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Reality Bites

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Image Credit: Reality Bites, 1994

Image Credit: Reality Bites, 1994

Because my day job involves working at a major university, I am naturally attuned to seasonal student population shifts. Today marks the first week of final exams, which in turn means that I can actually find parking on campus again. Not that I don’t love students (there wouldn’t be a university, or a job for me, without them) but oh how happy I am to see them graduate and go away each year. I hope they move on to bigger and better things, things that don’t involve fast food or basement living, but I’m sure many of them will fall victim to a mild case of Reality Bites depression. This is of course in reference to the film Reality Bites (DVD/Download), an incredibly accurate portrait of post-college life. Even 20 years (!!!) later, the same stereotypes still hold true- the smart, creative superstar of academia who fails to find actual real-world employment, her friend who “temporarily” works at The Gap (maybe forever), the gorgeous slacker who uses his charm to mooch off everyone around him, and the “yuppie head cheese ball” who means well, but is still a sell-out to The Man and unabashedly listens to Peter Frampton. I definitely fell into the Winona Ryder subgenre, astounded that nobody in the real world cared that I aced my Genres of Film final 3 years prior. I didn’t make a psychic friend, but it was close.

Reality Bites follows four friends in Houston as they navigate the tricky waters of adulthood. Winona Ryder plays Lelaina Pierce, valedictorian of her college class, and struggling television producer. After failed attempts at finding a job in her field, she resorts to scamming her dad’s gas card (a GENIUS move) before finally meeting a corporate big-wig (played by the film’s director Ben Stiller), who wants to turn her short film about her friends into a Real World-esque TV show. The movie’s supporting cast is incredible, with hilarious and heartfelt performances by Janeane Garofalo, Steve Zahn, and above all Ethan Hawke, who plays the sexiest slacker in the history of slackers. I don’t care how much acclaim he receives for Boyhood and Before Sunrise/Sunset/Midnight, to me he’ll always be Troy Dyer 4EVER.

My beverage pairing this week is a tribute to anyone who’s ever been hungover, late to class, and just needs a sugar rush to get through the day. Enter- the Big Gulp. Winona Ryder extolls the virtue of this 7-Eleven beverage on a first date, while sipping from a container that is about 4 times the circumference of her arm. While watching Reality Bites, I recommend drinking an Adult Slurpee.

Adult Slurpee

2 cups cold club soda

½ cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon cherry extract

1/2 teaspoon cherry Kool-Aid

3/4 cup vodka

3 cups crushed ice

Pour 1 cup of the club soda into a blender. Add the sugar, cherry extract, and Kool-Aid and blend until the sugar is dissolved. Add the crushed ice and blend on high speed until the drink becomes slushy with a smooth consistency. Add the vodka and remaining club soda and blend briefly until mixed. Pour into glasses and drink with a straw, or spoon straw if you feel like raiding your nearest 7-Eleven. (Note:  It’s easy to make this one non-alcoholic-  just leave out the vodka.  Still delicious!)

big gulp

My favorite quote from this movie is when Ethan Hawke says, “All you have to be by the time you’re 23 is yourself.” I wish I had paid more attention to that line when I was 23, instead of freaking out that I wasn’t “living up to my potential”, or worrying that I’d be asked to define irony at a job interview. So what if the only thing I really learned in college was my social security number? (TRUTH). I still managed to land on my feet, without having to sell fruit at an intersection. Cheers!

Edward Scissorhands

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Image Credit: 20th Century Fox, 1990, Edward Scissorhands

Image Credit: 20th Century Fox, 1990, Edward Scissorhands

This week, my film selection was inspired by some drinkware accessories my husband crafted. His company Heartless Machine was contracted to make some amazing scissor sculptures for a failed NBC pilot, and part of the collection included scissors that hook onto cocktail glasses. I liked them so much that I convinced him to make a few extras, so I am now the proud owner of some very dangerous barware! What better movie to go along with these sharp scissors than Edward Scissorhands (DVD/Download)?

