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Rocky

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Image Credit: Rocky, 1976

As much as I’d love to stay in 1967 forever, we must be moving on to a new decade this week- the 1970s! I’ve examined several individual years from this time period, and as far as I’m concerned, the real standout is 1976. We had everything from Jodi Foster in Freaky Friday to Jodi Foster in Taxi Driver, and let’s not forget ’70s MVP Dustin Hoffman, who came out with Marathon Man and All the President’s Men that year. That’s a lot of men! But the movie that’s endured the test of time, despite a never-ending string of subpar sequels and reboots, is the Sylvester Stallone classic Rocky (Disc/Download).

I have a real soft spot for sports movies, particularly underdog sports movies. Rudy, The Bad News Bears (another 1976 gem!), Slap Shot, and this tale of the Italian Stallion going fifteen rounds with Heavyweight Champion Apollo Creed. But what draws me even further into Rocky is the tender romance between the boxer and shy pet store employee Adrian (Talia Shire). The heat between these two when he brings her back to his place to meet his turtles- yowza! Indeed, it’s those human moments of the athlete, sandwiched between training montage clips and bloody eyelids that make this movie something you want to watch again and again. By the end, nobody really cares whether Rocky Balboa wins or loses; we care whether or not his enormous heart is still intact.

Speaking of training, Rocky’s raw egg breakfast is still enough to turn my stomach, even though I put egg whites in my cocktails all the time. Something about that yolk dropping into a glass- blech! Let’s make cocktail hour a little more palatable by celebrating Rocky’s Italian roots with this Campari Sour.

Campari Sour

2 oz Gin

1 oz Campari

1 oz Lemon Juice

3/4 oz Simple Syrup

1 Egg White

Dash of Orange Bitters

Orange Wheel Garnish

Fill a glass with ice and set aside. Combine gin, Campari, lemon juice, simple syrup, egg white, and bitters in a shaker, and shake for about 10-15 seconds until frothy. Add ice, and shake for an additional 10 seconds. Strain into prepared glass, and top with orange wheel garnish.

One thing I’ve noticed in 1970s movies is that the sheen of Hollywood perfection seems to have fallen away. There’s suddenly layers of trash on those city sidewalks, and you’re not sure but you think the actors might be wearing their own clothes. Gone are the Edith Head gowns and MGM musical backdrops to transport us away- instead, we see the world as it really was. By grounding Rocky in 1970s Philadelphia, the boxer becomes just another guy down the block, who you’ve maybe seen at the pet store or the laundromat, but who is suddenly on the cusp of greatness. And if it could happen to him, it could happen to anyone. Cheers!

Staying Alive

Image credit: Staying Alive, 1983

Two great things came out of the year 1983—me, and this week’s Cinema Sips pick, Staying Alive (Disc/Download). I know what you’re thinking: isn’t this the movie where John Travolta does hip thrusts next to Jamie Lee Curtis? The answer is no, that’s a weird little flick called Perfect. Which, I admit, is what I thought I would be watching when I put on Staying Alive. Nevertheless, my accident turned into a happy one when I realized I might be the only person on the planet who thinks this is a decent sequel to Saturday Night Fever. Allow me to make my case.

First, I think we’re far enough away from that Bee Gee’s disco fever dream to admit that while SNF had some gritty, hard-hitting moments, it was still John Travolta in a tight white leisure suit strutting his hips on a light-up floor. It’s cheesy as hell. So when Sylvester Stallone directed him to shake those hips again in a Broadway chorus line, why was that suddenly too cheesy? Any fan of Showgirls will be wowed by Tony Manero’s big Broadway debut in “Satan’s Alley”, and yacht rock fans will delight in the soundtrack, featuring the vocal talents of Cynthia Rhodes of Dirty Dancing fame. Honestly, I want to believe that Penny left the trauma of her back-alley abortion behind in the Catskills and reemerged twenty years later as a successful Broadway dancer. This all seems totally plausible to me.

Back when I covered Saturday Night Fever, I paired it with a Brooklyn cocktail, a lower borough version of the Manhattan. But now that Tony’s moved downtown, it’s time to class things up with this brandy version. While watching Staying Alive, I recommend drinking a Metropolitan cocktail.

Metropolitan

2 oz Brandy

1 oz Sweet Vermouth

½ tsp. Simple Syrup

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine all ingredients. Shake well, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon, if desired.

Maybe I have an overly generous view of Staying Alive because I’ve been where Tony is (hell, at the time of writing this, I am Tony). I’ve crossed some hurdles in the road toward publication, but I still have a few more to go. Like Tony, I’m hustling, trying to make sure my dream stays alive. It can be a hard thing to accept the fact that not everyone can be “one of those people” who encounter success incredibly early in their lives (and yes, I kind of hate those people). Tony and I really have to work for it, but man—do we have potential. Cheers!