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Boogie Nights

boogie nights

Image credit: Boogie Nights, 1997.

It finally happened- my weekly Cinema Sips post is dropping on the booziest night of the year!  New Year’s Eve deserves a movie featuring disco dancing, kung fu fighting, alcohol and drug-fueled parties in the San Fernando Valley, and a main character with a name so cool it cuts glass. It’s time to watch Boogie Nights (Disc/Download).

This is a great movie for New Year’s Eve because the holiday acts as a touchstone within this meandering tale of the 1970’s pornography industry. Things are rosy for a while– newcomer Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg, in a star-making role) joins a dysfunctional “family” of porn stars, makes a lot of money from his greatest, er… asset, and buys a lot of kooky stuff. As you do. But then the ball drops on 1980 and things spiral out of control. The drugs get harder, certain other things get softer (ahem), and the misfit family splinters. Writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson manages to transport his audience to a time and place that’s so specific, it’s as though the characters are trapped in amber.  Even sin looks beautiful under his filter.

One of my favorite scenes involves John C. Reilly’s character Reed Rothchild displaying his bartender skills at a pool party. I have no idea how much tequila he pours in that blender, but it really doesn’t matter; the man is my mixologist hero. Let’s toast this Shakespearean tragedy of a film with a New Year’s twist on an old favorite. While watching Boogie Nights, I recommend drinking a Frozen Amber Margarita.

Frozen Amber Margarita

4 oz silver tequila

2 oz Triple Sec

2 oz fresh lime juice

2 oz blood orange cocktail mix (I use Stirrings)

1 oz Aperol

1 cup Ice

Sparkling Wine

Combine tequila, triple sec, lime juice, Aperol, and cocktail mix in a blender with ice. Blend until frothy, then pour into a champagne flute. Top with Sparkling Wine.

Frozen Amber margarita

New Year’s Eve is always such a strange night. It’s full of hope and reflection, maybe sadness and joy. Wherever you’re at with this holiday, just know that whatever happens in the coming year, you’re gonna be okay. There are movies to watch, there are cocktails to drink, and I’m excited that we get to do it together through Cinema Sips. Cheers!

Meet Me in St. Louis

Meet Me In St. Louis

Image credit: Meet Me in St. Louis, 1944.

After three weeks of black-and-white Christmas films, the technicolor explosion of Meet Me in St. Louis (Disc/Download) is quite a shock for the eyes. Visually stunning, this Judy Garland classic screams Hollywood Studio System, while signaling a modern auteur-driven type of storytelling still to come. With a creepy Victorian snow family, a night of trick-or-treating straight out of Stranger Things, and a horrifying platter of corned beef and cabbage, this movie is one crazy trolley ride.

Set in St. Louis at the turn of the century, the film is about the mundane lives of a large middle-class family, the Smiths (lord, even their name is boring).  The daughters are chasing after boys, the dad is rolling his eyes, and everyone’s all atwitter about the upcoming World’s Fair. Though the plot of Meet Me in St. Louis holds little interest for me,  the visual pop of Vincente Minnelli’s directorial style is what truly makes this film a classic. The vibrant costumes, unusual lighting, and ahead-of-its-time Halloween horror sequence—these are the elements I keep coming back to.

This film tends to get lumped into holiday movies due to Judy Garland’s heartbreakingly lovely rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, and the red velvet dress she wears. This was the moment the world sat up and took note of Garland, child actress no more. She’s beautiful and sexy, like something out of a John Singer Sargent painting. While watching Meet Me in St. Louis, celebrate Judy with this Red Velvet Martini.

Red Velvet Martini

2 oz Cake vodka

1 oz White Crème de Cacao

3/4 oz Grenadine

1/4 oz Simple syrup

2-3 dashes Aztec bitters

Chocolate drop for garnish

Mix liquid ingredients in a shaker filled with ice. Shake vigoriously, then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a chocolate drop.

