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Sullivan’s Travels

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Sullivan's Travels

Image credit: Sullivan’s Travels, 1941.

I’m often struck by the way history continuously repeats itself. I wonder—do people not already know how this ends? You don’t even need to read a textbook; classic films  provide proof we’ve been through this before. Rampant unemployment, innocent lives lost, oppression of the poor and non-white communities—it’s all there, in this week’s masterpiece of a film, Sullivan’s Travels (Disc/Download). Maybe director Preston Sturges didn’t know how to fix the world’s problems, but he understood that laughter is sometimes the only medicine we’ve got.

Fictional Hollywood director John L. Sullivan is tired of being the Adam Sandler of the 1940s. He’s sick of making brain-dead comedies that fail to address the world’s problems. So he decides to adapt a Serious Novel called O Brother, Where Art Thou (before you ask, yes the beloved Coen Brothers film is a reference to this novel-within-a-movie). But before starting production, Sullivan decides to travel across the country incognito in order to witness and understand the lives of real, ordinary people. He ditches tuxedos in favor of hobo chic, meets Veronica Lake’s character, and together they go off to look for America. However, before their journey concludes, Sullivan gets hit on the head and accidentally assaults a cop. He doesn’t remember that he’s actually a wealthy man of privilege, so he never gets a proper defense in court. After being sentenced to a chain gang, he finally remembers who he is and has to prove his innocence. It’s during a chain gang movie night where he finally realizes the only thing bringing these guys joy is a silly Disney cartoon. It’s their one opportunity to smile and feel human. That’s true of most of America, he realizes. When it comes to entertainment, people don’t want to be told what their problems are; they want to laugh and forget, if only for a little while.

It says a lot about Veronica Lake that even when dressed up like a hobo, she still manages to be one of the sexiest actresses I’ve ever seen. She and Joel McCrea have amazing chemistry, whether they’re sitting beside his swimming pool, or riding the rails of a boxcar. Let’s toast them with this Tramp cocktail!

Tramp

1 oz Sloe Gin

1 oz Peach Liqueur

1 oz Lime Juice

3 oz Cava

Lime twist/dried lime for garnish

Combine sloe gin, peach liqueur, and lime juice in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a Collins glass filled with crushed ice. Top with Cava and lime garnish.

Tramp

In a weird twist of fate, I actually watched Sullivan’s Travels right after sitting through an old Adam Sandler rom-com. As expected, the Happy Madison flick was a little dumb, but I enjoyed the tropical setting and his schlubby earnestness. It felt good to laugh, at a time when everything in the news made me want to cry. However, it also made me understand how rare it is when a movie causes you smile and think and learn something about the world, which is why Sullivan’s Travels is so special, even today. So give yourself permission to laugh and enjoy a cocktail right now—we all need it. Cheers!

Love Actually

Image Credit Universal 2003

Image Credit Universal 2003

Moving on from the hijinks of the Griswolds, this week’s holiday movie is my personal favorite, Love Actually. It’s the movie I always watch while wrapping gifts, and if it takes me longer than the film’s running time, I know I’m being very generous with the presents this year. To me, it’s not Christmas yet until I’ve seen Bill Nighy butcher the song ‘Love is All Around’, or Hugh Grant shaking his hips to the Pointer Sisters’ ‘Jump For My Love’. There are so many great things about this movie that it’s impossible to list them all. I love every single one of the actors and actresses, the stories are both hilarious and heartbreaking, and it truly illustrates the many kinds of love that a person will experience in their lifetime.

Love Actually crisscrosses back and forth among the stories of over a dozen or so Londoners during the month of December. We see unrequited love, forbidden love, love’s betrayal, new love, the love between siblings, between a father and a son, and between longtime friends. A lot for one movie! Director Richard Curtis manages to make it all come together seamlessly, and he’s done an absolutely brilliant job of casting. Remember when I said I wanted to cut Cameron Diaz out of The Holiday? Well, there are no Cameron Diaz’s in this movie. It’s difficult to pinpoint which of the stories are my favorite, but the girlie girl in me has to go with Colin Firth falling in love with his Portuguese cleaning lady, even though neither of them speak the same language. He learns Portuguese so he can talk to her, while she learns English so she can talk to him- talk about a meet cute!

For my cocktail this week, I’m utilizing a liqueur that I didn’t have in my bar already, but I thought it was a worthwhile purchase for the holidays- Sloe Gin. This is a traditional British liqueur that is made with sloe berries that grow wild throughout England. The berries are soaked in high-proof gin, along with a little bit of sugar, resulting in a tart liqueur. I’m told that it does make a difference which brand you buy, as the less expensive varieties have a tendency to taste like cough syrup. I suggest Plymouth, if you can find it. I’m mixing it with a few other simple ingredients to make a Sloe Dance, in reference to Laura Linney’s sweetly hopeful dance scene with her hot Brazilian co-worker midway through the movie.

Sloe Dance

2oz sloe gin

1oz lemon juice

½ oz simple syrup

Club Soda

Mix together sloe gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker over ice. Shake until cold, then strain into a glass. Top with club soda, and enjoy!

sloe-dance

This drink is sweet and bitter at the same time, which could also be said about love. Emma Thompson proves this toward the end of the movie when she realizes her husband bought a gold locket for another woman. Her private tears as she listens to the smoke-addled voice of Joni Mitchell just breaks my heart every time. I think that’s what makes this movie so great- it doesn’t sugar-coat things. Yes, there are wonderful, uplifting, magical love stories, but there are also sad love stories too. Love Actually really reminds me to appreciate the many kinds of love I have in my life, because at Christmas it really is all around. Cheers!