Archive for the ‘The Movie and the Beverage’ Category

What to Drink While Watching “The Grandmaster”

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Some of you ought to know by now that Sheen and I are big fans of Kar Wai Wong, director of In the Mood for Love, 2046 and My Blueberry Nights among other goodies. We took time out of our raucous schedules to accommodate the viewing of his latest pic which has blockbuster pretensions thanks to its lavish cinematography and luscious choreography.


The Grandmaster is the story of the rise to prominence of Ip Man, otherwise transcribed as Yip Man, one of the forefathers of what has become known as kung fu to us culturally impoverished westerners.


The story is full of unnecessary flashbacks and flashforwards. There are some dazzling fight scenes. The soundtrack is delicious. But what remains, when the dust settles and the wounds heal, is the love between Tony Leung and Zhang Ziyi…

Tony Leung

 How many films have these two made together? I have no idea. They were pretty passionate in 2046 (made in 2004) and hey, here they are at it again. Tony is over 50 now, has bags under his eyes and is getting paunchy; Ziyi is in her mid-thirties, gets lovelier as the years go by, and is beginning to rival the great Gong Li as the Most Adorable Chinese Actress Of All Time, the Claudia Cardinale of the east, but she’s too old to play the part of Gong Er in The Grandmaster.

Zhang Ziyi

Sheen and I yawned throughout the film. Kar Wai Wong tries too hard to push the Wow factor; every scene is gorgeous (even when Zhang Ziyi isn’t in it); the slow-mo is glorious; the recreation of South China in the 1920’s is sumptuous. But the tale is not that interesting and the pace is unhelpful.


I think coffee is the best drink to indulge in when viewing this movie, just in case you feel your eyelids drooping. I would like to recommend one of those freaky Chinese liqueurs with lizards and stuff but honestly, I just can’t.


Just as I can’t recommend Kar Wai Wong’s The Grandmaster. And, believe me, I’d like to.    


What To Drink While Watching “Homeland”

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Another episode in our favourite section, The Movie and the Beverage, this time dedicated to that groundbreaking TV series Homeland, now well into its third season. Spoiler: This post contains warnings.

Rather than pin down just one drink for the whole show, Sheen and I have decided it would be more representative to identify certain characters with a beverage that corresponds for some reason. To open just one bottle of something and hope it stretches from Langley to Beirut and then to Caracas would be at best idealistic and at worst really silly. So here we go, folks.


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We learn at the start of Season Three that Carrie has ditched her lithium in favour of vodka and she’s knocking back a bottle a day. This plays havoc with her cyclothymia (which she likes to think of as a bipolar condition but ha ha ha she doesn’t know what she’s talking about) and turns her into a paranoid conspiracy theorist. It’s obviously doing her a fat lot of good and she should switch to cider or something.


Brody has a hell of a time in Iraq and Venezuela and would be grateful for anything refreshing and yet stiff. The local tipple in Baghdad is an aniseed-flavour liquor called arak and I’m sure Brody would find it as disgusting as the rum they ply him with in Caracas. I see him as a scotch’n’ginger man. Maybe it’s his red hair, maybe it’s because it’s a well-known fact that most US marines who support the jihad inevitably end up making whisky commercials.


Saul has very bushy eyebrows and a bushy beard and a bushy heart. People like him usually don’t drink because they know it brings out the grizzly in them, but as a Jew, he feels he has to drink in case they think he’s a weirdo, but it’s clear that what he most enjoys, and what makes sense in his world, and what makes the world make sense, and what he enjoys making sense of, and senses the enjoyment in the making of, is coffee. He’s a busy man, and oops, he’s just inherited the job of CIA boss, so coffee is very much what the doctor ordered.


Dana is a pain in the neck and should drink something like rat poison.


