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Tropic Thunder

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TROPIC THUNDER

Image Credit: Tropic Thunder, 2008.

I’m ending Campari Month on a fun note this week, with a tiki cocktail and a film so hilarious it might cause you to shoot rum out your nose. Tropic Thunder (DVD/Download) is full of un-PC moments and plenty of Hollywood digs, which makes it perfect for this negroni-imprisonned aperitif. Movies shouldn’t take themselves too seriously- and neither should Campari.

Directed by Ben Stiller, Tropic Thunder spoofs the making of a Vietnam War film, in all its Creedence-soundtracked glory.  The production takes a strange turn when the actors find themselves in a real-life jungle hostage situation, with nary a craft services table in sight. Starring Stiller as a Tom Cruise-esque washed-up action hero, Jack Black as a drug-addled king of flatulence and prosthetic body suits, and Robert Downey Jr. as a lily-white Australian playing an African-American (he’s the dude who’s playing a dude disguised as another dude), this film skewers everything we’ve come to love and hate about Hollywood blockbusters. Even Tom Cruise himself gets in on the action, nearly unrecognizable as heartless studio boss Les Grossman. And I do mean Gross. Man.

I was lucky enough to tour the ranch on Kaua’i where Tropic Thunder was filmed, and let me tell you- after traipsing through the jungle, covered in red dirt and booty sweat, I was ready for a tiki cocktail back at the hotel. While watching Tropic Thunder, I recommend drinking a Jungle Bird.

Jungle Bird

1 ½ oz dark rum

¾ oz Campari

½ oz simple syrup

1 ½ oz pineapple juice

½ oz lime juice

Pineapple wedge and cherry for garnish

Combine rum, Campari, simple syrup, and juices in a shaker filled with crushed ice. Shake vigorously until chilled, then pour entire mixture into a tumbler. Garnish with pineapple and cherry.

Jungle Bird

I’d like to give a special mention to the fantastically good fake trailers before this film, a sub-genre in cinema that we need more of (see also Kentucky Fried Movie and Grindhouse).  Is the world ready for a Scorcher franchise?  This tipsy lady says HELL YES.  Cheers!

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Wonder Boys

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Wonder Boys

Image Credit: Wonder Boys, 2000

As I prepare for a trip to Pittsburgh later this week, I find myself in the midst of an existential crisis. While it’s always fun to visit distant family, I still find myself sighing at the prospect of I.C. Light and “yinz” instead of “y’all”. Plus, there’s the inevitable feeling of inadequacy returning to the city of my youth, not having quite reached that writing career pinnacle yet.  Wonder Boys (DVD/Download), that fantastic adaptation of a Michael Chabon novel, is exactly what I need in my life right now.

There are many things that draw me toward Wonder Boys- the story of a washed up literary giant who’s struggling to find his footing again. As Professor Grady Tripp, Michael Douglas becomes the teacher every writer wishes they had. Funny, encouraging, eccentric, he treats his students like the contemporaries they are. Tobey Maguire gives a quirky performance as his depressed, brilliant protégé James Leer, and Robert Downey Jr. turns on the manic charm as book editor Terry Crabtree. For cinephiles like me, the movie is a dream, filled with Marilyn Monroe references, and classic film trivia galore. I also love that it satirizes the pretentiousness of the literary and academic worlds, with Michael Douglas as a messy antidote- prowling his car through slushy grey streets, dead dog in his trunk, weed in the glove box. It’s just…. so Pittsburgh.

To me, one of the great things about this city is the constant dichotomy between old and new. Sure there are trendy lounges and hip hotels now, but there are still dive bars in the hills where James Brown impersonators like Vernon Hardapple hang out. As an ode to his pregnant baby mama/cocktail waitress Oola (who never forgets a drink), while watching Wonder Boys I recommend drinking a Double Dickel on the Rocks.

Double Dickel on the Rocks

2 oz George Dickel No. 12® Tennessee Whiskey

Lemon twist

Pour whiskey in a glass filled with cracked ice. Top with lemon twist.

Double Dickel

 

While I struggle to find a place for my latest manuscript (even if that place is buried inside my desk drawer), and I begin working on the next one, I have to remind myself that it’s not about recognition or seeing your book in an airport bookstore, or that coveted interview on NPR.  It’s about the act of writing.  As Professor Tripp says, “Nobody teaches a writer anything.  You tell ’em what you know.  You tell ’em to find their voice and stay with it.  You tell the ones that have it to keep at it, you tell the ones that don’t have it to keep at it too… because that’s the only way they’re gonna get to where they’re going.”  As I return to Pittsburgh, I feel comforted and encouraged by that advice.  I haven’t arrived yet, but at least I know where I want to go.  Cheers!

Home for the Holidays

Home for the Holidays

Image Credit: Home for the Holidays, 1995

After a stressful month at work, I am VERY ready to relax with a bounty of food and a pile of movies. I always look forward to Thanksgiving because it means I get to stay home, in the city I love, with my husband and my dog and do absolutely nothing. Christmas can get a little crazy, but Thanksgiving- that’s just for me. Of course it wasn’t always like that. I’ve had my share of awkward relatives and inedible meals, which is why I have such an appreciation for this week’s film Home for the Holidays (DVD). When you find yourself laughing and nodding along, saying, “YES! This is what it’s like!!” you know you’ve found a great movie.

Home for the Holidays was directed by Jodie Foster and tells the story of the Larson family as they come together for one grand Thanksgiving meal. Holly Hunter is as charming as I’ve ever seen her, fleeing her recent unemployment and sexually active teenage daughter to go get criticized by her mother in a big puffy coat. Robert Downey Jr. shines as her younger gay brother Tommy, and together they team up against their bigoted uptight sister Joanna. Anne Bancroft is amazing as the matriarch, and the scenes of her flirting and arguing with her onscreen husband played by the late, great Charles Durning are forever endearing (see my earlier post about 5 Times Anne Bancroft was EVERYTHING). Of course I’m a sucker for a spinster aunt, and it doesn’t get better than Geraldine Chaplin’s Aunt Glady. She hates orange lipstick, she likes to get drunk and tell inappropriate stories, and she keeps her bathroom as clean as a whistle. In short, she’s me in 40 years. Dylan McDermott pops up as a dreamy love interest for Holly Hunter, but really it’s the family dynamics that make this such a joy to watch. As Hunter’s Claudia says, “We’re family- we don’t have to like each other”.

If you want to be as toasted as Aunt Glady on the big T-Day, you’re going to need a tasty cocktail. This year I’ll be making a drink the same color as Claudia’s stylish puffy coat. It pairs nicely with stuffing, mashed potatoes, and snarky comments at the dinner table. While watching Home for the Holidays, I recommend drinking a Cranberry Mule.

Cranberry Mule

3 oz Deep Eddy Cranberry Vodka

1/2 oz Lime Juice

8 oz Ginger Beer

Lime and fresh cranberries for garnish

Build drink in a glass over ice.  Garnish with a lime slice and fresh cranberries.

Cranberry Mule

I don’t want to sound like I don’t look forward to seeing my family. I do, of course. But often people get so tied up in making the holiday great that they forget what’s really important. By important, I of course mean Pillsbury crescent rolls, and the relief one feels at realizing your life isn’t as bad as sad sack Russell Terziak’s. That’s always something I’m thankful for. Cheers!