104 New To Me Movies: From Here To Eternity (1953)


Title: From Here To Eternity
Release Year: 1953
Directed By: Fred Zinneman
Written By: Daniel Taradash, From The Novel By Daniel Taradash
Recommended By: Best Picture Winner 1954
Star Rating: 3.5


What oh what possessed me to watch a movie about a bunch of young soldiers in Hawaii during, the strange and heady days before Pearl Harbor and the US entered World War II this week? Seriously, there was no way I was going to enjoy this movie given the current…uh…you know, everything.

To be fair, I didn’t know that’s what this movie was actually about. I mean, I knew it was about soldiers, and that Deborah Kerr and Montgomery Cliff made out on a beach, and Frank Sinatra was in it. But beyond that…no I didn’t know. But I will do my best to review it on it’s own.

I’m pretty tolerant for someone my age of the different pace and structure of older films. But I had a lot of trouble paying attention to From Here To Eternity. The movie is well acted, the stories are intriguing, and it looks pretty gorgeous. But Holy Hell, I was bored watching this one. It wasn’t helped by the anxiety I felt watching this, you know, right now.

But let’s talk about Sinatra, who has a supporting role here and picks up the movie and runs away with it. As drunken smart ass Angelo Maggio, Ol Blue Eyes is insanely charismatic, deeply engaged, and just truly exceptional in this film. It’s a wonder he didn’t do more like this in his film career. (The Manchurian Candidate aside he was usually playing, “Frank Sinatra in *whacky situation*”)

What I Was Drinking

Hey! I drink beer sometimes. (Rarely) And for this movie I cracked open a Jack’s Abby Post Shift Pilsner. I like lighter beers, and I love Jack’s Abby. I’ve never not enjoyed one of their beers that I’ve tried. Just a good safe, reasonably affordable bet for a crafty.

104 New To Me Movies: Amadeus (1984)


Title: Amadeus
Release Year: 1984
Directed By: Milos Forman
Written By: Peter Schaffer, adapted from his Stage Play
Recommended By: Best Picture Winner 1984! I’m doing my Oscar Homework for this year, and I’m going to watch some of the old winners this month! Woo Hoo!
Star Rating: 4


I’m in both a period piece and contemplating celebrity and art headspace lately. (Inventing Anna! Inventing Anna! Inventing Anna!) So, I decided to go into my Oscar Winners phase with Amadeus, and as I committed to the 3 hour long director’s cut (OY), and watched in glee as Forman and Schaffer took the air out the genius narrative, condemned avarice and also made one of the most gorgeously designed films of all time.

It was worth the three hours. Amadeus, if you’re unaware, tells the story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s life through the eyes of his fierce rival, Antonio Salieri, who was the official court composer of Emperor Joseph III of Austria. Salieri is a good composer, possibly even great, he’s hard working and dedicated to his craft, but Mozart is a genius, he has talent and abilities beyond anything anyone has ever seen. Salieri dedicates his life to subtly undermining Mozart, which eventually leads to his death.

The film is structured as Salieri, now confined to an insane asylum, giving confession for the murder of his rival. Do you know how difficult it is to pull of an unreliable narrator in a film that has only one? Films with multiple POV sometimes pull it off, but it’s difficult and Amadeus does it flawlessly. (I was actually thinking about I, Tonya as I watched, but a lot of good movies make me think of I, Tonya.)

That said, this movie is long and has sections that really drag. I’m curious to watch the original cut and see if it moves a little better, but I’d have to track it down and I have a lot of movies to watch so I probably won’t be doing that anytime soon.

What I Was Drinking

Had to be champagne for this one. Obviously. This is another US Based Champagne Style, Jacqueline Leonne Brut. It’s fine. I don’t like it as much as my Gruet, but it’s serviceable and excellent for things like Mimosas

104 New To Me Movies: Bright Star (2009)


Title: Bright Star
Release year: 2009
Director: Jane Campion
Written By: Jane Campion
Recommended By: Blank Check With Griffin And David
Star Rating: 4.5 Stars


While trying to find the words to describe Bright Star I start to feel a little bit like SNL‘s Stephan. “This movie has everything! Longing glances! Recitation of Romantic Poetry! Regency Fashion! Obnoxious Poem Bros! The Tragic Young Death Of A Literary Icon! Thomas Brodie-Sangster!” And of course, all of this is so deeply up my alley I was sitting on the couch giggling and clapping.

