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The World of Henry Orient

The World of Henry Orient

Image credit: The World of Henry Orient, 1964.

YA literature of the 1950’s and ‘60’s knew what girls wanted. I think of it as the three F’s:  Friendship, Freedom, and Fun. Some of my favorite authors of the time period, including Jane Trahey (The Trouble With Angels), Mary Rogers (Freaky Friday), and Beverly Cleary (Ramona books) covered the three F’s so well that their books and movie adaptations will always be timeless.  Such is the case with this week’s film, based on the novel by Nora Johnson, The World of Henry Orient (Disc/Download).

In many ways, this movie displays a fairy-tale version of Manhattan.  Two teenage girls roam freely through Central Park, leaping over sidewalk trash cans, having grand and glorious adventures under the shadow of skyscrapers and brownstones without fear of being raped, murdered, or mugged. Marian and Viv are like charming characters from a Wes Anderson film (down to the fur coat worn by disaffected Viv); more concerned with meeting heartthrob pianist Henry Orient (played by Peter Sellers) than they are with their parents’ divorces.  In fact, it’s only when Viv’s adulterous mother (played by a sexxxxxxy Angela Lansbury) has an affair with Orient that the adult world starts to seep into their halcyon afternoons.  They’re suddenly forced to grow up, to realize that the people who are supposed to protect them aren’t doing such a good job of it.  Maybe all a girl can really count on is her BFF. And, a cuddly Tom Bosley.

The Peter Sellers character Henry Orient is a strange bird.  He spends most of his time having affairs and playing piano very, very badly. His name gives rise to some Asian-influenced style choices by the girls, including one scene with conical hats, and his apartment is very red and very lacquered.  He also sounds like he hails from either Italy or New Jersey, depending on the scene and the sentence.  Truly, a man of mystery.  While watching The World of Henry Orient, I suggest drinking this Red Lotus cocktail

Red Lotus

1.5 oz Vodka

1.5 oz Hana Lychee Sake

1.5 oz Cranberry juice

1.5 oz Lime Juice

.5 oz Grenadine

Combine ingredients in a shaker filled with ice, shake until chilled, then strain into a martini glass. 

Red Lotus

There’s something about these vintage teen girl stories which resonates even stronger with me than the YA literature we know today. In discovering The World of Henry Orient as an adult, I’ve found a tale that feels like a cool wind whipping through the leaves of Central Park. It allows me to imagine an innocent place where precocious girls giggle, whisper, and “adventure” long after the sun has set, experiencing the heady rush of true freedom. Cheers!

Dick

Dick

Image credit: Dick, 1999.

Recent current events have turned my attention back to films about the Nixon presidency, and while I could certainly watch All the President’s Men, or Oliver Stone’s Nixon, it’s a hell of a lot more fun to watch Dick (Disc/Download).  A satire of Richard Nixon’s fall from grace, this under-appreciated gem is suddenly, gloriously relevant again.  Oh, Checkers the dog- how I’ve missed you!!

Starring Kirsten Dunst and Michelle Williams as average teenage girls who inadvertently become embroiled in the Watergate scandal, Dick is a whip-smart comedy masquerading as an SNL sketch. Sure there are dick jokes aplenty, but there’s also a clever revisionist history that imagines Deep Throat as two Bobby Sherman-obsessed, shrieking blondes.  Then there’s Dan Hedaya as Nixon, BY FAR my favorite cinema Nixon.  He’s got the voice, the swagger, the angry little boy tantrums—does this sound like anyone else we know?  It’s a joy to see all the celebrity cameos (Harry Shearer as G. Gordon Liddy, Dave Foley as Haldeman, Will Ferrell as Bob Woodward, Bruce McCulloch as Carl Bernstein, etc.) but my favorite cast member is Teri Garr as Michelle Williams’ mom.  She. Is. Fabulous.  She’s got a chic apartment in The Watergate, she enjoys cocktails and making out with Ted McGinley, and isn’t afraid of wallpaper.  Honestly by the time we get to a doughy teenage Ryan Reynolds, I’m somewhat fatigued by the star power in this strange little film.  And that’s saying a lot because who doesn’t love Ryan Reynolds?

Adding to the ‘70s verisimilitude is Dunst’s stoner brother, who hides his stash in the family walnut jar.  The girls unknowingly make marijuana-laced Hello Dolly bars for the president, landing themselves a sweet dog-walking gig AND peace with the Soviet Union.  I’ve come up with a Hello Dolly-inspired cocktail that’ll make this already-terrific film even funnier.  Up to you if you want to add some CBD oil to make it more authentic!

