From Jane Alonso. Her passion for food and spirits leads her on frequent excursions into Borderstan’s land of bars and restaurants. Email her at jane[AT]borderstan.com.
Sunday is Oscars night, and if you are hosting a red carpet watching party, you may wonder what type of original cocktails you can serve to set your event apart from the rest. Here are five cocktails inspired by the top film nominees of 2013.
Happy drinking (and dress critiquing)!
We all breathed a collective sigh of relief for our American comrades upon hearing he words, “We have cleared Iranian airspace and alcohol can now be served” onboard the Swiss Air flight that evades the capture of the Ayatollahs at the end of the movie, Argo.
What better way to celebrate this victory than to serve a Persian Rose made with Canadian whiskey to honor Canadian Ambassador Ken Taylor, who risked his life to hide the Americans for 79 days in his residence in Tehran?
The Argo Persian Rose
- 2 oz Canadian Club Whiskey
- ½ oz lemon juice
- ½ oz cherry-flavored liqueur
- ¼ oz rosewater
- ¼ oz simple syrup
- 1/8 oz of Pistachio liqueur (such as Dumonte Verdenoce)
Quentin Tarrantino’s portrait of the brutality of slavery certainly erases any chivalrous fantasies of life on a Southern plantation. Part of the brilliance of the movie is how Tarrantino makes us realize that our preconceived notions of the period — fed to us by generations of films like Gone with the Wind — are not in keeping with the inhumanity of slavery.
For example, take the scene where Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) sips a mint julep in debonair fashion (oh, how southern!) but moments later, watches with amusement as two slaves tear each other to pieces in the middle of his elegant living room.
As we root for the revenge that Django extracts from these despicable characters, consider sipping this mint julep with a fiery shot of habanero bitters that perfectly embodies the comeuppance doled out by this spaghetti western.
The Django Unchained Mint Julep
- 2 oz. bourbon
- 2 tsps of sugar
- 8 mint leaves
- 2-3 droplets of Bittermans Hellfire Habanerno Shrub
- Crushed ice
Who didn’t cry at the end of this tear jerker? Even though I knew exactly what was going to happen because I saw the play a gazilion times in the 90’s (and listened to the music for hours on end in high school), I still bawled my eyes out as Jean Valjean says his final words in this beautifully adapted film.
Such is the power of French-inspired melodrama to touch our emotions — and what better way to commemorate this beloved musical than with a French-inspired cocktail featuring champagne, cognac, and Grand Mariner?
The irony, of course, is that the impoverished inhabitants of Paris — the “Miserables” of the novel/film’s namesake — would not have a chance of ever sipping these luxurious ingredients.
The Not-So-Miserables Champagne Cocktail
- 3 oz Champagne
- 1/3 oz cognac
- 1 tsp Grand Marnier orange liqueur
- 2 dashes of Angostura bitters
Seeing the nominated films seems not to matter so much this year. A handful of films seem to have caught the eye, or fancy, or whatever, of the Academy members, and gotten the nominations and hype.
The Artist proves my point. It was a pleasant experiment in retro film-making. It plot was hackneyed, its actors attractive but hardly called upon to engage the audience in deep emotion, and its musical numbers brief and never breath-taking. Nevertheless, it has gained nominees for best picture, actor, supporting actress, director and screenplay. It’s as if the Academy is trying to prove that it loves the French when they pretend to be American?
The Help–a weak rendition of a weak novel–will compete with The Artist. It did command extraordinary acting performances by its almost unknown black actresses, but it added one for a rising white actress as if to balance the racial mix. The film also got a nod for best picture, of course.
And then there are nominations for other films that I found deeply flawed last year:
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy was so reserved that its plot was almost unintelligible, making the whole, long film boring.
Hugo was interesting but boring–a self-contradiction that often fits experimental films. This one is made by Martin Scorsese, and so pulls in nominations for best film and best director.
Rooney Mara (Rooney?) got a nomination for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which seems a nomination, really, to fill out the Best Actress category and to show that the Americans can do a better job on a Swedish thriller novel than the Swedish can. Take that, Noomi Rapace.
Well, enough kvetching. Here are my grudging choices in a year when I was never swept away by any movie.
Best Actor: George Clooney in The Descendants is the sentimental favorite, and my own as well. I think he acted even better in Syriana (2005), but his body of work (and very intelligent contributions in a number of spheres) make strong claims on an award this year. The same might be said of Brad Pitt. His work in Moneyball showed his capacity, though I would have nominated him for his acting in The Tree of Life. Actually, I really liked his work in Burn After Reading (2008).
Best Actress: This is a tough one, even though Hollywood is reported as already giving the Oscar to Viola Davis for The Help. My choice is Meryl Streep for The Iron Lady, an astonishing feat of impersonation — though Margaret Thatcher was probably never as human as Streep’s performance makes her. It is a very strong category this year, and I wouldn’t be outraged if any of the other nominees got the award. Except Rooney Mara.
Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer will probably win for her fine work in The Help, though I would give the Oscar to Janet McTeer of Albert Nobbs. She made a remarkable contribution to the remarkable ensemble work of the whole cast, led by Glenn Close.
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer’s turn in Beginners as the octogenarian father who finally comes out after his wife’s death, wins hands down. Plummer fully deserves a statuette, and I say this despite my prejudice against the man who rejected his own success portraying a repressed father in the beloved Sound of Music (1965). I haven’t seen Nolte in Warrior Or von Sydow in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Still, my second choice would be Jonah Hill of Moneyball.
Best Picture: I haven’t seen enough of the leading contenders to have an opinion. I liked the ambition of A Tree of Life. Midnight in Paris will perhaps win for Woody Allen’s life’s work. Other nominees belong to “we had tos, because we nominated one of its actors for a best.” Or a sense that the category belongs to big, sweeping, weeping, films. That’s why I kept putting off War Horse and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close.
From Mary Burgan
Biutiful is one of the best films I’ve seen all year. Moreover, Javier Bardem as its main character deserves his Oscar nomination, and perhaps the statue itself, for his performance. The film is nominated for best foreign language film, and I would vote for it in that category, even though I’ve not had the chance to review the other nominees.
Alejandro González Iñárritu, its director, has created a mysterious and compelling world in Biutiful, one that bears comparison to the imagined worlds created by the three other master international filmmakers in my personal pantheon — Ingmar Bergman, Federico Fellini and Akira Kurosawa.
Earlier pre-Oscar 2011 reviews from Mary: The Town, Animal Kingdom: Crime Runs in the Family; Why You Should See Blue Valentine and Rabbit Hole; Grit and Bone: Oscar Nominates Strong Teen-Aged Girls; The King’s Speech an Oscar Picture for Colin Firth; Chasing the Oscar Buzz: Part 2 (The Fighter); and Chasing the Oscar Buzz: Part 1 (Toy Story and The Kids Are Alright).
Which is not to say that the film will please everyone. This is a “global” film, like Iñárritu’s Babel (2006), though it does not travel, as that film did, from Morocco to Mexico to Japan. Everything happens in Barcelona, but the inhabitants of that city’s poor neighborhoods come from around the world. The hero of Biutiful is a fundamentally decent man who makes a living by hustling odd jobs and drugs and making deals to exploit illegal workers from places like China, Africa, and Thailand — that host of “guest” workers who live on the margins of every great city.