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All That Jazz

Image credit: All That Jazz, 1979

I don’t know what it is about my personality that makes me compatible with people who love musical theater, but somehow, the universe keeps throwing them my way. I’m left smiling awkwardly when my new friends gush about Hamilton, or the latest Funny Girl revival, pretending the very notion of a live song-and-dance routine doesn’t make me shudder internally. However, there’s one thing that helps me cross the entertainment chasm, and that’s movies about live theater. Now those, I love!! From The Goodbye Girl to Waiting for Guffman to Center Stage, to this week’s Cinema Sips pick All That Jazz (Disc), I can’t get enough backstage drama and tights. Finally, common ground with the Playbill crowd!

I love a good “puttin’ on a show” plot as much as the next person, but All That Jazz takes the trope to a new and exciting level. In this gritty, sexy, Dexedrine-fueled world of stage and screen, director/choreographer Joe Gideon (Roy Scheider) struggles to balance his turbulent love life, a new Broadway show, and feature film editing without dropping dead of a heart attack. The fact that he’s seen talking to the Angel of Death (played by a luminous Jessica Lange) in various dream sequences tells us he’s already on his way. This semi-autobiographical film from director/choreographer Bob Fosse asks us to consider how much can be piled on a person’s plate before they collapse under the weight of responsibility. This movie gets me thinking a lot about the inevitability of death, and how we humans have to balance making the most of our time here while ensuring we have that time in the first place. Joe slogs along, shooting that Visine in his eyes, taking that morning shower, popping that pill, announcing “It’s showtime, folks!” because to do the alternative is unthinkable. His body will give up before his mind or his will, and rest comes only to the dead.

Leave it to Joe Gideon to imagine that Death comes in the form of a beautiful woman in a nightclub. I’m still not sure about the frothy white getup she’s wearing (I might have opted for something more “Halston”), but I’m willing to go along with the surrealist costume because it inspires this week’s cocktail. While watching All That Jazz, I recommend drinking a classic White Lady.

White Lady

2 oz Plymouth gin

½ oz Cointreau

¾ oz lemon juice

¼ oz simple syrup

1 egg white

Combine all ingredients in a shaker without ice. Dry shake for about thirty seconds, add ice, then shake again for an additional thirty seconds. Strain into a chilled coupe glass, and garnish with a lemon twist.

In case I haven’t fully sold this movie yet, All That Jazz’s fictional play NY/LA has one of the sexiest dance sequences ever committed to film. A big part of that is the lighting and cinematography, and frankly, I just don’t see it working from the cheap seats in the back. The camera enables us to be up close and personal with these bodies, both strong and fragile at the same time, putting it all into perspective. There’s no business like show business to make you realize that every day you’re still alive, putting on that performance, is a miracle. Cheers!


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Image credit Jaws, 1975

Image credit Jaws, 1975

Lately it seems like Jaws is EVERYWHERE. Because we just passed the 40th anniversary of its release, this movie is popping up at my local indie cinema, a public swimming pool, and of course cable TV.  I just can’t escape the shark. But with something this good, why would you want to? Jaws (DVD/Download) is the quintessential summer blockbuster. It’s a film that keeps me riveted and entertained from start to finish, and it makes me feel a little better about the fact that I live in Texas (far, far away from open waters). Featuring plenty of drunk fishermen, it’s also a great movie to watch with a cold cocktail.

Jaws is not simply a movie about a killer great white shark. It’s also a psychological thriller where often what you don’t see is a lot scarier than the sight of the actual latex-covered beast. A dark shadow, the tip of a fin, the tug of a raft- TERRIFYING. This could have turned out to be a laughable schlock-fest featuring a clunky mechanical shark, but with Steven Spielberg’s expert direction, and amazing performances by Richard Dreyfuss, Robert Shaw, and Roy Scheider (obviously preparing for his later role as Capt. Nathan Bridger on SeaQuest), it’s a shrewd example of how great horror films can be. I must admit, the scene where Richard Dreyfuss swims under a fishing boat to examine the hull and finds a corpse still makes me scream and jump three feet in the air, even though I know what’s coming. Everything after that- shark attacks, bad 70’s eyewear, the chum bucket- is no big deal.

For my drink this week, I’m paying homage not only to the familiar sight of red-tinged water, but also the filming location of the movie. Set in a fictional coastal New England town called Amity Island, Jaws was actually shot on Martha’s Vineyard. I know my favorite beverage when I’m up in that area is the Cape Codder, and how fortunate for me that Deep Eddy Vodka has essentially bottled this drink with their Cranberry Vodka! While watching Jaws, I recommend drinking a Blood in the Water cocktail.

Blood in the Water

1/2 oz. Lime juice

4 oz. club soda

2 oz Deep Eddy Cranberry Vodka

Lime Wedge

Fill a tumbler with ice, lime juice, and club soda. Slowly pour the vodka over the back of a spoon into the glass so that it floats toward the top. Finish with lime wedge, and a macabre swizzle stick!

Blood in the Water

I love the scene in Jaws when the three men get drunk aboard the Orca and compare bite wounds. Of course, Quint takes it a little too far with his horrifyingly depressing story about the USS Indiana, but up until then it looks like a fun party. In the words of the salty dog himself, “Here’s to swimmin’ with bow-legged women.” Cheers!