Jessica is a definitely a red wine drinker. She is always in control, even when she learns that her hubby is a terrorist and her daughter tries to commit suicide and then runs off with a psycho. You can’t see her gulping anything like beer, or taking the time to make a cup of tea, or glugging back the bourbon; no, she pours a glass of velvety red wine into a typically oversized American wine glass, drinks heavily at first and then plonks the half-empty glass on the coffee table and looks simultaneously worried and seductive.


Mike, on the other hand, wouldn’t know the difference between red wine and red vines, so Coke is fine for him.

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The shiftiest person in the series is Dar Adal. I can just see him sipping something shifty and ghastly like cognac. I don’t really know the influence this guy has on Saul; I’m wondering if Season Four might explore some shifty relationship between these two unsavoury characters.


I like Quinn and I like Fara. They would make a nice couple – ruthless and attractive, stylish and incisive. Drinks they should weigh up: dry martini, Darjeeling tea, champagne, Vichy Catalán. It’s up to them.


Where is this series going? Hard to say. I sort of miss the Middle East thing, the doubts about Brody’s allegiances and of course his affair with Carrie. I want to think the scriptwriters have got it all mapped out but I’m not so sure. Let us raise our glasses notwithstanding… a toast, if you will, to Homeland.





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What to Drink While Watching “To The Wonder”

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Heen writes :

Just a couple of years ago, Terrence Malick wowed the world with The Tree of Life, reviewed lovingly here. It turns out that this Tree is but one leg on a two-legged stool, the other being his latest offering, To The Wonder, which I had the pleasure of seeing a few days ago.

Just as The Tree… is a paeon to life, so To The Wonder is a celebration of love. The films have a lot in common – they are loooong and swooshy, with sweeping shots of massive countryside and enormous skies that make us gasp at Nature with a capital N, that is, God’s creation as laid down to us mere mortals, chopped up images and scenes juxtaposed with the intimate minimalism of human relations, all smothered in a gushy rich soundtrack and an overall sticky gorgeousness that hardly lets us breathe.

Ben Affleck alternately loves Olga Kurylenko and Rachel McAdams. Who wouldn’t, given half a chance. Both are pure passion and sensuality, but Jane (as played by Rachel) has her head more screwed on than Marina (Olga) who comes across as seriously unbalanced and petulant, even more childish than her little daughter who is practically the most straightforward character in the movie. Both Olga and Rachel warm to cool Ben, who is some sort of oil technician but what the hell – his job is just a distraction after all.

The Tree of Life is about, and set on, the planet Earth. To The Wonder is limited to Paris, Mont St. Michel and Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Whereas The Tree… features dinosaurs, To The Wonder has got bison, as some sort of Universal Creature Sponsorship (UCS). It’s a while since I saw bison in a film – I associate them with Cherokees and James Stewart; who would have thought there was room for them in erotica…?

Ben just can’t get his act together. Personally, I put this down to his stormy times with J. Lo, but don’t mind me.

Javier Bardem plays the part of a priest who’s lost the plot but who goes through the motions and keeps his worries in the background – the soundtrack is punctuated with his torment, as he carries out his pastoral duties, on his way to becoming San Manuel Bueno. He also has a lot to say about this crazy little thing called love, which is more like a healthy blast in the case of Rachel and a morose madness for Olga.

This isn’t a film for impatient people. Don’t go looking for plots when there aren’t any, as the bishop said to the actress. The cinematography is the most sumptuous you are ever going to see, and if you are prepared to let the whole thing wash over you, sink into you and drag you under, you will find it worthwhile.

What to drink while being battered by the love? For the scenes with Rachel McAdams, I’d say a nice crisp white wine with a light fruity tang such as that of a melon that isn’t quite ripe yet. I’m thinking of a verdejo from the Rueda area of Spain, obviously. Olga Kurylenko calls for a sweeter, deeper, more reckless wine, such as a Tokaji from Hungary, something like a Hárslevelű, for example.


What to Drink While Watching “Malas temporadas”

Life is just like a round of golf

Life is just like a round of golf


You know that Chinese artist, Ai Wei Wei? I wish I could find a quote from him, I think it was last year, when he said something like, I’ve been protesting for so long I sometimes forget what it is I’m protesting against.