Red Velvet Martini

Because this film is full of iconic costumes, it makes me eager to learn more about the stories behind them. Until the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures opens in Los Angeles, whet your appetite with the book Hollywood Costume. And for anyone interested in the scary underbelly of a World’s Fair, I highly recommend Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City. Chronicling the true story of a serial killer targeting visitors to the Chicago World’s Fair, this book will have you wondering if the Smith family home is really as boring as it seems. Cheers, and happy reading!

Holiday Affair

Holiday Affair

Image credit: Holiday Affair, 1949.

Poor Carl. All he wants for Christmas is for Janet Leigh to accept his proposal of marriage. He’s been waiting TWO YEARS, for god sakes. Two years of putting up with her bratty kid, watching her walk around in pointy brassieres, and being treated like the family Labrador. And now, at Christmas, he’s forced to watch his lady fall for the bedroom eyes of Robert Mitchum, an unemployed bum who hangs out in the park and gets arrested for stealing salt and pepper shakers. Holiday Affair (Disc/Download) may be billed as a charming holiday romance, but make no mistake- this film is a sad reminder that nice guys finish last.

I thought I’d seen the pinnacle of annoying child actors in the 1953 western Shane. But then came Timmy. Timmy is the kind of kid who badgers his broke single mom for the most expensive Christmas present on the market, thus making her feel guilty for all of her life choices. Timmy also turns the “poor me” face on Robert Mitchum’s character Steve, convincing this guy who just lost his job to spend a bunch of money on a kid he barely knows. Meanwhile, Carl the Earnest Lawyer wants to give Timmy and his mom a stable home and a hefty joint bank account. Does Timmy want that? No, of course not. He kicks Carl in the leg, screams his head off, and tries his damnest to fix his mom up with the hot bum. I have two words for Timmy’s Mom: Birth. Control.

I’m of the opinion that pretty much every Robert Mitchum film should be watched with Bourbon. This is a man’s man if there ever was one. Because I spent this movie mostly wanting to smash Timmy’s face in, while watching Holiday Affair I recommend drinking a Holiday Bourbon Smash.

Holiday Bourbon Smash

2 oz Bourbon

1 oz Pear Liqueur

2 oz Apple Cider

1 oz Lemon Juice

2 tbsp Cinnamon Pear jam

Club Soda

Cinnamon Stick Garnish

Combine the bourbon, pear liqueur, apple cider, lemon juice, and jam in a shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously until well mixed, then strain into a glass filled with ice. Top with club soda, and garnish with a cinnamon stick.

Holiday Bourbon Smash.jpeg

The thing about this film is, I should love it. A single-mom-finding-romance-again is one of my favorite tropes! That Holiday Affair fails to light my yule log might be because I’ve read so many wonderful novels that do a much better job with this story. An old favorite of mine is Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Dream a Little Dream, which features an adorably sweet kid, the feisty widow of a televangelist, and her romance with a hunky drive-in movie theater owner. There isn’t a Christmas tree, but did I mention he owns a movie theater??  Cheers!

While You Were Sleeping

While you were sleeping

Image credit: While You Were Sleeping, 1995.

Before I dive into a month’s worth of classic Christmas films, I’m easing into the holiday spirit with the movie that probably inspired countless contemporary romance novels and Hallmark productions. (Let’s pause to write the producers a thank-you note).  While You Were Sleeping (DVD/Download) is the Christmas movie for lonely hearts, the siren call for every schlubby transit worker who dreams of the guy in the suit, only to realize the guy in the Carhartt jacket is way sexier. Trust me- you want the guy who can build you a chair, not the one who can buy it for you.