Bright Star chronicles the great love of Poet John Keats’s life, his fiancé at the time of his death (at the ridiculously young age of 25), Fanny Brawne. Keats’s poverty prevented them from marrying, but they spent their youth writing yearning letters and in Campion’s vision, laying around in fields longing for one another. (Every shot of this film feels like a painting).

The last half hour, while Keats is actively dying is probably the part that feels the least essential. He coughs into handkerchiefs and Fannie moons and his friends moan that they failed him and he’s a genuis. That’s why I’m not giving it 5 stars. I adored it but it falters into cliche at the end, which is so unlike the Jane Campion I’ve come to know over the past month.

What I Was Drinking

I’m still hanging out in Spain! This time it was a Vuela La Mancha Tempranillo. I like La Mancha Tempranillo’s because they’re A) Cheaper than their counterparts, and B) A Little more fruit forward. This wine, with a little bit of Manchengo and some chorizo is absolutely heaven!

104 New To Me Movies: In The Cut (2003)


Title: In The Cut
Release year: 2003
Director: Jane Campion
Written By: Jane Campion & Susanna Moore, based on the book by Susanna Moore
Recommended By: Blank Check With Griffin And David
Star Rating: 4 Stars


I keep saying that I’m going to do more than one movie a night and get the Campion done and maybe some light Oscar homework, or a rom com off the list. And then the Campion movie just sucks all of my energy out in the best way possible and I wind up rewatching Inventing Anna after just two days because it goes down so smooth. (Inventing Anna rules, btw) And that goes double for In The Cut, Campion’s brilliant and intense neo noir.

Set in downtown New York, it tells the story of English professor Frannie (Meg Ryan), who through a series of strange coincidences becomes involved in a serial killer case. She also gets involved in an intense sexual relationship with the investigating detective (Mark Ruffalo).

Meg Ryan is superb in this movie, and seeing Campion’s intensity and precision turned onto this genre is cool. While it doesn’t hit the highs of The Piano and Holy Smoke! I’m starting to think that perhaps, Campion doesn’t make bad movies? They are intense though and going through them in this manner has definitely maybe warped by perception a little, but even though I didn’t love this one, it’s still excellent.

The dreamlike way Campion shoots suits neo noir well, and seeing her eye on a place I know really well. (New York!) rather than a place that’s totally alien to me was neat.

What I Was Drinking

I’m going away for the next two weekends (Hooray!) I’ll be in Virginia at my sister’s this weekend, and then in Florida at my parents’. This is relevant because when I get back I’m hosting my friends at my place and I’ve been trying out wines to have when they come.

I tried a really lovely Spanish Sauvignon Blanc (Not my usual thing, but several of my friends prefer white) Ally Bay Sauvignon Blanc, which is refreshing, clean and pairs excellently with Mahon cheese!

104 New To Me Movies: Holy Smoke! (2000)


Title: Holy Smoke!
Release year: 2000
Director: Jane Campion
Written By: Anne Campion & Jane Campion
Recommended By: Blank Check With Griffin And David
Star Rating: 5 Stars


Oh My Gosh, I loved this movie. I loved this movie so much. It’s about cult deprogramming! And sex! And manipulation! And Kate Winslet pouting. And gorgeous shots of the outback! And Harvey Keitel! And it’s funny. It’s sooo good.

Like, I wish I could elucidate what I loved about it more. But it’s kind of ineffable. I do think watching it after having mainlined Campion before I watched it helped a whole lot. It has just everything that she’s good at. (I guess it’s modern and her period abilities are pretty stellar).

