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Rear Window

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Image credit: Rear Window, 1954

There’s nothing like a hot, humid night to make you want to cool off with an effortlessly chic film and icy cocktail. Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (Disc/Download) may take place during the dog days of summer, but it never fails to chill me to the bone.

With a main character loosely based on real-life celebrity/lifestyle photographer Slim Aarons, this movie seems tailor made to fit my mid-century sensibilities. But throw in a tense murder mystery, voyeurism, and Hitchcockian suspense, and this Edith Head-flavored eye candy becomes a masterpiece. I’ve always loved Jimmy Stewart in a Hitchcock film because it’s an opportunity for cinema’s favorite everyman to dig a little deeper. As we see him lock eyes with a killer across the courtyard, it becomes apparent—this Jimmy has a dark side. One that compels him to watch his neighbors with the lights off, studying their movements, becoming involved in their dramas from afar. He can joke with Thelma Ritter and flirt with his socialite girlfriend, but there’s no denying the slight element of criminality to his behavior. Watching isn’t murder, but it’s still a violation.

Speaking of Thelma Ritter, I’d like to toast this 20th Century Queen of “Telling it Like it Is”. As the nurse who tends to Jimmy’s  L. B. “Jeff” Jeffries and his broken leg, she admonishes his semi-creepy voyeur habits while simultaneously musing about body disposal and blood spatter. Murderinos unite! When the action heats up, cool down with this Peeping Tom Collins.

Peeping Tom Collins

2 oz London Dry Gin

1 oz Lemon Juice

1 oz Ginger Liqueur

1/2 oz Simple Syrup

Club Soda to top

Lemon Wheel for garnish

Build drink over ice, stirring to combine. Garnish with a lemon wheel.

With just a hint of a spicy kick from the ginger liqueur, this drink will make you aware of how hot it is outside, but grateful you have air conditioning (unlike the poor folks in this Greenwich Village apartment complex). And be sure to watch out for a scene in which three people swirl brandy for about ten minutes straight, literally hypnotizing the viewer. If this was Hitch’s brand of misdirection, consider me duped. I have no idea what happened in that scene, other than the fact that Grace Kelly likes to aerate her alcohol and wear chunky charm bracelets. Cheers!

Bottle Rocket

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Image credit: Bottle Rocket, 1996

Longtime readers of Cinema Sips know I’m a sucker for any movie with a pool, and now that the weather’s warming up, I’m ready for an onscreen dip. Bottle Rocket (Disc/Download) manages to make a crappy motel pool look like Shangri-La, and although the comedic heist script is an absolute joy, let’s be clear—I’m mainly here for the swimming.

Despite the fact that Bottle Rocket was never a commercial success, critics nevertheless came away from initial screenings with the sense that this was the start of something major. The symmetry; the Mark Mothersbaugh soundtrack; the deadpan comedy style; the saturated colors—all hallmarks of Wes Anderson’s unique body of work. This film is the genesis, a place where we can come to view tiny glimpses of his brilliance, feeling like we just entered a world that’s somehow better than our own (even though it’s just a nondescript, forgettable Texas town). Small is the word I keep coming back to—small budget, small-time crooks, small in scope; however, the movie leaves me with BIG feelings. The romance between Luke Wilson’s character Anthony and the motel maid Inez is so beautiful, it’s enough to make even the worst skeptic believe in love at first sight. That pure, simple moment when you realize the person you love feels the same way in return—like a bottle rocket exploding in your heart.

Of course it wouldn’t be a Wes Anderson movie without a zany cast of secondary characters, one of which is simply called Applejack. It’s a tiny role, but pivotal to the final heist of the film. And lucky for me, cocktail-inspiring as well.  While watching Bottle Rocket, cool off with an Applejack Collins.

Applejack Collins

1 ½ oz Applejack Brandy

½ oz Orgeat

½ oz Lemon Juice

3 oz Club Soda

Combine Applejack, orgeat, and lemon juice in a shaker with ice.  Shake until chilled, then strain into a Collins glass over fresh ice.  Top with club soda and stir gently to combine.

I’ve talked a lot about how this was the start of Wes Anderson’s career, but let’s not forget brothers Owen and Luke Wilson, who also broke into Hollywood with Bottle Rocket. With their Texas drawls, dented noses, and good hair, the Wilsons were practically destined for stardom. Lucky for us, this weird little ‘90s indie film had enough fuel to propel them up there.  Cheers!

That Thing You Do!

Image Credit: That Thing You Do!, 1996

Anyone who knows me (or really anyone who’s ever read this blog) knows I have a thing for the 1960s. But where did this obsession come from? I blame the following: endless Nick at Night marathons in the ’90s, and this week’s movie, That Thing You Do! (Disc/Download).