Starring Sandra Bullock as a single, cat-owning, Oreo-eating heroine, While You Were Sleeping is a film not just about romance, but about family connection. After she saves her crush from being hit by a train, his family mistakenly believes she’s their future daughter-in-law, and she goes along with it because it kinda sucks to be alone at the holidays. But then she meets her faux-fiance’s brother played by Bill Pullman (honestly I was always more of a Paxton girl myself, but Pullman makes it work), and realizes he’s maybe kinda sorta her soul mate.  Hijinks ensue, Christmas trees are bought, presents are unwrapped, and Chicago looks really f*cking cold. Pass the eggnog!

One fun thing I discovered on a recent re-watch of this film is that the grandma-with-a-heart-problem (because of course) is played by none other than Glynis Johns, aka. Mrs. Banks from Mary Poppins. Grandma Elsie mixes up a mean batch of eggnog, meant to be sipped slowly. So while watching While You Were Sleeping, let’s join in the fun by drinking Elsie’s Eggnog:

Elsie’s Eggnog

4 oz Store-bought eggnog

1 oz Rumchata

1 oz Southern Comfort

1 oz Bourbon

Whipped Cream and cinnamon for garnish

Stir together eggnog and other ingredients in a shaker with ice. Stir until chilled, then strain into a chilled glass. Top with whipped cream and cinnamon.

eggnog

This movie is especially endearing because it’s not just a film about a girl trying to get a guy at Christmas. It’s about a girl trying to connect with a family, one that comes with drunk relatives, ugly furniture, and the kind of mom who will put up a stocking for someone she barely knows. And that’s what makes the holidays so great, when you stop to think about it. Well, that and boozy eggnog. Cheers!

Inglourious Basterds

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inglourious basterds

Image credit: Inglourious Basterds, 2009

Personally, with where I’m at with American current events, I really need to see a Jewish refugee and her Afro-French boyfriend burn a theater full of Nazis alive. Inglourious Basterds (DVD/Download), while not necessarily factually accurate, is incredibly satisfying to watch. I know Hitler didn’t die in a hail of gunfire and flames, but this film begs the question… what if he had?

Written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, Inglourious Basterds is by far my favorite of his films. Maybe it’s because I’ve always had a thing for charming villains, or maybe I just enjoy watching Brad Pitt go full-on character actor. This Nazi-scalper looks like he’s having the best time ever, and it’s contagious. His counterpoint is the witty Col. Hans Landa, played by Christoph Waltz in an Academy Award-winning performance that is both evil and intriguing.   His masterful handling of Tarantino’s script is particularly impressive, especially considering he does it in multiple languages. I adore Mélanie Laurent as the projectionist/rebel fighter Shosanna, and her scenes of fending off the advances of Daniel Brühl are sadly relatable. Sometimes, a girl just wants to be left alone with her book, not make small talk with a Nazi.

There’s a pivotal bar scene that’s straight-up Tarantino, down to the blood spatter, humor, and fast-moving dialogue. Since we’re dealing with a bunch of Germans (faux and otherwise), it seems appropriate to join in their party with a Schnapps cocktail. While watching Inglourious Basterds, I recommend drinking an SS Fireball.

SS Fireball

1 1/2 oz Fireball Whiskey

1 oz Butterscotch Schnapps

6 oz Apple Cider

1/2 oz Lemon Juice

Fireball candy

Build drink over ice, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with a Fireball candy.

Fireball

More than anything, Inglourious Basterds is a film about the disenfranchised fighting back against their oppressors. When that match is lit, and Shosanna’s face fills the movie screen like something from a 1930’s horror film, it’s a battle cry for all of us who have ever felt powerless against our leaders. It’s about time a woman comes out on top, even if only in our celluloid dreams. Cheers.

Crimson Peak

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Crimson Peak

Image credit: Crimson Peak, 2015.

I’ll admit, I definitely watched Crimson Peak (DVD/Download) expecting a spooky Jane Eyre. While it wasn’t that, I’m still not exactly sure what it hoped to be. Gothic romance? Grisly horror? A cinematic ode to velvet? While this film is certainly beautiful, in the end I was left with the old Gertrude Stein quote rattling around in my brain- there is no there, there.