Hello Dolly

3 oz coconut milk

2 oz Godiva chocolate liqueur

1 oz Brandy

Crushed graham crackers

Walnut bitters

½  cup ice

Wet the rim of a glass and dip in crushed graham crackers.  Set aside.  Combine coconut milk, chocolate liqueur, brandy, and ice in a blender. Blend until smooth, then pour into prepared glass.  Top with a few dashes of walnut bitters.

I don’t know what the future holds in terms of our current political situation, but it’s fascinating to look back several decades and realize the script was largely the same then as it is today.  Crooked, narcissistic politician does something extremely shady, gets caught, then engages in a massive spin campaign to discredit the Washington Post and shift the blame away from himself.  The Carly Simon song at the end of this film says it all perfectly- you’re so vain. Cheers!

Zodiac

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Zodiac

Image credit: Zodiac, 2007.

I’ve already discussed my love of true crime on Cinema Sips, but in case you missed it, I have a thing for serial killers.  Especially serial killers of the 1960s-70s.  While I’m still awaiting that big-budget Richard Speck biopic (somebody PLEEEEAAAASE make this movie), I have to tide myself over with David Fincher’s Zodiac (Disc/Download).

After watching Fincher’s recent television project Mindhunter, it’s very clear that Zodiac should have been a mini-series. I personally split it up into two nights of viewing, because let’s face it, two hours and thirty-seven straight minutes of police procedurals can be a bit fatiguing.  But even with this lengthy run-time, it still felt like crucial details were missing. With crimes taking place over several years, the film often skips ahead, which is great for the case, but not so great for character development.  Jake Gyllenhaal is married after one bad date?  Robert Downey Jr.  went from ace reporter to alcoholic houseboat dweller?  When did all this happen?  But where the film truly shines is in the actual murder depictions, and in the questioning of potential suspects.  Fincher amps up the tension like a pro, making you wonder what sort of sick turn he’ll take next.  Will the couple make it out of this picnic alive?  Will Ione Skye and her baby escape from the car?  Is Jake Gyllenhaal about to be murdered in the basement of a San Francisco cinephile?  Is the weapon of choice an old Buster Keaton reel??  I CAN’T LOOK AWAY.

I’m a sucker for good production design, and it’s clear that this film was painstakingly researched. When Jake Gyllenhaal and Robert Downey Jr. settle into a leather booth in a dim San Francisco joint, you can almost smell the cigarettes and aftershave.  Gyllenhaal’s character orders an Aqua Velva cocktail, so let’s stay movie-appropriate and follow his lead.

Aqua Velva

1 oz Vodka

1 oz Gin

½ oz Blue Curacao

Sprite

Lemon Slice, Maraschino Cherry for garnish

Combine vodka, gin, and blue curacao in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a rocks-filled glass.  Top with Sprite, and garnish with a lemon slice, maraschino cherry, and drink umbrella.

Aqua Velva

While this film certainly has its flaws, it’s still a thrilling step back in time to a frightening period of American history.  The term serial killer hadn’t even been invented yet, but nevertheless, they were out there.  Taunting us. Watching us. Waiting for their lives to be immortalized on celluloid…

Monster

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Monster

Image credit: Monster, 2003

It’s Halloween this week, and perhaps you were expecting a monster movie—the kind with Boris Karloff in heavy makeup, maybe some weird lighting and a spooky soundtrack.  But I’ve got something even scarier for you: Charlize Theron, sans eyebrows, in a film about a woman on the edge.  Monster (Disc/Download) isn’t for the faint of heart, but if you can handle the intense drama, it offers a rare glimpse into the fear and violence of life on the streets.

Newscasters love to talk about how rare the female serial killer is, like a strange unicorn in a world of Dahmer’s and Gacy’s.  But similar to some of these higher-profile men, Aileen Wuornos has been abused most of her life, driven to a kind of madness that makes her actions almost inevitable. Her first killing is in self-defense, but the rest are portrayed by Theron as a sort of PTSD.  Like the collective trauma of being a woman in a world dominated by depraved men is simply too much to handle.  In contrast to all the other films of prostitute-as-“Party Girl/Model/Call Girl”, with their impeccable grooming and charming romantic subplots, Monster takes a hard look at the reality of prostitution.   Maybe she was always a cold-blooded killer, maybe she became one out of necessity. But when Aileen snaps, she SNAPS. Honestly, I wish she’d snapped a little more and killed her annoying, lazy girlfriend (played by Christina Ricci), but that’s a complaint for another day.

