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Tag Archives: Sydney Pollack

Out of Africa

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Image Credit: Out of Africa, 1985

Concluding my journey through 1985, I couldn’t resist a peek at the year’s Academy Award winner for Best Picture, Sydney Pollack’s Out of Africa (Disc/Download). Some might say this is not the best movie to watch when you’re already sweltering under a summer heat wave; however, I like to think of this as a how-to guide for surviving climate change—wear a lot of white linen, stock up on quinine, and make alfresco nighttime vinyl cocktail parties a thing.

Starring Meryl Streep as Karen von Blixen (the writer who would later go on to be published under the pseudonym Isak Dinesen) this is an epic tale of one woman’s struggle to live her best life, despite the incompetent men she’s forced to deal with on a daily basis. Sounds familiar, amiright ladies? Wealthy Karen signs herself up for a marriage-of-convenience that involves a ticket to Nairobi and a coffee farm she never really wanted. But still, she makes the best of it, forging a friendship with handsome safari hunter Denys Finch Hatton (Robert Redford)- a friendship that later turns into a passionate romance. Confronted with war, fickle crops, male chauvinism, as well as a fun little bout of syphilis thanks to her deadbeat husband, Karen never loses her classy attitude. She’s all about crystal decanters, Victrola record players, Limoges, and fussy feminine decor, even while on safari. In other words, she basically invented glamping, and we should all bow down.

Because this movie is definitely not climate controlled, I think we need an icy cold beverage to get us through. There’s no greater summertime pleasure than a gin & tonic, so let’s combine the flavors of a G&T with Karen’s beleaguered coffee crop in this Spiked Coffee Tonic cocktail.

Spiked Coffee Tonic

1 oz Gin

1 ½ oz Espresso Cold Brew (canned)

2 oz Tonic

½ oz Brown Sugar Syrup (Combine 1:1 ratio brown sugar with water, blending until sugar is dissolved)

Dried Lemon Wheel (garnish)

Combine gin, cold brew, tonic, and syrup in a highball glass filled with large ice cubes. Stir until combined, then garnish with a dried lemon wheel.

It’s a little surprising to me that this won the Academy Award for Best Picture, given how lackluster the script is. But nevertheless, it’s worthwhile viewing, if only to watch Meryl master the Danish accent as well as those safari-chic fashions. Cheers!

Sabrina (in defense of the remake)

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Image credit: Sabrina, 1995

Image credit: Sabrina, 1995

Confronted with the summer box office marquee recently, I had to take a pause and just shudder. It seemed like everything was a remake or a sequel. Or a remake. Or a sequel. Does nobody in Hollywood have an original idea anymore? Sure, I enjoyed Jurassic World as much as the next person, in an “oh my God this is so bad that it may be the best comedy I’ve seen in years” kind of way, but still I yearn for more films like Love & Mercy, or Tangerine . I know, I know, studios save all the good movies for the fall or Dec. 25th, but when it’s 105 outside and I want to sit in an air conditioned movie theater, I’d rather not have to suffer through yet another tired superhero flick. In thinking about all these reboots currently in the works, I started wondering if I have ever seen a remake of a film that I actually liked. The list is short, but at the top I would have to put Sydney Pollack’s 1995 version of Sabrina (DVD/Download). I’d even go as far as to say I like it better than the original Billy Wilder version. Before you shriek and clutch your pearls, let me explain.

The romantic plot of Sabrina is truly timeless. Sabrina, the daughter of a chauffeur to a wealthy family on Long Island, is the quintessential ugly duckling. She pines for the playboy son of her father’s employer, and stares longingly at a world where she’ll never belong. Eventually she grows up, moves to Paris, becomes stylish and sophisticated, then moves back home. The playboy son who barely knew her name takes notice, but she also catches the eye of his serious and surly older brother. Both films feature sparkling wit, lovely costumes (though my vote goes to the 1954 version in that regard), and a good dose of romance. Where the 1995 version wins out for me is in the casting. As much as I adore Audrey Hepburn, and admit that she is a better Sabrina than Julia Ormond, I think the ensemble as a whole is just better in the remake. Harrison Ford takes over for Humphrey Bogart (who at 55 was WAY too old to be romancing 25-year old Audrey Hepburn), and Greg Kinnear plays William Holden’s role. Ford and Kinnear are simply better suited to these characters than their original counterparts, and I genuinely get why Sabrina would have a tough choice to make. Charming, funny Greg Kinnear or serious, sexy Harrison Ford? Can I pretty please be Sabrina for just one day?

In both films, champagne is drunk freely at the lavish Larrabee family parties. So of course, for this sparkling, smart film , I’ll be drinking a champagne cocktail, with a french aperitif twist.  With whichever Sabrina you consider your favorite, I recommend trying a Le Sauveur.

Le Sauveur

.25 oz Absinthe

2.5 oz Cognac

.5 oz Cointreau

.5 oz Suze

.5 oz champagne

Lemon twist

Rinse a champagne flute with absinthe, fill with ice, and set aside.  Fill another glass with ice, add cognac, Cointreau, and Suze.  Stir until chilled.  Empty the champagne flute of ice and remaining absinthe, and strain cognac mixture into the glass.  Top with champagne, and a lemon twist.

Le Saveur

A lot of people may disagree with my opinions on the original Sabrina (and feel free to sound off in the comments below), but however loyal you are to the classic, you’ve got to admit that Sydney Pollack’s film stands on its own. It feels fresh, funny, and charming, and there’s not a superhero or CGI effect in sight- I give it bonus points just for that. Cheers!