It gets like that sometimes. We get into rant mode and that depresses us and then, locked into depression, we don’t find the switch to flick back, so everything we do comes out as whiney moaning venting noise and we think that’s ok.

I got that feeling when I watched this movie Malas Temporadas the other day. It was made in 2005 by Manuel Martín Cuenca and I never heard of it until a couple of weeks ago when it was shown on TV. It’s weary and predictable and I quite enjoyed it because I’m a bit like that myself.

Let’s have a look at the actors:

Javier Cámara plays the part of a gay ex-con chess teacher and is as convincing as always. Nathalie Poza is a stressed-out single mother who works with political refugees and is outstanding in this film, elegantly sidestepping the clichés of hysterical melodrama. Leonor Watling copes gainfully with her role as an embittered, excitable unfaithful wife in a wheelchair. But the real revelatory star for me was Cuban (?) actor Eman Xor Oña –  an ex-pilot who deals in whatever he can get his hands on (e.g. Leonor Watling).

So we’ve got some really great acting here. The screenplay is disappointing, mainly because the plot attempts to mesh these characters together in something resembling a story when really their individual stories aren’t all that interesting so how are they all going to come together and make an interesting über-plot…?

Javier Cámara doesn’t believe it himself when he explains that “life is just like a game of chess”. This is something I hate – films with chess in them. Life is just like a game of chess, yeah, right, and Cluedo and strip poker and waterpolo and Grand Theft Auto. There’s nothing special about chess, for crying out loud. Chess films suck, end of. (Except that one with John Turturro, The Luzhin Defense, which I did like, despite all the chessiness).

In the best tradition of Spanish films that receive generous handouts from State institutions, Malas Temporadas has to have its due share of gratuitous sex scenes and people doing drugs, wowy interior designs, intergenerational conflict and an irritating soundtrack (too much of the wrong music at the wrong time, and going on for too long).

As for “what to drink while watching…”, well, the most popular drink in the film seems to be whisky. Not a bad choice, actually. A lot of bitter, rueful sipping and musing about chess and what a rotten life this is and whining and moaning and ranting without the fun element that Ai Wei Wei often manages to spray his work with. So, in fact, maybe we should jazz our whisky up with something bright and sparkly and I’ll leave that part up to you.

Malas Temporadas’ official translation is Hard Times. There are about thirty films that already have this name. Just saying.

He's had his fair share of hard times

He’s had his fair share of hard times

La Comédie Française




La Belle France has given us some great stuff. On and off, that is, over the years, like. I could mention Flaubert and Rousseau. I could mention Rohmer and foie gras, or Champagne and Bardot. Or Zidane. Or Cantona. But what it’s never been very good at, and I hate to say this, is funny stuff. Uncross your fingers and tell me honestly if Jacques Tati makes you laugh. Eh? And when was the last time that weird French friend of yours told you a joke? Come on, let’s come clean here – Jean Pierre likes to think he’s drôle but actually, he’s just boring.

I’ve been waging this campaign for several years now, trying to convince the populace that la comédie française is, at best, an oxymoron. Let’s just say it’s aspirational.

A few years ago some misguided friends of mine (they were misguided for the following reason, not because they were friends of mine ha ha this is a joke and if I were Parisian I’d win a medal for anything as sidesplitting as this) chose to go and see a film called Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis. They tried to convince me but I was not totally stoned out of my brain so I spurned their invitation. Ever since then, whenever the subject comes up, I remind the world that the French don’t know what “funny” means, and my friends will bring up this blasted film. “I haven’t laughed so much for ages”, says my friend David’s wife Martina. I love Martina. I also love winding her up. Not quite as much, but almost. Don’t tell David that, though.

Anyway. The thing is that a few days ago I succumbed to watching Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis. I think the reason I did so is the same reason I went and read The Da Vinci Code – I wanted to know firsthand what it was that I was quite prepared to slag off without tasting it on my own tongue, so to speak.

Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis is now 4 years old so I don’t feel bad about containing spoilers here. If you ever wanted to see this film, you have already done so. It’s never going to be a classic, so nobody will bother watching it in, say, 20 years’ time, so I can tell you what it’s about without fear of ruining anybody’s viewing pleasure unduly.

OK, here we go. It’s the story of the boss of a post office who wants to get transferred to a nice town in the south of France, mainly to keep his wife happy. In the end he gets transferred to the north, which he thinks he’s going to loathe but in fact he quite likes it. His wife stays behind and feels sorry for him. He ends up having to lie to her, saying what a wretched life he is living when actually he’s enjoying himself.

Are you rolling around on the floor yet?

After a while, she decides to see for herself what a hell hole her hubby has been forced to go and live in and this is when the film actually becomes momentarily amusing – the whole town puts on a show of being backward, uncouth and generally dreadful people, so as to make Julie feel even sorrier for her poor husband Philippe. This snatch of genuine comedy lasts a mere 5 minutes or so; the effort at being funny is too much and I suppose too foreign for our Gallic cousins and in the end the whole film sinks into a smiley “feel good movie”.

A lot of the so-called humour of this film is the difference between standard French, as spoken by Philippe and Julie, and the dialect spoken by the locals of the town of Bergues – Ch’ti. Let me go out on a limb here and say I think the equivalent in the UK would be Geordie. And if the film were re-made in Spain, you could go for some remote village in Galicia or Cádiz. The way the Ch’tis speak French, if this film is anything to go by, is to pronounce “S” as “SH”. It would seem that for the average Frenchman, this is not only baffling but hilarious.

Personally, I found it baffling that anyone could think this is hilarious.

The first ten minutes of this film are scandalously bad. I was practically vomiting at the shameless antics of Kad Merad as Philippe, trying to get his transfer to a nice place in the south. However, I had been warned by my friends that “it gets better”, so I bore with it. (They say the same about tuberculosis.)

If Bienvenue chez les Ch’tis weren’t desperately seeking to be hilarious, it wouldn’t be so awful. The way that Philippe gradually comes to accept the lifestyle in the town of Bergues is enjoyable to watch. Director Dany Boon makes us appreciate the endearing Ch’tis so that we laugh “with” rather than “at”, as Philippe gets to grip with these loveable Northerners and struggles trying not to let his wife know what’s cooking.

Don’t get me wrong. This film is watchable. It’s even fun. But it ain’t funny.

You want to watch something funny? You watch Billy Wilder’s Stalag 17. Now we’re talking.

What To Drink While Watching Breaking Bad


Sheen says:

I know this section is usually about films, that is, movies, o sea, pelis, and their corresponding beverage but the thing is my twin brother has become so positively fixated on this particular TV series that I decided it deserved to feature in this, our section of The Movie & The Beverage.


I am not going to spend hours of anybody’s time explaining what this show is about. I am working on the assumption that it’s sufficiently well-known on a universal basis for me to able to expound that if you are at least slightly in touch with What’s Happening On TV These Days (that’s WHOTTD for short – curiously the name of my friend Soraya’s new pet, an Abyssinian walrus hedgehog…) you know about Walter White, Jesse Pinkman, Gustavo Fring and company and what they get up to. And, should it happen that you have never had the pleasure of sinking yourself into the yuckythrilling world of drugdealing in New Mexico, all I can say is you are sooooo wrong if you think that The Sopranos and The Wire are where it’s at. Since Twin Peaks, TV has never soared so deep.


