Booze News: Meet Garv at Tales of the Cocktail!

>> Sunday, January 31, 2010

Greetings, fellow inebriates,

Today I bare festive news! Your humble and reclusive guide to soused cinema will crawl out of his hobbit hole for a rare public appearance.

I have been invited to co-host a seminar at this summer’s Tale of the Cocktail event (July 21-25, 2010) in New Orleans. The panel, entitled “Hollywood Cocktails: Louisiana Style” will provide an intoxicating look at cocktails that appear in movies made and set in Louisiana. Brighter luminaries Ted "Dr. Cocktail" Haigh and Cheryl "Miss Charming" Charming will co-host and share their copious knowledge of film and cocktail culture.

Attendees will not only receive a crash course in Louisiana flicks, they'll also get to sample some of the stimulating beverages discussed. For information on this seminar and on other events taking place at Tales of the Cocktail, visit http://www.talesofthecocktail.com/.

I'll post an update when ticket information is available. In the meantime, here is the press release for the Hollywood Cocktails panel:

Hollywood Cocktails: Louisiana Style

Friday, July 23, 2010 3:30 PM to 5:00 PM
Grand Ballroom North, The Royal Sonesta Hotel

Lights! Camera! Action! There are only three people in the known world to collect drink seen in film; Ted Haigh aka Dr. Cocktail, Cheryl Charming aka Miss Charming, and William T. Garver from http://www.BoozeMovies.com. Come join them as they explore the cocktails seen in film made and set in Louisiana. Should be a great time for all!


Ted Haigh
Ted Haigh aka Dr. Cocktail (http://www.cocktailDB.com) moonlights as a graphic designer for Hollywood films, writes on subjects pertaining to spirits, cocktails, and their histories, and collects drink seen in film. Ted is also the Curator of The Museum of the American Cocktail.


Cheryl Charming
Cheryl Charming a.k.a. Miss Charming from http://www.misscharming.com has been collecting drink seen in film since she first started tending bar. She is the annual Cocktail Film Fest host held in New Orleans each spring and maintains the Cocktail Cinema Facebook group. Each year at Tales of the Cocktail she is somehow involved in an event related to cocktails and film.


William T. Garver
William T. Garver Soused cinema enthusiast William T. Garver, a.k.a. garv, has shared his knowledge of cocktail-related film since 2006 through feature articles in Modern Drunkard Magazine. He is also the creator of Booze Movies: The 100 Proof Film Guide (http://www.boozemovies.com), a popular movie review website that explores the role alcohol has played in motion pictures from the silent era to the present day. His goal is that his readers will find the world of film more intoxicating than they ever imagined. Garv's website has been recommended or cited in several print and online publications including The New York Times, The Sacramento Bee, and The San Diego Reader.

I hope to see you there!

Cheers,
garv

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Review: What Drink Did (1909)

>> Saturday, January 23, 2010



USA/Silent/B&W-12m./Dir: D.W. Griffith/Wr: Edward Acker/Cast: David Miles (Alfred Lucas), Florence Lawrence (Mrs. Lucas), Gladys Egan (Daughter #1), Adele DeGarde (Daughter #2)

“Father, dear father, come home with me now!
The clock in the steeple strikes one;
You said you were coming right home from the shop,
As soon as your day's work was done.”
--From “Come Home, Father” by Henry Clay Work

In the late 1800’s and early Twentieth Century, temperance stories and songs were popular entertainments amongst bluenoses and wet blankets looking for a grotesque thrill camouflaged as a wholesome moral lesson. These stories usually involved the dissolution of a family as a result of the evils of alcohol, and disturbingly the narrative often involved the death of a child. The Drunkard was the most popular of the early temperance plays, until it was eclipsed by William W. Pratt’s a stage adaptation of T.S. Arthur’s temperance novel Ten Nights in a Bar Room and What I Saw There. Pratt's play also popularized the most famous song of the temperance movement, “Come Home, Father” by Henry Clay Work, in which a young girl implores her swillpot daddy to return home to his family.

When the fledgling art form of motion pictures appeared around the turn of the century, stories that were already familiar were prime fodder to be filmed, and Ten Nights in a Bar Room was adapted more than a dozen times during the silent era (beginning as early as 1897). Most of these early films have disintegrated into dust, but D.W. Griffith’s early short subject What Drink Did survives, likely due to collectors attempts to preserve any work of the important director. While What Drink Did is not a straight adaptation of Ten Nights in a Bar Room, the screenplay credit reveals that it was “suggested by” the novel, and it does contain elements of the story--particularly the plot element of a young girl imploring her father to return home from a saloon.