Having been raised on the Pittsburgh oldies station in my dad’s car, I knew this era’s music inside and out. So when Tom Hanks “the director” burst onto the scene with his ode to ’60s pop, I was instantly hooked. Add to that Liv Tyler’s cigarette pants and high ponytails, Tom Everett Scott’s electronics shop wonderland (THOSE VINTAGE RADIOS!!!), and all those references to forgotten stars like Gina Lollobrigida and Suzanne Pleshette, and I was officially a goner. I’d found my pop culture home, and the mid-1960s was it. I wanted to live in this world where the One-ders could rise to superstardom on the strength of one hit song, and not flashy boy-band dance moves. This world where rock bands got to pretend-perform in movies as Capt. Geech and the Shrimp Shack Shooters. This world where jazz and rock & roll was still somewhat interconnected, and a talented musician like Guy Patterson could perform in front of screaming teenage girls one minute, and studio icons the next. Maybe, at the end of it all, I just wanted to imagine a world where I could leave Pennsylvania and follow my dreams—wearing those cigarette pants, of course.

It’s still incredibly odd to me that Tom Hanks hasn’t found more projects like this to direct, because clearly the guy’s got skills. He made a perfect gem of a movie that captures a specific moment in time, pulling together exceptionally talented people to realize his vision. Let’s celebrate this maestro of ’60s nostalgia with one of my favorite cocktails, the classic Tom Collins.

Tom Collins

2 oz Gin

1 oz lemon juice

½ oz simple syrup

Club Soda

Lemon garnish

Combine gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a shaker with ice.  Shake until chilled, then strain into a Collins glass with fresh ice. Top with Club Soda, and stir gently to combine. Garnish with lemon.

I did a thing I pretty much never do, which was to watch an unedited version of this movie one lazy Friday night. I know a lot of people enjoy Special Features and Extended Cuts, but to me, theatrical cuts exist for a reason. In most cases, it’s the best version everyone could agree on. But I got curious, wondering what was tossed from my perfect film, and WOW it was a lot. For example, poor Charlize took the biggest hit, and now that strange Spartacus line finally makes more sense. Sort of. Also- Tom Hanks’ manager character was actually gay?? That’s actually something I wish they’d left in. Aside for some great dresses that ended up on the cutting room floor, most of the edits were necessary. Would I watch the extended version again? Probably not—it was extremely long and slow-moving. But as a lesson in how all the parts have to come together in just the right way to tell the best story possible, it was invaluable. Like the difference between the Oneders vs. The Wonders, simple is usually better. Cheers!

What’s Up, Doc?

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Whats Up Doc

Image credit: Whats Up Doc?, 1972

The 1970’s were a really unfortunate time for hair. Also luggage. But there was one great thing that set the decade apart from all others- Barbra Streisand. Specifically, young, gamine, fresh-faced Barbra Streisand, before she was Oprah-rich and started cloning her dogs. In this week’s film What’s Up, Doc? (DVD/Download), she’s at the top of her game, but isn’t afraid to pratfall down to the bottom.

Directed by Peter Bogdanovich, What’s Up, Doc? pays homage to the great screwball comedies of the 1930’s. Fast dialogue, rapid fire puns, etc.- it’s like Bringing Up 70’s Baby. Four people show up at the same hotel carrying the same ugly suitcase. Naturally the suitcases get mixed up, and chaos ensues. Barbra is radiant as flighty Judy Maxwell, and her zany romance with engaged musicologist (played by Ryan O’Neal), is great fun to watch. The script is still remarkably fresh, and I found myself imagining who’d play these roles in the remake. Dream cast: Ryan Reynolds as Howard Bannister, Aya Cash as Judy Maxwell, and Kate McKinnon as Eunice Burns. Boom.

One of my favorite scenes involves Judy and Howard meeting on an abandoned floor of the hotel.  The stuffy musicologist plays “As Time Goes By” (because every construction site has a spare piano lying around…) and they gaze into each other’s eyes, and…. (insert *sigh* here). This cocktail is as sparkling as the movie dialogue, as sweet as the romance, and naturally, on the rocks. While watching What’s Up, Doc?, I recommend drinking an Elderflower Collins (on the rocks).

Elderflower Collins (on the rocks)

2 oz gin

1 oz St. Germain

1 oz lemon juice

2 oz Lemon Elderflower Soda

2 oz Topo Chico

Fill a highball glass with ice, then build drink, stirring gently to combine. Garnish with a lemon slice.

elderflower fizz

If you’re traveling to San Francisco anytime soon, I’d highly recommend giving this movie a watch. So many great location shots of the city, including some truly epic car chases up and down the hills. Bogdanovich throws every sight and sound gag at us, and luckily, most of them work. In What’s Up, Doc?, anything goes. Cheers!