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Tag Archives: movie cocktails

Tim’s Vermeer

timsvermeer

Image credit: Tim’s Vermeer, 2013

Documentary Month continues with a film that forever changed the way I view art history and painting. Produced by magicians Penn & Teller, Tim’s Vermeer (DVD/Download) sets out to prove that Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer could have used a system of mirrors in order to paint photo-realistic masterworks. Simply put, it’s a 90-minute explanation of a magic trick. But even more than that, it’s a fascinating look at how technology and art can work together to create something beautiful.

When the film begins, my immediate impression of Tim is that he’s the insufferable party guest who wants to make sure everyone knows he’s the smartest one in the room. And when this non-artist starts the quest to reproduce Vermeer’s The Music Lesson using a camera obscura technique, he doubles down by trying to make the actual things in the painting before he paints it.  That’s great, but you know Vermeer wasn’t off in a corner grinding glass and sanding down chair legs. Tim seems a little showy. But then, once he gets into the painting, all the nonsense falls away. It’s just him, and the tiny details in the window fretwork, or the way the light is hitting a ceramic jug, and that’s when the real magic happens. He starts to see things the way an artist would, and this idea of ability becomes totally irrelevant.  It’s the vision that matters.

By the time Tim is finished painting every little knot in a woven rug, he’s pretty much had it with this painting. I couldn’t help but think that maybe he needed a cocktail to calm his jangled nerves. Let’s celebrate Dutch ingenuity with this simple Genever cocktail. If you’re like Tim, you’ll make your own Genever. I am not like Tim; the liquor store is my friend. While watching Tim’s Vermeer, I recommend drinking a Dutch Mule.

Dutch Mule

1.5 oz Genever

Ginger Beer

3-4 dashes Angostura Bitters

Slice of Lime

Build drink in a glass over ice, stirring gently to combine. Top with a few dashes of bitters, and garnish with a slice of lime.

Dutch mule

Sure, Vermeer was incredibly talented, and his compositions and colors were astounding. If he used a camera obscura, it doesn’t make me think less of him as a painter. If anything, I applaud him for using every tool at his disposal to create a magnificent work of art.  Think about that the next time you use an Instagram filter- aren’t we all just trying to communicate an idea in the truest or most interesting way possible?  I admit, my photo of a happy hour cocktail is no Girl With the Pearl Earring, but still-  that Juno filter makes it look pretty amazing.  Cheers!

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Shampoo

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shampoo

Image credit: Shampoo, 1975

In 1960’s-era Beverly Hills, the hairdresser was king. Back then, women didn’t have all the handheld home gadgets we have today. No straightening irons, fancy ionic hairdryers, or texturizing sprays. It was aquanet and curlers, and if you were really brave, an actual clothes iron. So of course, any heterosexual man who could make a woman’s hair look like a million bucks would have been the natural recipient of a casual sex buffet. In Shampoo (DVD/Download), that man was Warren Beatty. Outside of Shampoo, that man was still Warren Beatty.

I like to think of this Hal Ashby-directed gem as American Graffiti meets Dazed and Confused meets the French New Wave. The story unfolds slowly, letting the audience experience a typical day in the crazy life of a popular, promiscuous hairstylist. Warren Beatty’s character George doesn’t end the film much further than where he started, but our own perception has shifted. His metamorphosis from sexy cad to sad hustler occurs once  Julie Christie and Goldie Hawn show him the consequences of his actions, and it’s worth watching just for their performances alone. This film isn’t for everyone, but I’ve always been a fan of slice-of-life stories. And wow, there’s a lot of life in this slice.

All you regular Cinema Sips readers know I love a good party scene, and Shampoo does not disappoint. There’s a celebratory dinner for Republicans (picture stuffed shirts glad-handing each other over Nixon’s presidential victory), and then there’s a wild, acid-fueled counterculture party at a Hollywood mansion. While I’d probably rather be with the hippies, I can’t deny that Republicans know how to make a lethal cocktail. Goldie tries to order a Stinger, which prompted me to ask, what’s a Stinger? Apparently, a drink that died out in the 1970’s. Let’s celebrate 1968 with this slow sipper. It certainly makes me feel like I’m drinking in another era.

