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McCabe & Mrs. Miller

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Image credit: McCabe & Mrs. Miller, 1971

How do you make a Western that a pink-loving, romance-obsessed millennial female like me will actually enjoy? Easy.

  1. Fill it with gorgeous Leonard Cohen songs.
  2. Cast two of the most beautiful humans alive in 1971: Warren Beatty and Julie Christie.
  3. Make bath time fun again.
  4. Tell the costume department to invest in a really big fur coat. I’m talking massive. Make him look like a very fancy bear.

This week on Cinema Sips, I’m featuring the Robert Altman classic, McCabe & Mrs. Miller (Disc/Download). You won’t find a lot of Westerns on Cinema Sips because I’ve never been a fan of dust and dirt and long, lonely vistas; however, there’s something about McCabe & Mrs. Miller that hooks me. The modern music is certainly part of it, but I think it’s also the way ordinary realities are depicted. The characters speak like normal people, instead of holdovers from the Victorian era. They talk about real issues, like same-sex attraction, and menstruation, and what it is that humans really want on the edge of a barren frontier. It’s not sex and it’s not religion (despite the proliferation of brothels and churches); it’s comfort. In many cases, power.

I’m going to warn you, McCabe has truly heinous cocktail preferences. He enjoys a double whiskey with a raw egg, and frankly, seeing that yolk drop into the glass makes me want to vomit. Let’s make a tastier egg-white version instead, adding a little marmalade in honor of Mrs. Miller’s cockney roots. While watching McCabe & Mrs. Miller, I recommend drinking a Marmalade Whiskey Sour.

Marmalade Whiskey Sour

2 oz Bourbon

1 oz Lemon Juice

½ oz Simple Syrup

½ oz Orange Marmalade

1 egg white

Combine ingredients in a shaker without ice first. Shake vigorously for thirty seconds, then add ice. Shake for another thirty seconds until chilled and frothy. Strain into a glass filled with fresh ice.

I’ll have to remember this movie when I’m sweltering through a Texas summer because one look at the snow-covered mining town makes the room feel ten degrees cooler. But even when the snow is falling outside, and the wind is howling, it’s still fun to snuggle up under a furry blanket, pour a drink, and contemplate whether any Western hero was ever as cool as John McCabe, before or since. Certainly, he was the best-dressed. Cheers!


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Image credit Unforgiven, 1992

Image credit Unforgiven, 1992

I decided that I was embarrassingly overdue in terms of featuring a western on Cinema Sips, so fans of gunslingers and dirty saloons rejoice- this is your week! Generally it’s hard for me to get emotionally invested in a western because I’m always so distracted by the dirt, dust, and tumbleweeds. How could they stand it??!! However, there are a few films in the western genre that I actually do like, mainly because the acting and script are so good. This week’s film, Unforgiven (DVD/Download), falls into that category.

Unforgiven is the story of hired assassins that come to a small town to avenge the disfigurement of a local prostitute. In a pretty gruesome scene, her face and body are slashed by a knife-wielding disgruntled customer, and in a tale straight out of today’s college campus headlines, the perpetrator fails to be justly punished by local law enforcement. The town prostitutes all band together and come up with a $1,000 bounty for whomever can kill the cowboy and his accomplice. Retired gunslinger William Munny takes the bait, accompanied by his old partner (played by Morgan Freeman) and a hotheaded young kid. Clint Eastwood directed this film and stars as Munny, and frankly his involvement is why I gave it a chance in the first place. There’s something about that wiry, blue-eyed old man that is so darn…. sexy. I’ve already talked about his appeal in my post about The Bridges of Madison County, so I won’t bore you further. Gene Hackman also deservedly won an Oscar for his portrayal of town sheriff Little Bill. I found myself spending the majority of the movie trying to decide who was a good guy, and who was a bad guy. However, I think the whole point of the film is that nobody fits entirely into either of those boxes.

Unforgiven is a great movie to watch with a drink because many of the pivotal scenes happen in the town saloon. With a town named Big Whiskey, you know there’s got to be a lot of drinking going on. In homage to feminist prostitute Strawberry Alice, I’m making a variation on the whiskey sour. While watching Unforgiven, I recommend drinking a Big Whiskey Sour.

Big Whiskey Sour

1 oz fresh lemon juice

2 oz bourbon whiskey

½ oz simple syrup

2-3 fresh strawberries, sliced

Muddle strawberry in the bottom of an old fashion glass with a dash of simple syrup. Pour remaining simple syrup, lemon juice, and bourbon into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake until chilled, then pour mixture (with ice) into prepared glass. Top with strawberry.

big whiskey sour

If you’re like me and don’t generally care for westerns or whiskey cocktails, this pairing is a good gateway. Both the film and the drink are more complex than their typical counterparts, and watching Clint Eastwood in anything is always a good idea in my book. As you’re trying to decide who should live and die in Unforgiven, remember- they all have it comin’. Cheers!