Released in 1990, Edward Scissorhands was the first collaboration between filmmaker Tim Burton and actor Johnny Depp. The story is about a boy who was invented by an eccentric, loving man, but before he could get his real hands and become a full human, the inventor died. Years later, the boy (by now a young man) is found living alone in the inventor’s castle by a kind Avon lady. She brings him home to her suburban house, where he falls in love with the family’s daughter (played by Winona Ryder). In the suburbs, Edward is at first a beloved novelty, sculpting hedges and creating wacky asymmetrical hairdos for all the ladies, but eventually the neighbors turn on him and he is forced to return to isolation. There are definite influences from old monster movies, as well as a great commentary on suburban life. I love Tim Burton movies for their wild production and costume design, and this movie was no exception. The neighborhood houses, though simple and plain in design, are painted in bright pastel colors to make them look even more fake than the people inside them. Johnny Depp is nearly unrecognizable in this, playing his role a bit like Charlie Chaplin with a learning disorder. I’m willing to overlook the filmmakers’ poor choice of hair color for Winona Ryder because the movie is so good, but seriously, strawberry blonde is definitely not her color.

One of my favorite scenes is when Alan Arkin takes Edward down to the basement for a drink. I can practically smell the mustiness as they descend the rickety wooden staircase, but the dad of this eccentric family has fashioned a pretty great lounge area in the corner. Sure, it’s a little sad that he has to hide it in the basement, but I love the padded freestanding bar with its vintage lights and plentiful liquor bottles. He serves Edward “lemonade”- the brown variety, which knocks him out cold. My cocktail this week is definitely not for the faint of heart, and it’s definitely not actual lemonade, though it does contain lemon juice. When watching Edward Scissorhands, I recommend drinking a chilled glass of “Lemonade”.

Lemonade”

3 oz Amaretto

1.5 oz Bourbon

1 oz fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon simple syrup

Lemon Peel for garnish

Fill a cocktail shaker with cracked ice and add the liquid ingredients. Shake vigorously to blend and chill. Add fresh ice cubes to a glass, and strain the mixture into the glass. Rub a lemon peel around the rim of the glass to release the oils, then drop it into the drink to serve.

lemonade

I know I’m lucky to be married to a metalworker who can turn my barware from ho-hum to seriously cool, and I’m lobbying for him to put some of these scissor accessories up for sale on his website, http://heartlessmachine.com . But until that happens, enjoy your “lemonade” with or without sharp edges and revel in this beautiful story of a misunderstood man. After seeing what Edward can do with hair styling and ice sculpture, I can’t help but think of all the other uses for those scissor hands. Cutting up limes and lemons for cocktail hour perhaps? A girl can dream. Cheers!

Mermaids

Image Credit Orion Pictures, 1990, Mermaids

Image Credit Orion Pictures, 1990, Mermaids

Over the summer, I received a request from one ardent Cinema Sips reader for more movies starring Cher. This is somewhat of a tall order, considering that the queen diva rarely does film work. I was actually a bit shocked about how few films were on her resume, the count being only 13. That’s impossible, I thought. She’s Cher!!! I suppose it is a testament to her larger-than-life persona that she’s left such an indelible mark as an actress given the limited film work she’s done. Perhaps no movie epitomizes that persona better than this week’s Cinema Sips selection, Mermaids (DVD). This was always a favorite of mine growing up, for many reasons. A mother who serves only appetizers! Jake Ryan from Sixteen Candles! Polka dot dresses! I could go on and on. Plus, Cher plays a woman who definitely likes a cocktail, so what better movie to watch with a drink?

Mermaids is about a single mother named Mrs. Flax (played by Cher) who moves her two daughters to a small town in Massachusetts (played by Winona Ryder and a very young Christina Ricci) in 1963. Mrs. Flax is hip, scandalous, and fun- basically a lady who’s been around the block a few times. Of course her elder daughter Charlotte is a conservative prude who dreams of being a nun, while simultaneously harboring a fierce crush on the town handyman (played by Michael Schoeffling, aka Jake Ryan of Sixteen Candles fame). Charlotte is constantly embarrassed by her mother, as all teenage girls are, before realizing that maybe her mother is pretty great after all. Rounding out the cast is Bob Hoskins as shoe salesman Lou, who is so charming and kind that Cher can’t help but fall for the loveable galoot. Heck, I kind of fall for him, bald head and love handles be-damned. This is definitely a coming-of-age story, but I love that it’s told from a girl’s perspective, a rarity in Hollywood.

My cocktail this week was inspired by Mrs. Flax’s culinary skills. As her daughter puts it, “Fun Finger Foods is her main source book and it’s all the woman cooks…. Entrees are too much of a commitment.” I couldn’t agree more, and frankly I wish I could get away with pizza bagels and soft pretzel bites every night. But, you know, health. However, that doesn’t mean that I can’t turn a drink into a fun finger food. I’m loving the recent Bloody Mary craze going on right now, wherein the more food you can stuff on the top of the glass, the better. Did y’all see the one with the whole roast chicken on it?? Mine isn’t that elaborate, but it does involve small foods on a toothpick. I’m pretty sure Mrs. Flax would approve. When watching Mermaids, I recommend drinking Mother’s Bloody Mary.

