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Adaptation

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Image credit: Adaptation, 2002

If you follow me on social media, then you know I’m an orchid mom. That’s right, I enjoy caring for one of the most delicate plants in nature, all for the promise of a few blooms. I like to watch as they die and resurrect themselves, over and over, like a superhero franchise. They’ve been a joy, a distraction, and an inspiration as I revise and write and revise again, hoping maybe this time, the right words will magically fall into place. Thus I can say with absolute certainty, Adaptation (Disc/Download) is a perfect film for the orchid-obsessed, and for anybody who’s ever struggled to make a story “work”.

Loosely based on The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean, Adaptation is Charlie Kaufman’s wild meta tale of a screenwriter’s quest to turn this book into a movie. Nicolas Cage plays Charlie, and he also plays Charlie’s fictional twin brother Donald, who stumbles into screenwriting like a NaNoWriMo newbie. Charlie writes smart, character-driven stories, while Donald’s are mostly plot-driven, using the formula he learned in a ridiculous workshop. Where things get weird is when the script Charlie is writing (which we see in cuts to Meryl Streep as Susan Orlean and Chris Cooper as John Laroche, subject of The Orchid Thief) slowly morphs into a “Donald script”, going completely off the rails as Charlie loses all sense of his own voice, and what he was originally trying to say. It’s a strange, bizarre twist, showing the audience what happens when people follow the formulas: we get crappy movies that focus more on outlandish plots than character development. One wonders if Nicholas Cage has exclusively been picking “Donald movies” for the past decade, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Now, back to the orchids. I love watching John Laroche wax poetic about the beauty and struggle of his obsession, and Orlean’s look of wonder at all the rare varieties mirrors my own. While watching Adaptation, I recommend drinking a Flower Show cocktail.

Flower Show

1 Egg White

2 oz Gin

1/2 oz Crème de Violette

1/2 oz Cointreau

1 oz Fresh Lemon Juice

Fill a shaker with ice. Add all ingredients and shake until frothy. Strain into a cocktail glass.

One thing the movie never discusses (and I wish it did) is the rebirth of this plant. An orchid can appear completely dead, stripped of all its beautiful blooms, but with enough care and attention, it’ll start to grow again. There’s something comforting in this, knowing that even when all hope seems lost, the thing you loved might not be gone forever. Maybe, like a writer huddled over a keyboard, it can just be… temporarily blocked. Cheers!

Face/Off

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Face Off

Image credit: Face/Off, 1997

Man, they don’t make ‘em like they used to. I never thought I’d see the day where I long for a movie like Face/Off (DVD/Download), but I’m officially there. Big-name stars making a high octane thriller with an ORIGINAL script, that’s not a sequel to or reboot of something else? Just doesn’t happen too often in mainstream Hollywood these days. Nicolas Cage keeps throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks, but will there ever be another film that showcases his talent for lunacy (and, I admit, pretty good acting) quite like Face/Off? God I hope so.

This movie might not work so well if it weren’t for the combined performances of John Travolta and Nicholas Cage. As the Joker-like domestic terrorist Castor Troy (remember when terrorists were angry American white males?), Nicholas Cage is batsh*t crazy. Parading around in a priest costume, groping choir girls, waving around his golden guns- this is a part Nicholas Cage was born for. But then, THEN he falls into a coma, and family-man FBI agent John Travolta is compelled to have Cage’s face put on his body to foil a bomb plot. AND THEN- Cage wakes up, sees that he has no face, and puts the iced Travolta face on HIS body. I swear, even the best soap opera scribes couldn’t make this stuff up. Now Travolta is forced to turn up the creepy, and Cage has to act like John Travolta doing a bad Nicolas Cage impression. Mistaken identities and slow-motion shootouts ensue.

One little gem that’s always stayed with me from Face/Off is Caster Troy’s claim that he could eat a “peach” for hours. Damn if that line doesn’t run through my head every summer when peach season hits central Texas. Welcome to my nightmare. While watching Face/Off, I recommend drinking a Peach Shandy.

