dry Rosé Wine (I used William Chris Vineyards Skeleton Key Rosé)

1oz Lavender Simple Syrup

1oz Lemon Juice

2 oz Club Soda

Lemon Slice for Garnish

Combine Rosé, Simple Syrup, and Lemon Juice in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then pour into a glass filled with fresh ice. Top with Club Soda, and stir gently to combine. Garnish with a lemon slice.

This film resonates with me in a lot of ways, but particularly in its handling of grief. There’s been a lot of that in my life recently, and yes there have been times when I’ve felt tempted to just set the house on fire, pack up my car, and go. But there’s another way to move forward, that doesn’t involve arson or abandonment. It’s looking around, taking stock of what’s important, and figuring out how to conscientiously unload the rest. Figuring out, like Gilbert, how to be a good person. Cheers!

Rear Window

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Image credit: Rear Window, 1954

There’s nothing like a hot, humid night to make you want to cool off with an effortlessly chic film and icy cocktail. Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (Disc/Download) may take place during the dog days of summer, but it never fails to chill me to the bone.

With a main character loosely based on real-life celebrity/lifestyle photographer Slim Aarons, this movie seems tailor made to fit my mid-century sensibilities. But throw in a tense murder mystery, voyeurism, and Hitchcockian suspense, and this Edith Head-flavored eye candy becomes a masterpiece. I’ve always loved Jimmy Stewart in a Hitchcock film because it’s an opportunity for cinema’s favorite everyman to dig a little deeper. As we see him lock eyes with a killer across the courtyard, it becomes apparent—this Jimmy has a dark side. One that compels him to watch his neighbors with the lights off, studying their movements, becoming involved in their dramas from afar. He can joke with Thelma Ritter and flirt with his socialite girlfriend, but there’s no denying the slight element of criminality to his behavior. Watching isn’t murder, but it’s still a violation.

Speaking of Thelma Ritter, I’d like to toast this 20th Century Queen of “Telling it Like it Is”. As the nurse who tends to Jimmy’s  L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries and his broken leg, she admonishes his semi-creepy voyeur habits while simultaneously musing about body disposal and blood spatter. Murderinos unite! When the action heats up, cool down with this Peeping Tom Collins.

Peeping Tom Collins

2 oz London Dry Gin

1 oz Lemon Juice

1 oz Ginger Liqueur

1/2 oz Simple Syrup

Club Soda to top

Lemon Wheel for garnish

Build drink over ice, stirring to combine. Garnish with a lemon wheel.

With just a hint of a spicy kick from the ginger liqueur, this drink will make you aware of how hot it is outside, but grateful you have air conditioning (unlike the poor folks in this Greenwich Village apartment complex). And be sure to watch out for a scene in which three people swirl brandy for about ten minutes straight, literally hypnotizing the viewer. If this was Hitch’s brand of misdirection, consider me duped. I have no idea what happened in that scene, other than the fact that Grace Kelly likes to aerate her alcohol and wear chunky charm bracelets. Cheers!

La Piscine

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Image credit: La Piscine, 1969

There’s a film I’ve wanted to feature on this blog for many years, but resisted because it’s never been widely available. In fact, for a long time La Piscine (Disc) was my white whale, missing from every streaming platform and physical media source out there. Eventually, my dad took pity and purchased an expensive Alain Delon box set for me, and I was finally able to watch and fall in love with this gorgeous film. Several years later, thanks to the fine folks at Criterion, it’s officially coming to a Blu-ray player near you. This calls for a toast!

Although I’ve previously covered Luca Guadagnino’s remake A Bigger Splash on Cinema Sips, La Piscine is the quieter, sexier, deadlier version of this psychological thriller. Impossibly chic, it features Alain Delon and Romy Schneider as wealthy vacationers in the south of France who spend their days lounging by the pool, drinking wine, and making out like teenagers. Talk about a dream summer! Things seem idyllic, until Maurice Ronet and model Jane Birkin arrive to throw chaos into the calm. Although the plot mirrors that of A Bigger Splash quite closely, the difference is in the visuals. The 1969 version is like a step back to a world where style reigned supreme, and tension lived in silences instead of shouts. There was never a world so beautiful, or so anxiety-inducing, as that of La Piscine.

Whether you’re watching this film or relaxing next to your own gorgeous pool (hey, I still think my inflatable version is quite attractive), you’ll want a cool beverage to take the edge off. Easy to make and perfect for the hottest days of summer, I recommend pouring a chilled Lillet Spritz.

Lillet Spritz

2 oz Lillet Blanc

3 oz Prosecco

1 oz Club Soda

Strawberry and mint for garnish

Fill a wine glass with ice, and layer in the Lillet, Prosecco, and Club Soda, stirring gently to combine. Drop in a few strawberry slices and sprig of mint for garnish.

Having seen several stunning screenshots from this film cross my feed over the years, I knew the aesthetic of La Piscine would be one that would appeal to me. However, I didn’t fully realize just how much this movie would be like a Slim Aarons photo come to life. It’s a world I want to dive into (pun intended), and now, we all finally can. Don’t forget your bathing suit*, or the wine. Cheers!

COCOSHIP Retro One-Piece suit, $29.99 on Amazon.com

*If you’re in search of your own sexy suit for pool-time this summer, I highly recommend this one! Unbelievably flattering, you’ll be ready to hit the beaches of the Côte d’Azur (or, more realistically, the backyard).