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Jules and Jim

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Jules and Jim

Image credit: Jules and Jim, 1962.

Leave it to the French to shock me. Here I was, thinking of polyamory as a concept not fully embraced until the swingin’ ‘70s, but as Jules and Jim (Disc/Download) would suggest, throuples have been around long before Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice; long before that “groundbreaking” episode of House Hunters. Apparently, Paris was a hotbed of free love, even before the Great War.

Directed by Francois Truffaut, Jules and Jim is really about Jules and Jim and Catherine—the free-spirited girl at the center of this complicated love triangle. When we meet them, Jules and Jim are carefree writers who share good times and the occasional woman. But Catherine is something different. Jules stakes a claim early on, even though we can see there’s a strong attraction from Jim as well. She flirts, Jim pines, then Jules marries her and everyone goes off to war. Jules fights on the Austrian side, Jim for the French, and both are afraid of inadvertently killing their best friend on the battlefield. Coming home, Jules settles into an unhappy marriage with Catherine, though both realize something is missing. Eventually, Jim steps in to help right the balance. Despite turbulent times ahead, for a short while in the Black Forest, this throuple is undeniably, unexpectedly happy.

Watching this gorgeous movie at home makes me wish I were instead watching it on the big screen at one of my favorite cinemas, the Austin Film Society* . They have a special gin & tonic on their lobby menu that pairs perfectly with this angsty French love story. While watching Jules and Jim, I recommend drinking the AFS Gin & Tonic.

AFS Gin & Tonic

2 oz Dry Gin

¼ oz Lillet Rose

½ oz Lime Juice

4 oz Elderflower Tonic (I use Fever Tree)

Lime Wheel/Juniper berries for garnish

Combine Gin, Lillet, and lime juice in a shaker filled with ice. Stir to combine and chill, then strain into a glass filled with ice. Top with Elderflower tonic, garnish with lime wheel and juniper berries.

Lillet Gin & Tonic

As with most French New Wave films, lead actress Jeanne Moreau is sexy, cool, funny, and real. Jules and Jim are somewhat forgettable, but Catherine is a woman ahead of her time. This film was made in the 1960s, takes place in 1914-1920s, but feels completely relevant to the 2020s. Let’s touch toes and toast to this unconventional, enduring masterpiece. Cheers!

*If you’re a supporter of indie film, please consider donating to the Austin Film Society so we can all enjoy films and cocktails after the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us.

Doctor Zhivago

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Doctor Zhivago

Image: Doctor Zhivago, 1965 (Also: The Great Coronavirus Quarantine 2020)

Unlike Doctor Zhivago’s runtime, the following post will be brief. I had enormously high hopes for this film (Disc/Download), thinking it would be hot men in the snow, meets three-and-a-half hours of Julie Christie looking sad and gorgeous. I took advantage of the orchestral overture to mix a cocktail and settled in to be transported to glamorous Moscow. Expecting snow-covered romance and emotional angst, imagine my shock upon realizing I’d committed to watching an extremely tedious episode of Little Kremlin on the Prairie.

I won’t bore you with all the reasons why this movie failed me. As any writer of romance can affirm, we’re told to show, not tell. Well, I was told that Omar Sharif and Julie Christie were hopelessly in love with each other; I just wasn’t shown it. Every time even a whisper of passion came across the screen, the film made an abrupt cut. I couldn’t understand why poet/physician Zhivago would wander through the barren frozen wasteland of Russia in search of his former nurse (and patient?) Lara, when they’d shared only about 20 minutes of screen time thus far. Was it just that she was so beautiful? I’m honestly still confused.

The one bright spot in my three-and-a-half hour trip to Cinema Siberia was the cocktail pairing I chose. As previously mentioned, grand epics are tailor-made for drinkers because the lengthy overture and intermission give you plenty of time for mixing. While watching Doctor Zhivago, replicate the feeling of walking through snow and ice to kiss a girl you kinda, sorta once knew with this Russian Frostbite cocktail.

Russian Frostbite

1½ oz Vodka

¾ oz Brandy

1 oz Coffee Liqueur

1 oz Cold Brew Coffee

1 oz Rumchata

1 ½ oz Half-and-Half

Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice, and shake until mixed and chilled. Strain into a glass filled with fresh ice.

Frostbite

It’s not a coincidence that this cocktail has coffee in it; you’ll need it to stay awake. While I loved the visuals of an ice-covered onion dome, Julie Christie’s shiny coif, and Omar Sharif’s forearms (!!!), Doctor Zhivago ultimately didn’t move me. It didn’t even nudge me. In the future, if I ever find myself in the mood for impossible love in the middle of a communist revolution, I’ll stick with the book. Cheers!

 

 

 

 

Little Miss Sunshine

Little Miss Sunshine

Image Credit: Little Miss Sunshine, 2006.

When Little Miss Sunshine (Disc/Download) came out almost fifteen years ago, I related most to Olive- the little girl who would always be different and hadn’t yet realized this was a good thing. But now, I find myself identifying with Olive’s grandpa (Alan Arkin) and his end-of-life wisdom. He’s seen a lot, he’s lived to tell the tales, and he’s tired of the bullshit. Or, maybe he’s just plain tired.

Little Miss Sunshine is a multi-generational comedy about a family road trip and the tensions erupting along their journey. Young Olive makes it into the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant, so her weary mom, desperate dad, silent brother, depressed uncle, and heroin-addict grandpa pile into the VW bus. The vehicle itself becomes a character, breaking down along the way, forcing the family to work together to push-start it, mocking them with its broken horn. This is a comedy, but it’s equally balanced by tragedy. Death, suicide, and failure stand right alongside the hilarity of child beauty queens, with their capped teeth and miniature stripper outfits. There are sequins and hospitals, ice cream and Proust. And at the center of it all, a charming super-freak.

This sunshine-colored bus hides a lot of bitterness inside, so I think it’s appropriate to make a cocktail that’s both sweet and sour. While watching Little Miss Sunshine, I recommend drinking this Sunbeam.

Sunbeam

1 ½ oz Irish Whiskey

¾ oz Dry Vermouth

½ oz Lemon Juice

¾ oz Grapefruit Juice

¾ oz Simple Syrup

2 oz Club Soda

Grapefruit Bitters

White grapefruit or lemon twist

Combine first five ingredients in a shaker over ice. Shake until chilled, then pour into a Collins glass filled with ice. Top with club soda and a few dashes of grapefruit bitters. Stir gently, and garnish with a twist of lemon or white grapefruit.

Sunbeam

Maybe, like me, you’ve spent time believing you’re a loser. Watching other people who just seem to fit, be it with their career, or looks, or friendships, and feeling like you’d always be on the outside looking in.  But as grandpa says, “Losers are people who are so afraid of not winning, they don’t even try.” Rest assured, this super-freak is still trying like hell, with help from a talented supporting cast of friends and family. Cheers!

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!