We’ve made an effort with our Film Friday selections to choose films that, while they may not have played at your local multiplex, are still well-known enough that you’d have the opportunity to see them. But this week we’re veering well off the beaten trail and going straight to the Czech New Wave. Until reading about this film, I didn’t even know there was a Czech New Wave. But for those adventurous cinephiles who admire the work of Godard, Fellini, and Argento, The Cremator is absolutely worth seeing if you can track it down.
At long last Mad Men is back! A couple episodes into the new season and we’re as happy as Roger Sterling in a pool full of Stolichnaya, which is why we’re taking this opportunity to bend the rules on our Film Friday series. So sure, Mad Men isn’t a film, but after 4 seasons the character development is outstanding, the writing is absolutely on point, and the editing and camerawork are downright cinematic. Besides, it’s our blog and we’ll do what we want.
So suppose for a moment that for the past five years you’ve been consciously avoiding AMC and shunning their programming lineup. Maybe you’re under the impression that this “Mad Men” thing that people keep talking about is some gruesome spinoff of Angry Birds. But now you’ve seen the light. You read something online that changed your mind, or that cute girl at work was talking about the show, or maybe your friends and family staged an intervention, because they love you and want you to be happy with your television choices. Anyway, you’ve decided that you need to start watching this Mad Men show and through the miracle of Netflix you can start right from the beginning.
While I wouldn’t recommend going drink for drink with the characters onscreen, we find that the show’s more enjoyable with a strong drink in hand. As such, here’s a guide drinking along with Mad Men, season by season.
Still steeped in the glamor and buttoned-up culture of the 1950’s, the first season of Mad Men begins in 1960 – the Drapers and the Sterlings sip traditional alcohol-heavy drinks in their favorite clubs, at home, and at work. More importantly, these period-appropriate cocktails will sooth the shock of some characters’ blatant sexism. But as the final scene of season 1 implies, the shows writers have a higher opinion of the female characters than do many of the male characters.
I must admit, that of the four full seasons so far, season 2 is my least favorite. However, 3 & 4 more than make up for it and there are important plot points in season 2 that will be important later on. We went with Heineken and Utz for this season because both brands are featured as clients of the Sterling Cooper ad agency. But with the Cuban missile crisis looming at the end of the season, we figured the politically pertinent Cuba Libre would make a good fit.
Season 3 is back on track with quality writing, compelling stories, and masterful filmmaking. This season is one of triumph, tragedy and strife, which made our selections more difficult. There is a birth and a death, which led us to the French 75. A celebratory drink, the French 75 is champagne-based, but also takes its name from a First World War artillery gun. And in episode 6 an altercation with a lawnmower inspired the selection of the Old Fashioned, a somewhat gory muddled drink.
Season 4: Irish Coffee and Dempsey Cocktail
We figure that if you’ve gotten this far you’ve probably missed some sleep, so wake yourself up with an Irish Coffee and soldier on. You’re on the home stretch. Once you’re awake, switch to the Dempsey Cocktail (which we’ll be posting in a few days). Named for the legendary boxer Jack Dempsey, this drink fits in with season 4’s combative themes. As Don battles with Betty and Sterling Cooper Draper Price go head-to-head with a rival agency, we see the characters at their best and at their worst. In fact, in one of the show’s many examples of highlighting historical context, episode 7 takes place the same night as Muhammad Ali’s second match-up against Sonny Liston.
Season 5 is off to a good start and we’re super excited to have new episodes to look forward to. As the season progresses, leave us suggestions in the comments as to what your drink of choice is for this season.
The day before St. Patrick’s Day it would be downright irresponsible of me to neglect the Irish contribution to cinema and booze in today’s Film Friday post. A few of my favorite films happen to be Irish including Intermission and Breakfast on Pluto, or feature Irish leads as in The Boondock Saints and In America. I even considered throwing a curve-ball with The Company of Wolves, which as a horror nerd I rank at the third best werewolf transformation scene after An American Werewolf in London and The Howling III: The Marsupials.
But I’ll save the gruesome horror and gore for another week. Instead I decided to go in the other direction with one of the most beautifully animated children’s films that I’ve ever seen, The Secret of Kells. Children’s cinema and booze are, admittedly, not the most obvious match. But I wouldn’t have chosen this flick if it didn’t hold at least as much appeal for adults as for children. Plus, the film’s got an Oscar nomination to back me up.
Jacques Tati is one of those filmmakers that cinema nerds refer to as auteurs. This is a French term used to describe filmmakers whose work is so distinctive that you could recognize it without doubt. Contemporary examples would be Tim Burton, Quentin Tarantino, and Martin Scorsese. But among the most distinctive filmmakers of the 20th century is undoubtedly Jacques Tati.
Tati wrote, directed, and starred in a half dozen feature length films (with a few shorts and other projects) from the 1950s into the early 70s. And though he made his films long after the era of silent film, the dialogue in Tati’s films is extremely sparse, instead developing plot through highly cultivated characters and his actors’ ability to communicate physically.
Often compared to Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, Jacques Tati was an unparalleled physical actor. His recurring protagonist, Monsieur Hulot (played by himself) is as simple, naïve, and comical as Chaplin’s greatest roles, yet distinctly and undoubtedly French.
Some would argue that Mon Oncle (My Uncle) is Tati’s masterpiece, and though I haven’t seen all of his work yet, I would be inclined to agree. Revolving around the notion of modernity and luxury, Mon Oncle paints a sharp contrast between the ultra-automation of modern culture and the charm of classic French life.
The humor of Mon Oncle is built primarily around repeated jokes and masterful sight gags. As boring as a film with very little dialog may sound, Mon Oncle is among the funniest movies I’ve ever seen.
When we sat down to watch Mon Oncle earlier in the week, we tried something new to drink combining dry vermouth, lillet, and sparkling water. The result was light, refreshing, and surprisingly complex, fitting for the film. We named it a French Spritzer.
2 oz dry vermouth
2 oz Kina Lillet
top with sparkling water
Pour the vermouth (we used Noilly Prat) and lillet into a tall glass and stir. Add a couple handfuls of ice and top with sparkling water. You can also garnish with a twist of lemon.
Everyone’s got a few movies or books that they go back to again and again. These don’t even have to be your favorites, just an old friend that’s worth revisiting from time to time. For me, The Spanish Apartment (L’Auberge Espagnole in French) is one of those films.
Before I took up booze writing my literary efforts were directed towards the more legitimate field of semi-professional online film criticism. ‘Legitimate’ is a relative term, of course. At my cinematic height I wrote for four different film websites, and specialized in horror cinema. I had just graduated from college with a Bachelor’s Degree in Film Studies and figured that writing about film was the only thing I was qualified to do professionally. (My full-time A/V job notwithstanding.) But eventually I started doing the math and found that I was spending more money on movie tickets than I was making from the reviews.
Soon after this revelation I turned to the far more fruitful field of drinking a bunch of booze and not getting paid anything to write about it. And here we are. But occasionally I get the urge to take up film writing again, and thus I conceived of Film Fridays. Continue reading