Kate Winslet’s Ruth is a questing Australian twenty something, who finds herself taken in by a guru in India. After telling her her father is dying (lie) her eccentric family hires expert “cult exiter” PJ (Keitel) to bring Ruth back around. He does, kind of, but not before Ruth’s real personality, cruel, selfish and deeply insecure, nearly breaks him and they both wind up stranded in the desert and see the truth.

The destructive, destructive truth.

I just, was so absolutely delighted by this movie, and certainly by Kate Winslet’s performance in it. My god, she’s just so good! How is she so good?

Anyway, if I had to rank the Campion films thus far, this would be far and away my favorite. I adored this movie. I loved it so much.

What Was I Drinking

I made my rum punch! Again, I’m trying to free up space on the home bar. Getting close to them all being gone. (Remember when I wrote up recipes? This has been a wild few years!) And punch started in India, so it felt appropriate. Of course those punches were usually gin based. But I don’t have a go to gin punch and I don’t need to drink all my gin. I drink gin cocktails on the regular.

104 New To Me Movies: Cabaret (1972)


Title: Cabaret
Release year: 1972
Director: Bob Fosse
Written By: Jay Allen, Songs by John Kander & Fred Ebb, from the musical book by Joe Masteroff, based on the writing of Christopher Isherwood (Cabaret has a long history!)
Recommended By: AFI 100 Years…100 Movies 10th Anniversary Edition
Star Rating: 4.5 Stars


I love Cabaret. By that I mean, I love the music and I love the original musical. I also very much like the straight play, I Am A Camera, which I’ve read and performed monologs from at many an acting class. I think Christopher Isherwood’s stories about Berlin are a remarkable snapshot of a time and place that was all too fleeting and incredibly tragic.

I think Bob Fosse was a once in the world talent and mind, and I think Liza Minelli might be the single most underrated entertainer ever.

All that out of the way, I was really having a lot of trouble connecting to the film version. Part of what makes Cabaret special is the duel narratives of MC’s show at The Kit Kat Club and Brian and Sally’s romance, and where they connect and diverge. Fosse nails the Kit Kat stuff. It’s grimy, funny, a little bit scary and Joel Grey’s performance as The MC might be the most deserved Oscar win in the award’s history. Obviously, Fosse’s sexual, acrobatic and posey choreography really suits film. (I love it on stage too, but…when it’s filmed and cut to, just stunning) But the real world stuff? It feels…off. Granted, there is a lot of it that’s off. He certainly zeroes in on the queerness in a way the stage version doesn’t, and the matter of fact-ness of the rise of Nazism is eerie.

But Fosse and Allen almost zoom out too much for my taste in these sections. I love the intimacy of Sally and Brian’s world as compared to the bombast of the club. By expanding their social circle, we lose some of their perfectly tragic connection.

But this is still an incredible, incredible film. My dislike of adaptation choices not withstanding.

What I Was Drinkin

MOJITO! My Imperfect Food Box this week gave me a shell of mint, and I’m trying to use up all my summer Tiki Rums, so I figured a mojito was the way to go.

1 Tablespoon Sugar
1 Shot White Rum
Mint Leaves
Juice of 1 lime
Club Soda

Squeeze the lime into a glass. Add Mint leaves and sugar and muddle (If you don’t have a muddler I used to use the end of an ice cream scoop!) until the leaves start to break down slightly. Add Ice, Rum and top with soda, and stir. Rerfreshing and simple.

104 New To Me Movies: The Portrait Of A Lady (1996)


Title: The Portrait Of A Lady
Release year: 1996
Director: Jane Campion
Written By: Laura Jones, from the Novel by Henry James
Recommended By: Blank Check With Griffin And David
Star Rating: 4 Stars


It’s a real credit to how into Jane Campion’s groove I am and how much I love Nicole Kidman that I could stand watching this movie at all. For the most part it just reminded me how much I deeply dislike the Henry James novel. I really, really hate The Portrait Of A Lady.