Mother’s Bloody Mary

2 oz vodka

4 oz tomato juice

3 dashes Worcestershire sauce

3 dashes Tabasco

Salt and pepper to taste

Random small foods- eg. Celery Stalk, andouille sausage, olives, peppers, lemon wedges, etc.

In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine the vodka, tomato juice, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco, salt and pepper. Shake vigorously and then strain into an ice-filled glass. Garnish with your small foods on toothpicks- get creative!

bloody-mary

The beauty of this drink is that it’s all in the garnish. Whatever you have laying around in your kitchen, if it fits on a toothpick, throw it in! The more the merrier! This is for ladies on the go who don’t have time to prepare a full meal and would rather drink it than eat it, kinda like Mrs. Flax. Was she a bad mother who neglected to serve her children nutritious meals? Perhaps. But did she truly love her daughters and try to do the best she could? Absolutely. I think the same can be said about many mothers out there. I was raised by a single mother who maybe took culinary shortcuts now and again (hello Steak-umm’s!) but she did the best she could and that counts for a lot. This movie makes me appreciate all the mothers out there, who maybe want to fly free and wear sexy clothes and be outrageous, but instead stay home and make peanut butter sandwiches in the shape of a star, and show their kids that they are loved more than anything. Cheers!

Heathers

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Heathers

Image Credit New World Pictures, Heathers, 1989

I’m concluding High School Month on Cinema Sips with a classic dark comedy. 1989’s cult hit Heathers (DVD/Download) was a pretty big departure from the heartwarming teen romances seen in John Hughes films from that decade. In this film, Winona Ryder and Christian Slater romance each other over dead bodies and games of strip croquet. As a whole, the film is disturbing, hilarious, and absurd- kinda like high school, right? Plus, it’s even funnier with a cocktail, and how excited am I to finally be using some of that Blue Curaçao I bought for a Breaking Bad party?? We’ll get to the mug of blue liquid in a minute.

For those who haven’t seen it, Heathers is sort of a twisted version of Mean Girls. Winona Ryder plays Veronica, a smart, pretty girl who is invited to be part of the Heathers clique (and by “Heathers clique” I mean that all the girls in it are named Heather). In the 90’s my school was filled with Jennifer/Jen/Jennie’s, so it’s pretty easy to see how this clique could happen. I’m currently waiting for a remake of this movie called Emmas, or Madisons. But I digress. In Heathers, Winona Ryder meets Christian Slater’s character JD, and together they accidentally (then on purpose) start murdering the popular kids, while making the murders look like suicides. Pretty soon the whole school is caught up in suicide fever, which causes some truly so-awful-but-so-funny moments (ie. Martha Dumptruck hurling herself in front of traffic with a suicide note taped to her Big Fun t-shirt). My favorite part is definitely when the two homophobic football players meet their doom at the hands of “ich lüge” bullets, and Christian Slater sets it up to look like a gay suicide pact, placing bottles of mineral water and Joan Crawford postcards on the bodies. As I said before- disturbing, hilarious, and absurd.

My drink this week references the demise of queen bee Heather Chandler, who drinks a mug full of drain cleaner and face plants into a glass coffee table. Obviously, my drink has to be blue, and served in a coffee mug. Some great blue drinks come out of the world of tiki cocktails, and I am very excited this week to be sharing one. When watching Heathers, I recommend drinking a Big Blue Freeze.

Big Blue Freeze

3/4 oz Rum

3/4 oz Blue Curaçao

3/4 oz creme de coconut

2 oz pineapple juice

Combine all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice and shake until chilled.  Fill a mug 3/4 full with crushed ice, and pour mixture over top.

Big-Fun

Although Heathers was a pretty big box office bomb, I am so thrilled that generations of teenagers are now seeing and loving this movie. It was definitely ahead of its time, and I credit it with being the foundation upon which great movies like Mean Girls and The Virgin Suicides were built. I read an article recently about the sudden nostalgia for Heathers, which has even spawned an off-Broadway musical. I’m not sure how I feel about a theatrical adaptation of this amazing film. Honestly, I think I’d rather sit at home watching the original and popping popcorn with Martha Dumptruck. How very. Cheers!