Breaking Bad is the first TV series (as far as I know – hey, I live in Zaragoza…!) that has been blogged and tweeted about so heavily while it is being shown, nay, as it is being made. It is being not re-written but pre-written by its fandom, anxious to know how Hank is going to get on after the shootout, if Skyler’s carwash is going to be a viable front, what Gus is going to do next… Personally, I think there’s great scope for a “Badger & Skinny Pete Show”, which I would set in Teruel, and the huge-sky desert thing could be beautifully recreated in Los Monegros. So actually, we’d have Tejón and Pedrito El Flaco : our own homegrown Zaragozan Breaking Bad spinoffs.


I would also try to work in the Smurfs somehow. This sick incestuous misogynist sect of stunted indigo fascists would fit in perfectly. Tejón and Pedrito learn Walt’s formula, emigrate to Zaragoza, and flood the market with their blue poison, aided by the Smurf underground network. Take no prisoners, fake no morality – that’s my motto. I think Heen would approve, too, but he’s too engrossed for me to ask him. We’re coming to the end of Season 4, so a lot of you have a head start on us and already know what’s going to happen (I have a soft spot for Marie…, tell me she’s going to be ok, ok?)


On the subject of Smurfs and blue things, I have to think that the best beverage to sip whilst absorbing Breaking Bad is a Blue Lagoon, which is a disturbing cocktail involving vodka, pineapple and curaçao, or a Hpnotiq, which you can read all about here if you care.


I have always suspected my brother Heen of having a Heisenberg side. He’d find a way of crystallizing Assam tea, is all.     

What to Drink While Watching Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Not exactly Rashomon


Choose the best synopsis of this film:



This is a great example of a film about catching fish in the desert. There aren’t many of them. In this film, Ewan McGregor thinks that there is a magic salmon which lives in the desert and he convinces some Yemeni sheikh that it would be a good idea to go hunting for it. Emily Blunt plays the part of the sheikh. In the end they find that the salmon is dead because there’s no water.


Salmon fishing is always hard, and in the Yemen it’s even harder, because of all those Arab terrorists. But Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt and Kristin Scott Thomas do a fine job  and somehow literally flood the country and breed salmon to feed a starving population of undernourished fundamentalists who, despite being very hungry, would do virtually anything to undermine western values like democracy.


The Yemen is a very long river somewhere in Scotland. Ewan McGregor and his Muslim friend Muhammed go fishing there and have a nice time until Emily Blunt comes along and starts falling in love all over the place. So they all go to Iraq or somewhere. And she’s not even pretty!


Salmon Fishing In The Yemen is one of my favourite films. It is a feel-good movie about people and fish. It is set in Scotland and a place called The Yemen where they don’t have salmon or rivers or anything because they are all very poor. I liked this film very much and I was very sad at the end when everybody drowns to death.  


The above are 100% verbatim summaries of the film Salmon Fishing in the Yemen written by mechanically-enhanced hens, aged between 6 and 8, from Buckinghamshire, England, as part of an experiment by Dr Hilda Bronkhorst to prove that poultry have a place in our society other than on a platter or in the oven. It is Dr Bronkhorst’s view that greater awareness of latent fowl intelligence will (or at least could) lead to authentic chicken emancipation. As she explains, “The fact that a bunch of young hens can sit and watch a film and come up with credible interpretations of what they see, and actually write their thoughts down, is surely enough for us to realize that we are not alone.”


When pressed, Dr Bronkhorst conceded that none of the hens actually understood the film very well, despite declaring that they enjoyed it. “Perhaps it was unfair to choose this film for our feathered sisters; it was a great challenge for them and anyway, I think all the summaries have a grain of truth in them.”


Dr Bronkhorst suggestion for a drink to accompany Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a rhubarita. Here’s what she has to say about the rhubarita.


“Hi everybody. I’d like to suggest that the best drink you can have whilst enjoying Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a rhubarita. What ‘s a rhubarita? Why, it’s very simple: a rhubarita is a rhubarb margarita! Just boil your rhubarb for a while with sugar to taste, and let it cool down. Then mix it in with your tequila and Cointreau and there you go. You can use Gran Marnier or Curaçao, I know, but Cointreau works best for me and my hens, and I know it will for you, too. Yummy!”