Stinger

1 ¾ oz Cognac

2/3 oz White Crème de Menthe

Pour Cognac and Crème de Menthe in a cocktail shaker with ice, and stir to combine. Pour entire contents of shaker into a rocks glass.

Stinger

What I find fascinating about this movie is that it was made just after Nixon’s resignation, yet takes place on the night he was elected president in 1968. Such a short number of years in between, but what a difference those years make both in hair, and in politics. I wonder, will we be seeing movies set on 11/8/16 at some point? If the answer’s yes, I’d just like to say: I was a shell-shocked mess, but I think my hair looked pretty good. Cheers!

*Ironically, Beatty’s character has THE WORST haircut I’ve seen on a man. Where do the sideburns begin and end? Where are his ears? I have no idea!!!!!

Big Night

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Big Night

Image credit: Big Night, 1996

Word of advice- DO NOT come hungry to this film. You will end up so ravenous that you might pull a Chaplin and eat your own shoe. Forget Stanley Tucci and Tony Shaloub; the real star of Big Night (DVD/Download) is the food. What’s a timpano you ask? An Italian kitchen sink of greatness that I want to swim in. If you eschew carbs, just walk away right now. You have no place in this film universe.

This mid-90’s indie hit about two Italian brothers trying to save their New Jersey restaurant largely passed me by upon its release.  But now, as I begin the long trudge through middle age, I’m in the sweet spot of food appreciation. I’ve had to prepare my own risotto (and yes, it takes a LONG f*cking time- deal with it), I’ve grown sad-looking basil, and I’ve even been to Rome to see what real Italian cuisine is all about. As the movie says, “To eat good food is to be close to God”.  I’d like to say the same about cocktails, but sadly, they don’t nourish me like a great bowl of Spaghetti Carbonara.

If you’re looking for a good party film, you’ve found it. Big Night has copious amounts of booze, ladies in 50’s cocktail dresses, and a top-notch soundtrack. Louis Prima never actually makes it to the dinner, but thankfully, his music does. While watching Big Night, have a Cocchi Americano and Soda, and don’t worry about the time- the best parties go all night.

Cocchi Americano and Soda

¾ oz Cocchi Americano

5 oz Club Soda

6-7 Red Grapes

In the bottom of a glass, crush grapes, then fill with ice. Add Cocchi Americano and Club Soda, then gently pour back and forth into another glass until thoroughly mixed. Garnish with a few more grapes.

Cocchi

When food is truly great, it creates a memory. I can tell you where and when I had the best risotto of my life (Alla Rampa, Rome, April ‘09), a 10-Euro Cuban feast that just kept coming and coming (unnamed hole-in-the-wall restaurant, Valencia, Summer ‘03), and biscuits so flaky and buttery I nearly wept (Willa Jean, New Orleans ‘14). Sadly, many of the memorable restaurants in my life are long gone, but I’ll never forget the food. Those meals stay with me, like wonderful films I’ve seen a thousand times. When it comes to food, cinema, and celebrations, don’t be afraid to indulge. Cheers!

Much Ado About Nothing

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Much Ado About Nothing

Image credit: Much Ado About Nothing, 1993.

I am in full Summer Vacation-mode this week, and while my plans are a little less glamorous than a villa in Tuscany (sorry, Cape Cod, I still love ya), I’m still primed for a cinematic escape.  Kenneth Branaugh’s Much Ado About Nothing (DVD/Download) is just the sun-drenched romp we all need this week.

