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Ghost Town

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Image Credit: Ghost Town, 2008

It’s unfortunate, really, that the world has largely ignored a perfectly great autumnal New York rom-com for so many years. Nora Ephron movies usually get all the credit for long walks through a golden-hued Central Park, but I ask you to also consider the Ricky Gervais/Téa Leoni comedy Ghost Town (Disc/Download) when you’re waxing poetic about bouquets of sharpened pencils and leaves gusting across the sidewalk. I may be writing this post in the springtime, but in my opinion, a movie trip to New York in the fall is always a good idea.

It’s surprising to me that Ghost Town is not a remake of a 1930s or ‘40s comedy because it feels like something of that era, evoking films such as Here Comes Mr. Jordan, Heaven Can Wait, or even It’s a Wonderful Life. Death breeds an appreciation for life, forcing an unsympathetic character to change his pessimistic ways and let others in—in this case, surly dentist Bertram Pincus. Ricky Gervais plays Dr. Pincus with quick-witted, deadpan humor, and although not the first actor you would think of as a romantic leading man, he slowly steals a recent widow’s (Téa Leoni) heart, along with mine. After a colonoscopy mishap (kudos to the screenwriter for finding relatable humor in that situation), Bertram awakes with the ability to see dead people. Unfortunately for him, New York City is filled with ghosts trying to get messages to their grieving loved ones. One such ghost is a tuxedo’d Greg Kinnear, who died in the act of leaving one hell of an emotional wound on his wife. Can Dr. Pincus heal the hurt? Can he, as a dentist and a brilliantly funny man, fix her smile? Ahhhhhhhhh this movie is just too cute.

If you’re familiar with New York-set romantic comedies, then you’ll recognize a lot of locations in this. The filmmakers hit all the big ones—Central Park, the Egyptian Wing of the Met, cozy West Village bistro, etc. But it’s at the Carlyle Hotel bar where we learn Dr. Pincus’s favorite drink, a Pimm’s Cup. Classy Greg Kinnear tries to steer him toward a Sapphire Martini, which he grudgingly drinks, but it’s not until Téa Leoni orders her own Pimm’s later on that we know these two lonely hearts are made for each other. Matchmaking through cocktails—I love it! While watching Ghost Town, do yourself a favor and pour yourself a classic Pimm’s Cup.

Pimm’s Cup

1 ½ oz Pimm’s No. 1

2 oz Sparkling Lemonade

2 oz Ginger Beer

Cucumber ribbon

Orange and lemon slices for garnish

Fill a glass with ice and add the Pimm’s. Top with sparkling lemonade and ginger beer, stirring to combine. Garnish with cucumber ribbon and orange/lemon slices.

There are a lot of variations on this recipe, so feel free to experiment with different combinations of lemon and ginger. The main thread through all of them is Pimm’s, fresh fruit, and a sweetly sour sparkling soda. The fact that Bertram Pincus is a Pimm’s lover makes total sense to me; he’s complicated and sweet, just like his favorite cocktail. Cheers!

Spanglish

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Image Credit Columbia Pictures, 2004, Spanglish

Image Credit Columbia Pictures, 2004, Spanglish

This week on Cinema Sips, I’m making the bold choice to feature a movie so unabashedly girly and saccharine that I run the risk of being ridiculed for admitting I really like it. But, I will take the heat because it pairs so well with a delicious summertime sangria. See what love I have for you readers? The movie I’m watching is Spanglish (DVD/Download), a 2004 James L. Brooks film that was forgettable to most people, but for me, has cemented its place in my pantheon of Sunday-afternoon rom-coms that I never get tired of watching. Because air-conditioned Sunday afternoons are what summer is all about, I’m popping this one in the DVD player and ignoring all the haters.

Spanglish stars Adam Sandler as a loveable, talented chef whose family hires a beautiful Mexican woman to be their housekeeper. He’s married to a cheating, neurotic mess of a woman (played a little too over-the-top by Tea Leoni) so of course the lovely Flor Morales (played by Penelope Cruz-lite Paz Vega) becomes the object of his desire. She doesn’t speak English, he doesn’t speak Spanish, but they fall for each other anyway. Flor’s daughter is also thrown into the mix as the families become closer over a summer spent at the beach. Perhaps it’s my envy of their beach house that keeps me tuning in year after year to this comedic saga, but I like to think I’m also responding to the excellent (as always) script by James L. Brooks, and the unexpected charm of Adam Sandler. He’s absolutely delightful in this, leaving behind all of the juvenile frat-boy humor of his youth (and unfortunately his present, by the looks of the trailer for Blended). Cloris Leachman of course steals every scene she’s in as the boozy grandmother of the family, and it’s because of her character that I’m never without a drink when I watch this film.

Cloris sticks mainly to white wine in Spanglish, so in honor of her amazing comedic talent, I’m mixing up a white wine peach sangria this week. Of course, part of this decision was based on the fact that peaches are wonderfully in season in Central Texas where I live, and I was hankering for a way to use them in something. I’m not much of a cook, so a fruity cocktail it is. When watching Spanglish, I recommend drinking a Sparkling Peach Sangria.

Sparkling Peach Sangria

2-3 peaches, sliced

¾ cup brandy

1 bottle sparkling wine (such as Moscato)

1 liter white peach seltzer water, chilled

In a pitcher, place ¾ of the sliced peaches and brandy and lightly muddle. Add the sparkling wine and seltzer water, stirring gently with a wooden spoon to mix. Pour into glasses (over ice if you’re enjoying this outdoors, or into a champagne flute if you want to be fancy like me!) and top with a few fresh peach slices.

peach-sangria

I had the pleasure of enjoying this drink at a party over the weekend, and it did not disappoint! It’s best to mix up a big batch of this because the movie does run a bit long, but for me, that just means more Adam Sandler to love. Also, kudos to Mr. Brooks for capturing the neuroses of the interior design professional PERFECTLY (I say this because I used to be an interior design professional). Tea Leoni plays it so well.  So sit back, drink up, and enjoy this movie about family, culture clash, forbidden love, and maybe the best looking sandwich ever captured on film. Cheers!