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The Shop Around the Corner

shop-around-the-corner

Image credit: The Shop Around the Corner, 1940

(Dear Friend,)

Although I adore a black & white Jimmy Stewart film at Christmas time, I’ve already covered the classic It’s a Wonderful Life on Cinema Sips. So instead this week I’ll be featuring another holiday favorite, The Shop Around the Corner (DVD/Download). While not as overtly sentimental as the Capra film he’d later become known for, it still features a good dose of Stewart charm and some delightful send-ups of the holiday shopping season.

I first came across this wonderful picture after watching the remake, You’ve Got Mail. Nora Ephron did a fabulous job of updating this classic for modern audiences, and it’s truly one of my favorites. But the original is no slouch either. Directed by Ernst Lubitsch, the story of boy-meets-girl anonymously through mail is timeless. Think of it as Catfish pre-sexual predators and con artists. Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan trade barbs as they work side-by-side in a Budapest gift shop, never realizing that they’ve fallen in love with each other through their letters. Special mention goes to scene-stealer Pepi the delivery boy- I’m still trying to figure out how to get him as my outgoing voicemail message.

One of the famous scenes in this film (as well as in You’ve Got Mail) is the disastrous face-to-face meeting of the two lovers at a café. Identifying herself with a red flower in a book, Margaret Sullavan has no idea that her true love is standing across from her in the form of tall, lanky Jimmy Stewart. While watching The Shop Around the Corner, I recommend drinking a Red Carnation.

Red Carnation

1 ½ oz Vodka

2 oz Sparkling pomegranate juice

½ oz lime juice

½ oz Vanilla vodka

Dash of bitters

Topo Chico sparkling water

Sprig of mint for garnish

Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice, and stir to combine. Strain into a glass with crushed ice, top with Topo Chico, and garnish with mint.

red-carnation

This is a great movie to watch while you’re wrapping gifts because the dialogue is so darn snappy. And perhaps it will inspire you to go back out to the store for a cigarette case that plays music. Or, maybe you can just send Pepi. Cheers!

Top Five Movie Remakes

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I know I often rant and rave about how tired I am of beloved Hollywood films being dusted off and repackaged for today’s audiences, but sometimes lightning does strike twice.  It’s rare, and in fact, I could not think of more than 5 films that managed the remake successfully.  Everything else just makes me want to drink, even more than I already do.  Here is my list of Top Five Movie Remakes (note:  sequels and classic lit adaptations are not included on this list-  we all know Pride and Prejudice will continue to be done to death, in many iterations, for centuries to come.  That’s just the way it is).

1. Ocean’s Eleven

Image credit: Ocean's Eleven, 2001

Image credit: Ocean’s Eleven, 2001

This film is sort of the holy grail of movie remakes.  Steven Soderbergh managed to turn a moldy Rat Pack lark into one of the greatest caper films of all time.  Who needs Sinatra when you’ve got Clooney?  It’s a tough choice between this one and The Italian Job (also a remake), but since they’re basically the same movie, I must choose Danny Ocean’s crew.  Every time.

2.  Sabrina

Image credit: Sabrina, 1995

Paris is always a good idea.  Even when it’s with Julia Ormond instead of my beloved Audrey.

3.  You’ve Got Mail

Image credit: You've Got Mail, 1998

Image credit: You’ve Got Mail, 1998

As much as I love The Shop Around the Corner, I have to give credit to Nora Ephron for turning a classic Jimmy Stewart film into a perfect modern romantic comedy.  Bookstores and Brinkley- I’m hooked.

4.  True Grit

Image credit: True Grit, 2010

Image credit: True Grit, 2010

I am NOT a fan of Westerns, yet even I couldn’t resist this Coen Bros. update of a John Wayne classic.  Jeff Bridges was born to play Rooster Cogburn, maybe the greatest name in the history of names (sorry, Dude).

5.  The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Image Credit: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, 2013

Image Credit: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, 2013

I went into this one with zero expectations, but was pleasantly surprised.  The Danny Kaye version is beloved by classic movie buffs, but Ben Stiller makes it his own here.  It may have flown under the radar upon its release, but as a grizzled Sean Penn says, “Beautiful things don’t ask for attention.”

You’ve Got Mail

Photo credit: Warner Bros, 1998

Photo credit: Warner Bros, 1998

Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan week comes to a close with my personal favorite of their collaborations, You’ve Got Mail. Based on the wonderful Jimmy Stewart film The Shop Around the Corner, this film replaces the letters of olden days with emails and instant messaging. Back when this film was released, AOL instant messaging was new and trendy, though now it seems quaint (in the same way we look back curiously on party lines and wonder- what were they thinking?). Of course now, texting and Facebook have replaced instant messaging, but back in the day this was cutting edge dating technology. Whether or not you look at this film and laugh at that old AOL email alert declaring “You’ve Got Mail!” or yearn for the days when people could get to know each other without seeing photos and your entire life story flashed upon your Facebook page, the chemistry between Hanks and Ryan and the witty Nora Ephron script make this movie definitely worth watching.

In this film, Tom Hanks’s character Joe Fox meets cute with Meg Ryan’s character Kathleen Kelly when his large Barnes & Noble-esque book store opens in New York City and threatens to drive her small independent children’s book store out of business. They become fast enemies in person, but little do they know, they’ve already fallen for each other online after meeting in a chat room (now THERE’S a blast from the past) and exchanging emails. I’ve come to love everything about this movie- the beautiful shots of New York’s West Village, Meg Ryan’s adorable haircut, Tom Hanks’ dog Brinkley, and lines like, “I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address.” It’s classic Nora Ephron, and I love watching as she both romanticizes and satirizes the life of the upper class intellectual New Yorker.

For my cocktail pairing, I’m making a festive, holiday-appropriate drink that I think captures the feistiness and sweetness of Kathleen Kelly. This is a great way to use up some of that leftover cranberry juice or cranberries from your holiday gatherings, and very easy to make (for those of you who are totally over measuring and mixing and dirtying your kitchen).

The Shopgirl Spritz

1.5 oz gin

1 oz cranberry juice

1 oz lime juice

.5 oz simple syrup

Club Soda

Fresh Cranberries for garnish

Fill a collins glass with crushed ice, pour in the gin, cranberry, and lime juices and stir well. Top with Club Soda and cranberries.

I like to imagine Kathleen Kelly would drink this while listening to Joni Mitchell and reading Pride and Prejudice for the one millionth time. Or maybe that’s just what I want to do. At any rate, if this is the last movie that Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan ever make together, at least they went out on a high note. I’ll always laugh as Tom Hanks flirts with the cashier at Zabar’s, and get misty when Meg Ryan says tearfully, “I wanted it to be you so bad.” Watch it with a box of Kleenex (and a drink). Cheers!