The film opens with a radiant Emma Thompson in minimal makeup, sporting a golden tan and free-flowing hair. She and I share a similar vacation look, though in my case it usually involves a sunburnt scalp and last night’s mascara. Hey- we don’t all get to wear corseted linen gowns and eat grapes on a swing (I’m thinking this is a Tuscany-only thing).  Branaugh directs this Shakespearean tale of slick word battles, lovers’ quarrels, and mistaken identity with infectious glee, to the point where I can’t help but get swept up in the merriness. And Denzel Washington truly shines as Don Pedro, the Prince of Aragon. He’s charming and intelligent, and his connection with Emma Thompson’s Beatrice breaks your heart just a little. He’s the odd man out at the party, and lord, haven’t we all been there?

This film deserves a sparkling, effervescent drink that’s just as complex and delightful as Shakespeare’s text. Since this is set in Tuscany, I must use Aperol- that great Italian aperitif that practically screams summer vacay. While watching Much Ado About Nothing, I recommend drinking a Florentine Spritz.

Florentine Spritz

2 oz Gin

1 oz lime juice

¾ oz Aperol

½ oz Honey Syrup (equal parts honey and water, boiled)

2-3 dashes angostura bitters

Sparkling Wine

Lime Wheel

Combine first 5 ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a champagne flute. Top with sparkling wine, and garnish with a lime wheel.

I love films based on Shakespearean plays because they help me to understand his work in a new light. Even though this film isn’t as modern as say Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet, or even Joss Wheden’s more recent version of Much Ado, it still draws me in to the story in a way that live theatre fails to do. Plus, Tuscany and Denzel in sexy leather pants. I’ll suffer through a sonnet or two for that. Cheers!

My Girl

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My Girl

Image credit: My Girl, 1991

This week, I really had a hankering for a classic Bee’s Knees cocktail. And really, what better movie to watch with this honey-laden beverage than My Girl (DVD/Download).  After all, it’s the film where Macaulay Culkin kicks the bucket after a severe bee attack. As Dan Aykroyd tearfully informs us, “There were just too many…..” I could say the same about cocktails after a wild Saturday night.

I’m not sure if I should admit this, but my love of 60’s pop music originated from the My Girl soundtrack (on cassette, which I would play in my purple Casio while sitting on the cement stoop of our apartment. All. Summer. Long.) As a pre-teen bookworm living in Pennsylvania when this film came out in 1991, I strongly identified with Vada Sultenfuss. If you’ve ever been teased by mean girls, and/or had a weird relationship with the nerdiest kid in the class, and/or were oddly close to your English teacher (the only person who really gets you), then you understand the character of Vada. She’s dealing with the death of her mom, her dad’s remarriage to a free-spirited makeup artist (hey Jamie Lee Curtis, where ya been?), and the fact that she lives in a funeral parlor. It’s a lot for anyone. Luckily, she has a mood ring, Macaulay, and a showtune-singing grandma to ease the pain.

Perhaps it’s in bad taste to reference poor Thomas J’s bee allergy, but how can something bad taste this good? While watching My Girl, I recommend drinking a Bee’s Knees.

Bee’s Knees

2 oz gin

¾ Fresh Lemon Juice

½ oz Honey Syrup (equal parts honey and water, boiled then cooled)

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

Bees Knees

What’s the one soundtrack I loved more than My Girl? The My Girl 2 soundtrack. Elton John, Jackson Browne- it was the musical education I needed. I’m a little amazed that we haven’t had a My Girl 3 yet, since all the actors are still around, but maybe Dan Aykroyd is too busy making vodka to bother with playing an aging funeral director. I mean, I know which career I’d rather have. Cheers!

Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

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MrSmithGoestoWashington

Image credit: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, 1939.

This week, I’m celebrating the Fourth of July with one of the most patriotic movies I can think of. A film that’s stood the test of time, through good presidents and bad, noble politicians and corrupt. I’m talking of course about Frank Capra’s classic Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (DVD/Download).