Before the blood spatter, the film showcases the tender romance between Aileen and Selby, two women both looking for a little comfort in a cold, hard world.  All they want is some beer, maybe a little whiskey, and a warm place to sleep that’s free of judgement.  While you’re watching Monster, pretend it’s ladies night at the local dive bar and cozy up with this Blood Orange Shandy.

Blood Orange Shandy

6 oz Budweiser beer

2 oz Ginger beer

1 oz Pomegranate juice

1 oz Blood Orange juice

Orange Twist

Combine ingredients in a chilled glass.  Stir gently to combine, and garnish with an orange twist.

Blood Orange Shandy

The thing that makes Monster so scary is that this story could conceivably happen to anyone.  Maybe I have some devastating medical expenses, my husband dies, parents are gone, I lose my house, my job, my skin cream, and I’m on the streets.  What would I do to survive?  It’s this thought sending shivers up my spine because the simple answer is: I don’t know (cue spooky music).  Cheers!

Irma la Douce

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Irma la Douce

Image credit: Irma la Douce, 1963

If you love the colorful costumes and sets of classic Hollywood musicals, but can’t abide characters spontaneously bursting into song, then Irma la Douce (Disc/Download) is your movie.  Starring Jack Lemmon as a police officer-turned-pimp and Shirley MacLaine as his prostitute love, this sixties gem is a Billy Wilder film on steroids.  Big visuals, big acting, big run-time—it’s a massive commitment.  But once you give into the world of the Hotel Casanova, you’re in for a real cinematic treat.

When we first see Irma, slouching against a doorway with that little dog under her arm, you instantly know—this is a woman who has seen it all, and just doesn’t give a sh*t anymore.  She views her profession for what it is (a job), and would never allow herself to be swept away by a sappy romance. Even when she “falls” for down-on-his-luck Nestor Patou, it’s with an eye-roll and a shrug.  I see glimpses of this character in Maggie Gyllenhaal’s fabulous work on HBO’s The Deuce, and at times Irma seems almost feminist in her attitudes.  She may have a boyfriend, but that doesn’t mean she’s ready to stop working.  And thus, her boyfriend has to come up with an asinine scheme, pretending to be an English lord, wearing a silly disguise, working multiple jobs so he can afford to pay  for her time, all so she doesn’t sleep with other men.  This relationship seems doomed from the start, but with a sparkling script by Wilder and winning performances by Apartment co-stars Lemmon and MacLaine, somehow it just works.

Included within the elaborate sets built for this film is a charming bar Chez Moustache, where the pimps come for their union meetings and working gals pop in for a pastis between clients.  You could certainly join them in a straight shot of this herbal spirit diluted with a little water, but I prefer mine in a cocktail.  While watching Irma la Douce, I recommend drinking this Cocktail X.

Cocktail X

1 ½ oz Calvados apple brandy

1 oz Cointreau

½ oz Pastis

1 ½  oz Pineapple Juice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice.  Shake until chilled, then strain into a chilled coupe glass.

Cocktail X

Yes, this film is long. Yes, it’s absurd.  But it’s fun to see the intersection of classic MGM musical and 1960s visual style.  There’s teased hair, plastic heart sunglasses, and movie streets too beautiful to be real, but there is also a heartfelt message about the changing social attitudes within the time period Irma la Douce was made.  As wise Moustache says of the business of sex work, “Love is illegal – but not hate. That you can do anywhere, anytime, to anybody. But if you want a little warmth, a little tenderness, a shoulder to cry on, a smile to cuddle up with, you have to hide in dark corners, like a criminal.”  Leave it to a bartender to speak the truth. Cheers!

BUtterfield 8

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Liz Taylor Butterfield 8

Image credit: BUtterfield 8, 1960.

The 1960s were an interesting time for the subject of sex workers in cinema.  The words ‘party girl’, ‘call girl’, and sometimes even ‘model wink-wink’, got thrown around, leaving modern audiences to decipher what was really going on when Holly Golightly received $50 for the powder room, or when Liz Taylor had that mysterious answering service in this week’s film BUtterfield 8 (Disc/Download).  Was there a grey area when it came to sex work vs. relationships?  According to the tragically wild Gloria Wandrous, the answer is yes.

