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So bad it’s bad. (Part 1 of 4: Summer Happy Hour)
But First: July is Summer Happy Hour on Movie Night
Summer is upon us, and for those that imbibe, we have a special Movie Night treat: exceptional guest writer and Movie Night’s resident mixologist Elliott Dicus. Elliott is crafting unique cocktails for you to enjoy with each recommendation this month. While I feel guilty that the first film he’s working with is, uh, not good, I’m confident that, paired with his creations and a healthy respect for bad movies, you’ll have a great time with some friends. Please enjoy watching films and having beverages responsibly, and happy summer!
Cocktail (1988) is not a good movie. Peep the 9% score on Rotten Tomatoes. Check out the trailer linked below. Given the impressively unimpressive camera work and choreography of imbibement culture therein, you’d think it was a film adaptation of a second-rate SNL sketch. If the film could be summarized in a gif, it would be this one:
But let’s consider what’s excellent about the gif above: It’s got a young Tom Cruise earnestly attempting to make something work despite himself. It can be read as an honest Cruise performance, much like Magnolia (1999) is considered one of his best for its uncanny prescience. If any film was an early indication of the staying power of Tom Cruise, it was this dud that makes for an enjoyable (and ironic) summer watch with friends and some adult beverages.
Let me summarize the film briefly: Cocktail is a romantic drama that follows Brian Flanagan (Cruise), a young and ambitious bartender with dreams of becoming a successful businessman. That’s about as specific as his goal will get. He meets an experienced bartender named Doug Coughlin (Bryan Brown), who teaches him the art of flair bartending and the importance of attracting female customers. Brian falls in love with an artist named Jordan (Elisabeth Shue), but their relationship is challenged as Brian's career takes off and he becomes involved with a wealthy woman. If one was being generous, one could say the film is about love, ambition, and the consequences of sacrificing personal relationships for professional success.
The downside is that the movie isn’t a self-aware 80s film; it’s just an 80s film. Greed is good, and Brian Flanagan sucks. Pursuing material success justifies almost any behavior: manipulation, neglect, and short-term gratification. For these reasons, I recommend you get together with some friends this week and watch something that sucks. Have a conversation about it. Break it down. Talk about why it sucks and what newer movies you’ve seen hide their complete lack of principle and ethics under a sheen of contemporary cool. (Email me if you think of some!) A “bad” film can be a good film if it inspires something in you or helps you understand the world a little better, and this is a flop that can do just that.
Tom Cruise Purple Blazer
The flair bartending in Cocktail draws a definite line to John Bandy who initially developed his techniques while “working” at T.G.I. Friday’s in the 1980s, and who trained Tom Cruise and Bryan Brown for the movie. However, if we look a little deeper, bartenders have been entertaining their patrons since at least the 1860s when “Professor” Jerry Thomas developed the Blue Blazer right here in San Francisco. In between, tiki bars have dazzled with flaming drinks and brilliant colors since the 1930s, both a staple of flashy bartending.
We’re going to be making a riff on the Blue Blazer with a nod toward some of that rich history. We’ll be adding Cranberry (from the Sex on the Beach in Brian’s “poem”) to Blue Curaçao (that you’d find in any fishbowl-sized Friday’s libation) to get a deep and brooding purple - moody, like the scene where Jordan tells Brian she’s pregnant and he’s an unrepentant asshole. Add in some imitation tiki flavor, a la that bar he works at in Jamaica, and we’re off. Anyhow, flair tricks take a long time to master - many scenes in the movie involve mistakes, or cut before the failure is obvious. To hell with that. Instead, we’re just going to light shit on fire.
🔥 Warning: Do not follow directions following this direction.
1 1/2oz Overproof White Rum (It needs to be at least 100 proof to maintain the flame.)
1/2oz Blue Curaçao
3/4oz Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice
1/2oz Unsweetened Cranberry Juice
1/8oz Allspice dram
1 Bar Spoon Caster Sugar
1 Drop Almond Extract
Preheat mugs with boiling water, and discard. (The water, not the mugs).
Add rum and caster sugar to one mug and remaining ingredients to the other.
Dim the lights. Nice.
Set rum aflame with a long match or long candle lighter - this will produce a pale blue flame.
Waggle your eyebrows at your guests like “Cool, right?!”. It is cool.
Carefully pour the flaming rum from the first mug into the second mug, then pour mixture back into the first. Repeat.1
Gradually increase the distance of the pour so you can see the flames pass between the mugs.
Become overconfident. This isn’t hard. You always thought you’d be a pretty good bartender. I bet you could do stunts too.
Oh shit, you spilled a little. I said carefully. Oh well, it’ll evaporate.
Ah fuck, that burns. Why does it burn? Shit, it’s on fire.
Drop the mug in surprise and splash the flaming liquid on the couch. The couch is now on fire. Fuck.
Jump on the couch to stamp out the fire. That’s not doing anything. Oh fuck, jump faster.
Briefly ponder the history of psychiatry. Do you know it, Matt? I do.
Take off your Hawaiian shirt and smother the fire.
Drink the remnants from the other mug. Not bad.
Written by Heywood Gould; Directed by Roger Donaldson
104 minutes, for some reason
If you’re actually going to make this thing (don’t, it’s on fire) stop here, blow out the flames, and garnish with a dehydrated lime wheel.