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Tag Archives: Stanley Kubrick

Eyes Wide Shut

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Eyes wide shut

Image credit: Eyes Wide Shut, 1999.

After 3 years of choosing Christmas films for Cinema Sips, I’ve reached my limit on festive family-friendly fare. If you’re looking for It’s a Wonderful Life or Love, Actually, you may want to scroll back a year or two. Since many of us currently feel like we’re living in a bizarre reality of “alternative facts” and a bleak future where The Day After Tomorrow is suddenly not so far-fetched…. Dystopian Christmas seems right. Kicking things off is Stanley Kubrick’s final film Eyes Wide Shut (DVD/Download). I don’t know which aspect of this disturbing movie makes my skin crawl more- the weird underground world of extravagant masked orgies, or a brief glimpse into the bedroom of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman (*shudder*).

I think Stanley Kubrick himself must have been second-guessing Eyes Wide Shut as a Christmas movie. Why else would such a master of visual style put a garish Christmas tree in LITERALLY EVERY SCENE? Maybe that’s a good drinking game- take a sip every time you spot a tree with colored lights.  Too often, the dialogue between Cruise and Kidman seems to drag, like that fight you’ve had with your spouse that lasted about 2 hours longer than it should have. You know you’ve been saying the same thing for the last 45 minutes, but you just can’t stop. Maybe that’s both the problem, and point of this movie. Tom Cruise’s character stumbles onto a hidden Manhattan sex ring, tempting him away from his beautiful wife and child, but even after things turn sour, even after it becomes dangerous, he can’t quit his obsession. Kubrick was notorious for being a slowpoke auteur, and one wonders what changes he might have continued to make to the final cut of this film had he not died before its release. In the end we’re left with a powerful, beautiful, flawed product that’s just weird enough to be brilliant.

The true star of this film (in my opinion) is Nicole Kidman. Her character Alice is a complicated mess, torn between her desire for a stable family life and her illicit desires. Only when she becomes drunk or stoned do we see the real Alice emerge. Lit from behind in Kubrick’s indigo blue light, her pale skin seems otherworldly. While watching Eyes Wide Shut, I recommend drinking a Midnight Kiss.

Midnight Kiss

1oz Vodka

¼ oz Blue Curacao

1 tsp lemon juice

Champagne

Combine first three ingredients in a shaker filled with ice.  Stir until chilled, then strain into a champagne flute.  Top with chilled champagne, and garnish with a lemon twist.

Midnight Kiss

During this movie, Tom Cruise has quite possibly the longest night in the history of nights. He goes from fighting with his wife, to comforting a dead man’s family, to flirting with a beautiful prostitute, to having a drink in a jazz club, to buying a costume, to crashing an orgy, to hiding the evidence back home- all before sunrise. After awhile, you wonder how far past midnight, and normalcy, he’s ventured. Whether you view it as a dream or a nightmare, Eyes Wide Shut will make you realize that there are many things in life we’ll never fully understand.  The fun, and the frustration, is in the trying. Cheers!

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A Clockwork Orange

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A Clockwork Orange

Image credit: A Clockwork Orange, 1971

And now for a bit of the old Ultra-Violence. This week’s classic film A Clockwork Orange (DVD/Download) is not for the faint of heart. Believe me- I watched it on a random Tuesday night and felt like calling in sick to work the next day. It’s a film that stays with you, for better or worse.

Adapted from the novel by Anthony Burgess, this is touted as Stanley Kubrick’s most faithful adaptation of literary source material. It’s hard to believe it was made 45 years ago, although I suppose the comparison of 1970’s fresh-faced, long-haired Malcolm McDowell to today’s grumpy old man Malcolm McDowell proves that point. Set in a futuristic, dystopian version of the UK, A Clockwork Orange chronicles narrator Alex and his violent crimes against society. Of course it’ll always be remembered for the horrifying scene with Alex strapped to a chair, his eyelids ratcheted open, being forced to watch violent images in a reverse-conditioning experiment. However, as someone who has actually experienced the dreaded eyelid speculum during various retina procedures, seeing it on screen doesn’t bother me so much. I’m really more troubled by the sick, twisted appropriation of the title song from Singin’ In the Rain. I worry I’ll never be able to watch Gene Kelly twirl his umbrella without thinking of Malcolm McDowell and his fake phallic nose. *Shudder*.