I don’t know what I hate about it the most. Is it that my Dickens loving heart hates that James doesn’t bother to punish the hateful Serena Merle and Gilbert Osmond? Or that despite her energy and eventual understanding for most of the story Isabel Archer, our POV character is incredibly insipid? (And not in a fun, “we’re young and beautiful and we’ll live forever…oops I died,” way like my favorite James protagonist Daisy Miller is. I am a little bit obsessed with Daisy Miller) That the sickly and overly virtuous Ralph Touchett doesn’t just ask Isabel to marry him in the first place, thus sparing everyone a lot of grief?

Anyway, my dislike of the source material shouldn’t bare on my review of this film, which is a terrific adaptation. James’s staid sarcasm because vibrant and violent feeling in Campion’s hands, and Kidman is perfectly cast, her version of Isabel doesn’t feel insipid at all, rather, stoic, and confused and deeply insecure. John Malkovich is horrifying (in the good way) as Osmond and Barbara Hershey deeply intriguing as the tragic Serena.

Plus there’s a scene where a heartbroken Viggo Mortenson as Isabel’s childhood sweetheart, Caspar Goodwood (blech) stands in the snow, holding her face in his hands, begging her to love him, while she cries that she simply cannot. (hate. HATE. HATE!!!!!!) And I’m not completely immune to that sort of thing. This movie gives us baby Viggo and Baby Christian Bale, and that’s very nice. (Bale plays the not quite posh enough suitor of Malkovich’s daughter, and he’s in full cutie pie mode. He doesn’t have his Newsies/Little Women floppy hair, but it’s that vibe)

But I must dock it a star, because while it’s an incredible film, it’s still an adaptation of a book that makes me want to walk into the ocean. (Yes, I know Kate Chopin wrote The Awakening but it’s all in the same spirit.)

What I Was Drinking

Just club soda. I maybe overdid it with the Painkillers the night before…Club soda is good though. And I put it in a champagne glass!

104 New To Me Movies: Stop Making Sense (1984)


Title: Stop Making Sense
Release year: 1982
Director: Jonathan Demme
Written By: The Talking Heads
Recommended By: I saw American Utopia on Broadway and we’ve gotten to the first, “I probably saw this in college, but I don’t remember and there were substances involved” movie. So, there’s that.
Star Rating: 5 Stars


I’ve been thinking about art, which I know what kind of the point this project but, spending the past two Fridays how I have, it’s been hard not to. Last week, my friend Irvin and I went to The Metropolitan Museum of Art to see their current special exhibit on how the decorative arts of France influenced Disney Animation (this was great! It’s a wonderful exhibit! Go see it!) After that exhibit we wandered the galleries for a bit and while we enjoyed it, we were both only stopped in our tracks by one piece, at the exit of a series of galleries of traditional Japanese design, we came across the piece PixCell-Deer #24, by Kohei Nawa. Nawa had enclosed a taxidermized deer in bubbles of clear glass, to represent how modern eyes so rarely see anything real and true, only interpreted through digital filter. It’s a very arresting piece.

The Friday before that, I was on Broadway with Aless, my cousin Jake and his girlfriend Kathryn, seeing David Byrnes American Utopia. Here, David Byrne uses his and other people’s music to interpret his view on The American Dream. To quote Aless, “I don’t know how describe that except that it’s very good and VERY DAVID BYRNE.” Which to me mean, “odd, and thoughtful.”

Stop Making Sense is a concert documentary, frankly, just a filming of a Talking Heads performance. And it is incredible. I’m a huge fan of The Talking Heads, and just of 70s and 80s Rock and Roll. So watching these performers at their height, after having watched one in maturity.

It’s hard to explain just how wonderful Stop Making Sense is and, just how powerful and fun and full of life this music is. I like art that celebrates life most of all, and that’s what’s happening here and in American Utopia. David Byrne’s work is exceptionally transparent, he doesn’t obfuscate and hide. And it’s pretty remarkable.

What I Was Drinking

PAINKILLERS! In trying to hide from hideously cold it’s been, I mixed up one of my favorite rum drinks.

4 oz Pinapple Juice
1 oz White Rum
1 oz Gold Rum
2 oz Orange Juice
1 oz Coconut cream

Shaken over ice, with nutmeg on top for garnish. So good.