While I normally eschew horror, I gave this a shot because the visuals promised to be absolutely incredible. And, they are. From a turn-of-the-century American industrialist’s mansion, to a rotting estate in the barren English countryside, Crimson Peak is all about the production design. For me, it was love-at-first-clawfoot tub sighting.  But then there’s all the velvet. SO. MUCH. VELVET. Pants, capes, dresses, and hats in the most beautiful jewel tones. These characters stand out against their decrepit surroundings, not because they’re saying anything interesting (they’re not), but because someone has taken the time to drape and tailor their clothes to perfection. I wish there were more substance to this story of a girl falling victim to a marriage-murder plot, but there’s just not. Will I keep watching for glimpses of her puffed sleeves? Of course. Do I wish I’d just turned the sound off halfway through? Kinda, yeah.

One sinister note Crimson Peak employs is the use of the color red. From a spray of blood to a river of blood, this color saturates everything.  Time to drink a color-coordinated cocktail that references all the poisoned tea being served at Allerdale Hall.  While watching Crimson Peak, I recommend drinking a Bloody Mar-tea-ni.

Bloody Mar-tea-ni

1.5 oz Sweet Tea vodka

1.5 oz Pomegranate juice

1.5 oz Blood Orange juice

½ oz Luxardo Maraschino syrup

To prepare glass, drizzle Luxardo maraschino syrup around the inside. Set aside. Combine vodka, pomegranate juice, and blood orange juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into prepared glass.

Bloody Mar-Tea-Ni

For fans of scary movies, you could do worse than Crimson Peak. There are some genuinely frightening moments when angry ghosts try to get their revenge, and a lot of suspense around the fate of the family papillon (at least for a dog-lover like me). But luckily, the acting and dialogue is so campy that I never really felt that nightmare-inducing grip of fear. Next to the dog, the only other thing I truly cared about in that house was the velvet. Please- no blood splatter on the velvet!!!!! Cheers!

Out of Sight

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out of sight

Image credit: Out of Sight, 1998

I tend to spend a lot of time explaining the romance genre to people.  The books I read (and attempt to write) usually feature intelligent, capable heroines who find love in unexpected places, and never compromise their own integrity for a roll in the hay.  Elmore Leonard and Steven Soderbergh tackled romantic suspense with this week’s film Out of Sight (DVD/Download).  And the weird thing is, they got it SO RIGHT.

I’m going to warn all you ladies who are still mourning the loss of bachelor George Clooney- he is at absolute peak sexiness in this film. As Jack Foley, the bank robber with a heart of gold, he’s charming, a little dangerous, and oh so chivalrous. When he meets-cute with Jennifer Lopez’s federal marshal Karen Sisco, sparks fly along with bullets. They’re trapped in the trunk of a car together, and instead of copping a feel, he banters with her about old movies. Be still my heart! Karen follows him from Miami to Detroit, Jack gets caught up in a burglary gone bad, and even when things get dark (as they always do in an Elmore Leonard novel), Lopez and Clooney still share a crackling chemistry.

One of my favorite scenes is when these two star-crossed lovers pretend to be strangers in a bar, just for one night. With the snow falling outside, they’ve got bourbon and a steamy attraction to keep them warm. Let’s keep this cocktail simple with just a dash of ginger liqueur.

Bourbon & Ginger

2 oz Bourbon

.75 oz Ginger Liqueur

Combine bourbon and ginger liqueur over a large ice cube. Stir to chill.

Out of Sight is smart, sexy, and everything I love about romance. As Jack says, you’d be surprised what you can get when you ask for it the right way. Hollywood- I’d like more films where love is inconvenient, yet unavoidable. I want an intelligent script, and I want the heroine to be a total badass. And if it’s not too much to ask, I would like more Don Cheadle. Is that clear enough?  Cheers!