Alex and his merry band of Droogs like to hang out at the Korova Milk Bar, a black-walled mod watering hole decorated with surplus mannequins from Hustler. They drink something called Milk-Plus, a concoction of milk and some additive ingredient that gets them hyped up for violent acts. I’m not sure that I really want to be lacing my cocktails with PCP, so while watching A Clockwork Orange, I recommend drinking a classic Brandy Alexander.

Brandy Alexander

1 oz fresh cream

1 oz Brandy or Cognac

1 oz Dark Crème de Cacao

Nutmeg

Shake chilled ingredients together and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Sprinkle with ground nutmeg.

brandy alexander

If you’ve never seen A Clockwork Orange before, it’s truly a film not one to be missed. Strange and haunting, this is Kubrick at his peak. From the Moog synthetizers to the old Ludwig van, the music pulls you in and never lets go. Which is sort of what happened to Alex, in the end. He was cured, all right. Cheers!

Lolita

Image credit:  Lolita 1997 (left), Lolita 1962 (right)

Image credit: Lolita 1997 (left), Lolita 1962 (right)

Although it probably won’t ever make the required reading lists of any high school, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov is one of the best books ever written. There, I said it. It was my favorite book as an adolescent, still my favorite in my 20’s, and even upon a recent re-reading, it remains a superb example of English prose. The sexual deviancy of the narrator (a man who preys upon teenage girls) would probably turn many people off, but they’d be missing the gorgeous linguistic skills of the author. “She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.” Sentences like this are what have kept me championing this book for decades, and what keep me going as a writer. I’ll never be Nabokov, but one should always have a distant level of genius to aspire toward.

This book is so great in fact, that it took two film adaptations to really tell the story. Most people know of Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 Lolita (DVD/Download) with James Mason as the sophisticated, depraved Humbert Humbert, and I’m certainly a fan. I think it’s beautifully shot, with symbolic close-ups standing in for more gruesome scenes (I’m thinking particularly of the final showdown with Quilty) but it isn’t exactly an accurate adaptation of the book. It’s playful and light, almost a comedy. It captures the spirit of America that I think Nabokov was striving for, but it leaves out most of the emotion and depravity of the book. In contrast, Adrian Lyne’s 1997 version of Lolita (DVD/Download), was a very accurate adaptation plot-wise, nearly to the point of being too much to handle. I’m thinking again of the final showdown with Quilty, which in this version becomes a bloody, gory, gruesome mess- think Tarantino without the humor. However, Jeremy Irons is AMAZING as Humbert. Unfortunately I don’t think either Sue Lyons or Dominique Swain were altogether fantastic as Lolita, but both versions have wonderful Quilty’s, played by Peter Sellers and Frank Langella, respectively.

Whichever version of Lolita you prefer (and I really do suggest watching them both), I recommend harkening back to the novel for cocktail inspiration.  Humbert mentions his preferred drink, the Pin (pineapple juice and gin), so I’ll be enjoying that combination, with an added flirtation of champagne. While watching Lolita, I recommend drinking a Nymphette.

Nymphette

1 oz Gin

2 oz Pineapple Juice

1 oz Champagne

Lemon sugar for rimming

Rim a coupe glass with lemon sugar.  Combine Gin and Pineapple Juice over ice in a shaker.  Shake until chilled, then strain into prepared glass.  Top with Champagne.

Nymphette

You may notice in the above photo that I’ve got a copy of the Lolita audio book as read by Jeremy Irons.  If you’ve never heard it, go find it today (don’t worry if you already threw out your Walkman- it’s available on Audible or CD too).  That velvet voice is a perfect complement to Nabokov’s words, and I find myself getting lost in the beautifully crafted sentences. As poor, tortured Humbert Humbert admits, “You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.” Cheers!