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The Four Seasons

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Image credit: The Four Seasons, 1981

Anyone who knows me know I love vacations. Talking about them, going on them, planning them—I live for escapism. So imagine my delight to discover a 1980s Alan Alda film The Four Seasons (Disc/Download), in which three couples do nothing but take vacations. Sign me up!

In addition to this fantastic premise, the cast is what really sold me. Alan Alda, Carol Burnett, Sandy Dennis, Rita Moreno—a who’s who of interesting, intelligent, funny people. We see these actors bicker and laugh as they travel from rustic New England cabins to St. Thomas yachts, and back to an ivy-covered college campus. But even in the most gorgeous, unbelievable surroundings, the characters feel so down-to-earth and real. There’s a particular scene where Alan Alda and Carol Burnett are lying in bed on the boat, listening to their friend and his new girlfriend make love in the adjacent stateroom, and they just can’t stop giggling. It makes you feel like you’re right there with them, on this ridiculous trip, with these ridiculous people. Their life is your life, for the length of this trip.

Speaking of boats, I think it’s straight-up #goals to see Jack Weston chilled out on the top deck, relaxing with a drink while everyone else argues about naked Bess Armstrong crashing the party (for all you My So-Called Life fans- yes, I’ve now seen Patty Chase’s butt).  While watching The Four Seasons, make believe you’re cruising the Virgin Islands with this Painkiller cocktail.

Painkiller

2 oz Dark Rum

4 oz Pineapple Juice

1 oz Cream of Coconut

1 oz Orange Juice

Nutmeg (for garnish)

Combine liquid ingredients in a shaker with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a glass or tiki mug filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a pinch of nutmeg and a tiny umbrella.

I’ve always loved movies and television shows about the complexities of marriage and adulthood because they’re an opportunity for relatable conflict. Throwing people into the chaos of vacation brings existing tensions to the surface, in a way that’s believable. We’ve all been there, on this trip where not everything goes to plan, and maybe your travel companions are getting on your nerves. But knowing you can go back to your room and just laugh with your favorite person on the planet—that’s what makes it all worth it. Cheers!

Much Ado About Nothing

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Much Ado About Nothing

Image credit: Much Ado About Nothing, 1993.

I am in full Summer Vacation-mode this week, and while my plans are a little less glamorous than a villa in Tuscany (sorry, Cape Cod, I still love ya), I’m still primed for a cinematic escape.  Kenneth Branaugh’s Much Ado About Nothing (DVD/Download) is just the sun-drenched romp we all need this week.

The film opens with a radiant Emma Thompson in minimal makeup, sporting a golden tan and free-flowing hair. She and I share a similar vacation look, though in my case it usually involves a sunburnt scalp and last night’s mascara. Hey- we don’t all get to wear corseted linen gowns and eat grapes on a swing (I’m thinking this is a Tuscany-only thing).  Branaugh directs this Shakespearean tale of slick word battles, lovers’ quarrels, and mistaken identity with infectious glee, to the point where I can’t help but get swept up in the merriness. And Denzel Washington truly shines as Don Pedro, the Prince of Aragon. He’s charming and intelligent, and his connection with Emma Thompson’s Beatrice breaks your heart just a little. He’s the odd man out at the party, and lord, haven’t we all been there?

This film deserves a sparkling, effervescent drink that’s just as complex and delightful as Shakespeare’s text. Since this is set in Tuscany, I must use Aperol- that great Italian aperitif that practically screams summer vacay. While watching Much Ado About Nothing, I recommend drinking a Florentine Spritz.

Florentine Spritz

2 oz Gin

1 oz lime juice

¾ oz Aperol

½ oz Honey Syrup (equal parts honey and water, boiled)

2-3 dashes angostura bitters

Sparkling Wine

Lime Wheel

Combine first 5 ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then strain into a champagne flute. Top with sparkling wine, and garnish with a lime wheel.

I love films based on Shakespearean plays because they help me to understand his work in a new light. Even though this film isn’t as modern as say Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet, or even Joss Wheden’s more recent version of Much Ado, it still draws me in to the story in a way that live theatre fails to do. Plus, Tuscany and Denzel in sexy leather pants. I’ll suffer through a sonnet or two for that. Cheers!

How Stella Got Her Groove Back

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How Stella

Image credit: How Stella Got Her Groove Back, 1998

This week Cinema Sips is on the road, vacationing at a lovely five star resort along the Caribbean sea. I’ve been dreaming of a trip like this ever since I first saw this week’s film How Stella Got Her Groove Back (DVD/Download). And no- it wasn’t all a fantasy involving shirtless Taye Diggs (although that’s VERY nice). Really, I just wanted to go lay on a beach while waiters ply me with cocktails all day. Mission accomplished.

Based on the bestselling book by Terry McMillan, the film tells the story of Stella Payne, who travels to Jamaica with her best friend (played marvelously by Whoopie Goldberg) and falls in love with a hot younger man. Unfortunately, the real-life story of McMillan’s Jamaican husband turning out to be gay discredits the fairy tale a bit, but it’s still a great movie. I just have to keep telling myself that there’s no way Taye Diggs would use Angela Bassett for a green card. Nope, no way. After all, have you SEEN that woman’s body?! Let me just go over here and kill myself. After one more trip to the buffet, that is.

Right now I’m enjoying my fair share of tequila and mescal cocktails, but while on a tropical vacation, I hate to play favorites. After all, there are so many great rum beverages to enjoy! While watching How Stella Got Her Groove Back, I recommend drinking a Jamaican Holiday.

Jamaican Holiday

1 oz fresh lime juice

1 oz pineapple juice

1.5 oz Jamaican Dark Rum

.75 oz simple syrup

1 dash angostura bitters

Cherry and paper umbrella for garnish

In a shaker filled with ice, combine all the ingredients and shake until chilled. Strain into a glass filled with crushed ice, then garnish with paper umbrella and a cherry.

Jamaican Holiday

Sure, this movie has some cheesy moments- the smooth jazz soundtrack being one of them. But it’s also a great story about friendship, love, and daring to seek out the pleasure in life. That could mean taking a luxury vacation, or just laughing with a friend over the phone. But… Jamaica sure looks nice. Cheers!