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Dangerous When Wet

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Dangerous When Wet

Image credit: Dangerous When Wet, 1953.

I have a confession to make: I’ve been cheating on Doris Day with Esther Williams. I never thought I would find an actress as charming, classy, and strong as Doris, but then Esther swam into my life. I loved her in Million Dollar Mermaid, but thought the film as a whole could have used more cocktails. THEN, I caught this week’s flick Dangerous When Wet (Disc/Download), which features roughly the same plot as her most iconic role, with the essential additions of alcohol and Fernando Lamas. Dear reader, I’m in cinema heaven.

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to dive into (pun intended) the Esther Williams filmography. After all, I am long-obsessed with swimming pools, and I happen to own an Esther Williams-brand bathing suit. I admired her as an innovator and symbol of athletic grace long before I saw any of her movies, but now that I’ve watched a few, I can’t get enough. In Dangerous When Wet, Esther plays a wholesome farmer’s daughter from Arkansas who gets hired by phony vitamin company Liquipep to swim the English Channel with her entire family. While across the pond, she meets cute with a French champagne maker (I know, I KNOW!!) who shows her there’s more to life than swimming. Fernando Lamas is decidedly dreamy as her romantic lead, and let’s just say there is a very risqué scene set in a bathhouse changing room that has some major Pillow Talk vibes. The two lovers follow it up with a moonlight swim in his family’s pool, synchronizing their movements in the water. Busby Berkeley really was not needed in this picture, with so much chemistry heating up the screen.

Romance aside, what I enjoy most about Esther Williams films is their interpretation of what it means to be a women. Esther is allowed to be vulnerable in regards to her personal relationships, but also brave enough to take on incredible physical challenges. She’s graceful in her underwater sequences, and strong while proving her endurance in long-distance swimming. She can do back-flips with Tom & Jerry and swim twenty miles across the English Channel, all while nursing a wicked Liquipep hangover. While watching Dangerous When Wet, toast Esther and the other fierce women in your life with this English Channel cocktail.

English Channel

2 oz Earl Grey Tea, cooled

¾ oz Galliano

¾ oz Cointreau

Dried Bergamot (or lemon) slice

Brew tea and allow to cool. Combine with Galliano and Cointreau in a shaker with ice, and shake until chilled. Strain into a coupe glass, and garnish with Bergamot or lemon.

English Channel

There’s a moment toward the end of the movie when Esther’s French lover jumps into the Channel to help coach her across the finish line. I literally rubbed my arms with glee when this happened, not because Fernando Lamas stripped down to his boxer briefs (though, that didn’t hurt), but because he didn’t try to stop her from continuing. He knew she could make it all the way; she just needed a cheerleader. And now, in the year 2020, she’s got another one in me. 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!

Singin’ in the Rain

singing-in-the-rain

Image credit: Singin’ in the Rain, 1952

I don’t know about you, but I could really use some cheering up right now.  To that end, I’ll be watching the Gold Standard of movie musicals, Singin’ in the Rain (DVD/Download). From Gene Kelly’s athletic grace to Donald O’Connor’s acrobatic, gravity-defying moves, to cute little Debbie Reynold’s lighting fast tap dancing, this film is serious perfection. Add in a humorous plot about the transition from silent films to talkies and you’ve got a movie that keeps me smiling from start to finish.

I have to admit, I was never big on musicals until I saw Singin’ in the Rain. This one really changed how I viewed the genre. To watch Gene Kelly in motion is to watch a genius at work.  Even if this were a silent picture, I’d still enjoy watching it, if only for the dancing. And damn, Donald O’Connor, dancing up that wall- amazing!!! Actress Jean Hagen provides most of the comic relief as Lina Lamont, the silent film star with a voice that could strip paint. Her diction lessons result in a Lohan-esque accent that’s part British aristocracy, part Bronx, and 100% hilarious.

One of my favorite songs from the film is ‘Good Morning’, sung by Reynolds, Kelly, and O’Connor.  Bright and cheerful, this number is just a little ball of sunshine on a gloomy day. To that end, I’ve decided to set up a mimosa bar- because aren’t mimosas pretty much the best thing about mornings? While watching Singin’ in the Rain, I recommend drinking a Good Morning Mimosa.

Good Morning Mimosa

Sparkling wine or prosecco

Optional Add-ins:

-Orange Juice

-Cranberry Juice

-Pomegranate Juice

-Apple Cider

-Grapefruit Juice

-St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur

mimosa-bar

Gene Kelly made many other musicals with the famed Arthur Freed Unit at MGM, but none as timeless as this picture. I think the reason it endures is because its glee is simply contagious. Kelly spins and twirls his umbrella down a rainy street and he doesn’t care that he’s splashing around in cold puddles- he’s happy in the moment. Sometimes those moments are all too rare in our lives, but when they happen, it makes us want to hop up and yell “Gotta Dance!”  But remember folks- dignity. Always, dignity. Cheers!