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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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The Outsiders

Image credit: The Outsiders, 1983

Image credit: The Outsiders, 1983

I was shocked to learn recently that The Outsiders is STILL being taught in middle school classrooms. With the intense boom of YA literature over the last decade, I would have thought that S.E. Hinton’s classic tale of greasers and soc’s had since been edged out by John Green or Stephen Chbosky- but no. Apparently Ponyboy lives on. Part of what made reading The Outsiders so great back in middle school was the inevitable arrival of the clunky TV cart hauled in on a rainy day, long after we’d finished our discussion of what the heck Robert Frost meant with that poem. The lights would dim, as 25 seventh graders focused their attention on Francis Ford Coppola’s iconic film adaptation of the novel. Even now, the opening notes of the theme song conjure up sensory memories of dry air, mildewed backpacks, and the smell of sharpened pencils. Ah youth.

The Outsiders (DVD/Download) is actually a fairly accurate adaptation of the book.  We still get the same retro S.E. Hinton dialogue, the same wacky character names, and the same great lines like “Do it for Johnny!” and “Stay Gold, Ponyboy”. The casting is pretty perfect, featuring a who’s who of 80’s stars like C Thomas Howell, Matt Dillon, Tom Cruise (pre-dental work), Rob Lowe, Diane Lane, Leif Garrett, Emilio Estevez, Ralph Macchio, and the late great Patrick Swayze (rocking his signature too tight black t-shirt). Let me say, as a 14 year old girl watching this for the first time, I finally understood where all the cute boys were. Certainly, not at my school.

How fortunate we all are that Hinton gave her characters such unusual names. Cherry, Sodapop- I can do a lot with those beverage-wise. If you’re watching this with an actual middle schooler, you can just serve up an ice cold Cherry Coke. But if you’re of legal drinking age, desperate to enhance your teenage memories, I recommend drinking a Spiked Cherry Soda.

Spiked Cherry Soda

1 tablespoon maraschino cherry juice

1.5 oz white rum

8 oz Cherry Coca-Cola

1 maraschino cherry

Build drink over ice in a tumbler. Top with maraschino cherries.  Bonus points for a gold rimmed glass!

spiked cherry coke

After enough cocktails, you may find yourself giggling hysterically at Matt Damon’s big crescendo, “DO IT FOR JOHNNY!” Or maybe weeping when Ponyboy leaves his copy of Gone With the Wind for a bandaged and burnt Ralph Macchio. Robert Frost says nothing gold can stay, but the fact that we’re still reading this book and enjoying the movie so many years later is proof otherwise. Cheers!

Top Five Movie Bartenders

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Bartenders have always played a crucial role in cinema.  Unsung heroes, they offer liquid comfort and a friendly ear to the distraught and weary.  What would have happened, say, if The Dude didn’t get his bowling alley White Russian in The Big Lebowski?  Or if Nick and Nora Charles were suddenly cut off from martinis in The Thin Man?  (well, they’d probably be less hungover, but dull as hell). This month, I’m highlighting my Top Five Movie Bartenders.

1.  Brian Flanagan, Cocktail

Image credit Touchstone Pictures, 1998, Cocktail

Image credit Touchstone Pictures, 1998, Cocktail

Oh what Tom Cruise can do with a cocktail shaker.  Flair bartending at its finest!

 

2.  Knobby, Burglar

Image Credit Warner Bros, 1987, Burglar

Image Credit Warner Bros, 1987, Burglar

Any bartender who can actually understand Bobcat Goldthwait is worth his weight in gold.

 

3.  Lloyd, The Shining

Image credit Warner Bros, 1980, The Shining

Image credit Warner Bros, 1980, The Shining

Always accommodating, whether it’s mixing a cocktail or engaging in idle chit-chat with psychopathic murderers.

 

4.  Brad, Magnolia

Image credit: New Line Cinema, 1999, Magnolia

Image credit: New Line Cinema, 1999, Magnolia

Braces- HOT.

 

5.  Lil, Coyote Ugly

Image credit: Touchstone Pictures, 1999, Coyote Ugly

Image credit: Touchstone Pictures, 2000, Coyote Ugly

Like a sexy Mrs. Garrett, Maria Bello dispenses life lessons and cocktail wisdom to the young and unskilled.  If only her bar weren’t SO tacky.

Magnolia

Image Credit New Line Cinema 1999

Image Credit New Line Cinema 1999

I’ll admit it- when I first saw Magnolia, I didn’t get it. Specifically the frogs. However, I think that’s what I really like the most about this film now- it leaves me questioning everything, including my own intelligence. I was tempted to watch this recently after the passing of the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman. Really, no retrospective of his work would be complete without seeing at least one Paul Thomas Anderson film. I am singling out Magnolia because it’s a great film to watch when you’re buried inside on a cold wintry day. Dark and stormy weather mixed with a dark and stormy film makes for a hell of a combination.

Magnolia (DVD/Download) tells the stories of several characters in the San Fernando Valley whose lives intersect over the course of a day. At 3 hours long, you may worry that the film drags by, but let me reassure you that every minute of those 3 hours is entirely necessary in order to give each character their due. The actors are all Paul Thomas Anderson regulars, with the notable exception of Tom Cruise sporting a weird samurai hairdo. This is the rare movie where I actually say afterward, “Wow, Tom Cruise can actually act!” He is surprising and amazing in Magnolia, as is the rest of the large cast. As their stories weave back and forth, you realize how interconnected we all are. The movie is about coincidences and fate, and the connections that we make with other people in our lives. The script is superb, and though I still don’t entirely know what the frog scene is about, it does become a sort of glue that binds the stories together.

My drink pairing for Magnolia is an obvious choice. Given the amount of weather references in the film, I have to pair it with a Dark & Stormy. This is a favorite drink of mine that combines simple ingredients into a refreshing cocktail. I like to imagine that Quiz Kid Donnie Smith finally grows up and goes back to that upholstered bar stool and orders up a tall cocktail like this.

Dark & Stormy

2 oz Dark Rum

3 oz Ginger Beer

Lime Wedge for garnish

Pour Rum and Ginger Beer into a tall Collins glass over ice. Garnish with lime wedge.

Dark-&-Stormy

Of course, this cocktail is much more innocuous than the cadre of pills in Julianne Moore’s character’s purse, but it won’t leave you passed out in your car later on (hopefully). The big line in this film that gets said over and over again is “The book says we may be through with the past, but the past ain’t through with us.” I think that statement holds true for the simple act of watching this film, for even though I’ve seen it before and think I understand it, watching it now makes me consider it in a new light. So if you continue to be buried under winter weather, give this film a chance (along with a Dark & Stormy) and hunker down for a weird, intense, thought-provoking 3 hours. Cheers!