It’s astounding how often I’m reminded of the iconic image of Jimmy Stewart as Senator Jefferson Smith, weary after a lengthy filibuster, sweaty, distraught, his face an open wound, realizing his fight is hopeless. The corrupt politicians of Washington have broken him, as they have broken the rest of us too. Jimmy is America in this film. Whether we’re talking about the 1938 or 2018, it’s all the same. Leaders drunk with power can (and often do) run afoul of the people who voted for them. Mr. Smith goes to Washington with a dream of doing good work for the citizens of his state. Though the film has a satisfying ending, I wouldn’t necessarily call it “happy”. Happiness and politics are parallel paths that rarely intersect.

I love a lot of things about this film- plucky Jean Arthur and her little hats, disgruntled newspaperman Diz and his wry cynicism, even Claude Rains as the most sedate villain of all time. But the scene that gets my heart pounding is of course The Filibuster. For 24 hours Mr. Smith tries to postpone a crooked bill from getting through the Senate, and though he eventually falls, the fight is really something to see. While watching Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, I recommend drinking a Filibuster.

Filibuster

4 oz bourbon

2 oz simple syrup

2 oz lemon juice

2 tbsp fresh orange juice

1 egg white

Angostura bitters

Pour all ingredients except bitters into a cocktail shaker. Shake until combined, then fill with ice. Shake again with all the rage you feel toward our current United States government. Strain into a coupe glass. Top with a few dashes of Angostura bitters.

Filibuster

The thing I find slightly comforting about this film is that it was released in 1939. So, theoretically, Congress has been doing a crappy job for the last 80 years. And we’re still here!!! We still have joys and triumphs, and yes unspeakable rage and indignities. But we’re surviving, day-by-day.   Jefferson Smith didn’t stop fighting for his American ideals, and neither should those of us who believe in honesty, empathy, kindness, and the beauty of our American land.   Cheers!

La La Land

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La La Land

Image credit: La La Land, 2016

There are some things in life that you just never get over. Your first birds-and-bees talk. The cancellation of My So-Called Life after only one season. And new in 2017- the snub heard round the world, La La Land losing the Academy Award for Best Picture. Faye and Warren tried to cover for the Academy’s oversight, to no avail. It was too late. Somebody put Moonlight on that card and dashed the hopes of all the fools who dream. A year and a half later, I’m still not over it. Time to drink.

To say I love La La Land (DVD/Download) would be a gross understatement. This film encompasses everything I adore about classic movie musicals, a period of cinema when actors (not necessarily singers) were cast in these roles, and directors cared about things like mise en scene and appropriate song transitions. In using Los Angeles as a backdrop for the story of two struggling artists falling in love and struggling to make it in Hollywood, La La Land is able to take advantage of classic movie backdrops we all know and love. The Griffith Observatory; the Sunset Strip; a swanky home in the Hollywood Hills- all become touchstones within this saturated ode to moving pictures. Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone make me laugh and cry with their performances, but it’s Los Angeles that makes me dream.

As a struggling jazz musician, Ryan Gosling spends a lot of time in windowless underground martini bars. Bonjour, heaven!  I love the cocktail culture that goes hand-in-hand with this music, so this week I’m using a recipe from one of my new favorite books, Booze & Vinyl by André and Tenaya Darlington.  Their cocktail accompaniment for Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue, this martini-relative also pairs well with “City of Stars”.  While watching La La Land, I recommend drinking a Martinez.

Martinez

2 oz Old Tom Gin

1 oz sweet vermouth

1 tsp Maraschino liqueur

2 dashes orange bitters

Lemon twist, for garnish

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice, and stir until combined.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

Martinez

I think La La Land means so much to me because I really see myself in these characters.   Like them, I have dreams that have yet to be realized.  And even when that door seems like it’ll never open, and my fist gets sore from banging on it with all my strength, I still have to smile and say I’d do it all again. Because that’s what dreamers do. Cheers!