Peach Shandy

1.5 oz Deep Eddy Peach Vodka

1 bottle peach-flavored beer (I used Ballast Point Peach Kolsch)

4 oz sparkling peach soda

Build drink in a pint glass, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with a peach slice.

Peach Shandy

Image by @pop_up_cobra

Where Face/Off falls short for me is the flimsy explanation of how the voices and bodies of the two actors could be manipulated so easily to match the new faces. Sucking the skin off of someone’s head and transplanting it seamlessly with no scarring? Yeah, OK. Lasers. But the idea of Nicholas Cage’s consumption-ridden Leaving Las Vegas body suddenly being able to pass as a beefed up Travolta? Now that’s Hollywood magic. Cheers!

Honeymoon in Vegas

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Image Credit: Castle Rock Entertainment, Honeymoon in Vegas, 1992

Image Credit: Castle Rock Entertainment, Honeymoon in Vegas, 1992

A recent trip to Las Vegas has prompted me to re-watch some of the better movies set in Sin City, including Casino, Oceans Eleven, The Hangover, 21, and my personal favorite (and this week’s Cinema Sips pick), Honeymoon in Vegas (DVD/Download). This film gives a bit of an outdated view of The Strip (prompting my mother and I both to wonder- Is Bally’s even there anymore?) but even without Cirque du Soleil ads and trendy restaurants, it’s still a delightful romp about the dangers of gambling, the dry heat of the desert, and the timeless hilarity of Elvis impersonators.

Honeymoon In Vegas is one of the better films to come out of Nicholas Cage’s weird-n-wild oeuvre, only because in this one, his intense, slightly insane mannerisms really work for the character. He plays private investigator Jack Singer, a man terrified of marriage who nevertheless proposes to his longtime girlfriend Betsy (played by Sarah Jessica Parker). They run off to Vegas to elope, but before they can get to the chapel, he enters a rigged poker game set up by mobster Tommy Korman (played by James Caan). Of course Jack loses, and instead of paying money that he doesn’t have, he agrees to let his girlfriend spend the weekend with the mobster. James Caan takes SJP to Hawaii while Nicholas Cages runs around like a chicken with its head cut off, and hijinks ensue. Some great cameos to look for are Pat Morita (aka Mr. Miyagi) as the Hawaiian taxi driver, as well as little baby Bruno Mars singing his heart out as a child Elvis impersonator. The story is ridiculous, but it always gets me excited for Las Vegas, and hopeful that one day I’ll actually spot an Indian Elvis wearing a turban. It’s like seeing a Yeti.

On the cocktail front, I had the good fortune of attending some great Texas Tiki Week events last week. I always look forward to the last week of June because it means Austin becomes a sea of rum drinks in commemorative tiki glasses. How appropriate then to mix up a classic tiki drink to enjoy while watching Sarah Jessica Parker flaunt her perfect body on the beaches of Hawaii. When watching Honeymoon in Vegas, I recommend drinking a Mai Tai.

Mai Tai

1oz light rum

1oz dark rum

½ oz lime juice

½ oz orange curacao

½ oz orgeat syrup

Maraschino cherry and fresh lime for garnish

Pour all of the ingredients except the dark rum into a shaker filled with ice cubes. Shake well, then strain into an old-fashioned glass (or Tiki mug if you have it) half filled with ice. Top with more chipped ice, then add the dark rum.  Garnish with a cherry, lime, and a drink umbrella.

mai-tai

As much as I love Vegas, my favorite parts of this film are definitely the Hawaii scenes. Watching Nicholas Cage shout Kapa’aa into a pay phone just makes my year. And let’s not forget the South Pacific sing-along with Peter Boyle’s island chief. As a child I often wondered how the parakeet brandy they drink was made- crushed feathers? Beaks?  To be on the safe side, stick with the Mai Tai, and never forget- if you’re about to jump out of an airplane dressed as Elvis, it’s yellow, then red. Kabluna, and Cheers!