Earning Elizabeth Taylor her first academy award, BUtterfield 8 is the story of a promiscuous Manhattan “party girl” who falls in love with a feckless married man. The story opens with Gloria waking in his apartment to find $250 on the nightstand, but instead of taking the money, she scrawls “no sale” on his mirror in pink lipstick, steals his wife’s mink coat, and walks out with a bottle of scotch.  I love her instantly.  Taylor brings such depth to the role, forcing the audience to empathize with this woman who seems strong and confident on the outside, but inside is struggling with the trauma of childhood sexual abuse and the fear that she’ll never be loved.  She has some chaste scenes with  real life husband-of-the-moment Eddie Fisher, but ultimately can’t move on from rich lover Weston (played by Ewan McGregor look-a-like Laurence Harvey). There are moments where you think maybe, just maybe, this will turn into a Pretty Woman situation, where he’ll rescue Gloria and she’ll rescue him right back, but fair warning:  BUtterfield 8 is no fairy tale.

There’s a lot of booze in this movie, but one of my favorite lines is when Elizabeth Taylor claims she was “soaked through with gin.”  Been there, doll.  While watching BUtterfield 8, pour yourself this gin-based Honey Trap cocktail.

Honey Trap

2 oz Gin

1 oz Lime Juice

¾ oz Honey syrup (3tbsp honey + 1 tbsp water)

Lime twist

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine honey and water. Once it’s just barely boiling, remove from heat and let cool.  In a shaker with ice, combine gin, lime juice, and honey syrup.  Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a twist of lime.

In a weird way, this film feels almost Hitchcockian.  Like Gloria is a mystery we’re trying to unravel within this world of dim lighting, stylish sets, and lush orchestral scores.  Is she a prostitute, or just a girl who got her heart broken one too many times?  And does it even matter?  You be the judge.  Cheers!

Pretty Woman

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Pretty Woman

Image Credit: Pretty Woman, 1990.

Let’s be clear on one thing- Pretty Woman (Disc/Download) is a FAIRY TALE.  Lest we forget, the characters in this film shout it from balconies, fire escapes, and pool patios.  I fully understand that sex workers cannot expect shopping sprees on Rodeo Drive, private jets to the opera, or men who look like Richard Gere.  But knowing this still doesn’t stop me from squealing with glee when Julia Roberts steps into the lobby of the RegeBevWilsh looking like a million bucks.  Sue me- I’m into fairy tales.

In this classic rom-com, lonely businessman Edward (Richard Gere) picks up plucky sex worker Vivian (Julia Roberts) on a rough stretch of Hollywood Blvd.  He needs someone to drive his Lotus, but can’t resist those long legs and winning smile.  They strike a business arrangement, $3,000 for one week together, but things get messy when feelings develop.   For me, the romance is secondary to the joy I feel watching Vivian transform from an insecure girl in cheap clothing to a woman in a tasteful blazer who finally believes in herself.  Romy and Michele said it best:  “I just get really happy when they finally let her shop.”

No offense to the Regent Beverly Wilshire, which I’m sure is a lovely establishment, but daaaaaamn those hotel sets leave a lot to be desired.  The fussy draperies, the magenta bedroom with steps leading up to the bed- yikes. Edward needs alcohol to charm Vivian, because the “plush digs” sure aren’t doing it.  He orders up some champagne and strawberries, which, depending on the quality of the champagne, would totally work on me.   While watching Pretty Woman, I recommend drinking a Sparkling Strawberry Limoncello cocktail.

Sparkling Strawberry Limoncello

1 1/2 oz Frankly Strawberry Vodka

1/2 oz Limoncello

1/2 oz Simple Syrup

1 oz Lemon Juice

3 oz Champagne

Fresh Strawberry for garnish

Combine Vodka, Limoncello, Simple Syrup, and Lemon juice in a shaker with ice.  Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe.  Top with champagne, and garnish with a strawberry slice.

Sure, there are some problematic moments in Pretty Woman (I’m actually slightly amazed Jason Alexander had any kind of career in comedy after this movie), but something I love about it is the idea that a woman is more than what she does for a living.  Whether she’s a sex worker or a department store clerk, she has hidden depths that might include a deep love of opera, a talent for understanding human needs and emotions, or a knack for driving race cars. You just never know until you take the time to find out.  Cheers!