The short stars David Miles as Alfred Lucas, a family man with a wife, two preteen daughters, and a steady job in a woodworking shop. When his co-workers try to cajole him into having a beer with lunch, the serious family man refuses, but eventually he relents and finds the brew pleasing to his taste buds. At the end of the day, Lucas is easily persuaded to join his fellow employees at the bar; and a few dozen pints later, he staggers home to his distraught family. Awaking the next morning with a hangover and the thirst of a hardcore alcoholic, Lucas gruffly ignores his children as he heads to work. His co-workers have no trouble tempting the neophyte boozehound to the bar for the second night in a row; and he stays out all evening downing suds and playing cards. After several hours of waiting for her absent spouse, Lucas’ frantic wife (Florence Lawrence) rather unwisely implores one of her young daughters to go out and bring daddy home. As with all temperance stories, tragedy ensues.

What Drink Did was just one of over 400 short films that D.W. Griffith cranked out between 1908 and 1913 in his years at the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company. Each short was both a school for the fledgling director and a technical experiment in the possibilities of filmmaking. In fact, this short displays an early use of cross-cutting to show audiences the simultaneous actions of the husband in the bar and those of the worried wife and children in the home. What Griffith would learn making these shorts and what others would learn from watching them laid the foundations for the language of film.

That said, What Drink Did isn’t very good. It displays both old-fashioned attitudes and outdated acting styles. While the film proudly lauds itself as “a thoughtful moral lesson,” it is the worst kind of moralizing hogwash, exploiting the accidental death of a child for the supposed entertainment and edification of its audience. Still, the short is worth viewing for its historic value and for a few unintentional laughs.

Drinks Consumed--Beer

Intoxicating Effects--Staggering, stumbling, hangover, brawling, and physical violence

Potent Quotables--None to speak of

Video Availability--What Drink Did is available as part of The Directors: Rare Films Of D.W. Griffith Vol. 3 (Classic Video Streams). The short is also embedded above in its entirety.

Similarly Sauced Cinema--D.W. Griffith used alcoholism as a theme in several of his shorts and features, including A Drunkard's Reformation (1909), Drink’s Lure (1912), The Reformers (1913), and his final film, The Struggle (1931). As previously mentioned, Ten Nights in a Bar Room was filmed several times during the silent era, and a talkie version was made in 1931.

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Review: A Love Song for Bobby Long (2004)

>> Sunday, January 10, 2010

USA/C-119m./Dir: Shainee Gabel/Wr: Shainee Gabel/Cast: John Travolta (Bobby Long), Scarlett Johansson (Purslane Will), Gabriel Macht (Lawson Pines), Deborah Unger (Georgianna), Dane Rhodes (Cecil), David Jensen (Lee)

In this adaptation of Ronald Everett Capps’ novel Off Magazine Street, Scarlett Johannson stars as Purslane Will, an 18 year-old high school dropout who travels back to her New Orleans birthplace, upon hearing of the death of her mother. When she arrives, she discovers that she has missed the funeral and that her mother’s home is occupied by a couple of alcoholics--Bobby Long (John Travolta), an aging ex-English professor with an infected toe, and Lawson Pines (Gabriel Macht), a frustrated writer who was once Bobby’s teaching assistant. The conditions of Pursy’s mother’s will stipulate that the drunks are free to stay in the ramshackle residence for the period of one year, upon which time Pursy will assume sole ownership. However, the literate lushes trick Purslane into thinking that she only inherited one-third of the property, while they were bequeathed the remaining two thirds.

The boys initially plan to scare off the girl before she can discover the truth about her inheritance; but over time, the three misfits grow into an unconventional family unit. With the help of the boozing boys, Pursy resumes her high school education. Likewise, she helps her roommates fix up their decrepit domicile and tries to help them overcome their addictions and melancholy. However, the clan’s new found happiness is threatened by the revelation of the boy’s deception, long buried secrets, and Bobby’s increasing illness.

The release of A Love Song for Bobby Long was met with pans from critics and disinterest by the general public. However, the film deserved a better reception than it received. It’s true that the story contains an overabundance of clich├ęs--misfits finding each other and filling each others voids, alcoholic ex-academics (Is there any other kind?), gruff exteriors hiding sensitive souls, etc. Still, the film contains a number of modest pleasures.

Chief amongst the positives are the performances. Travolta does his best character work since Pulp Fiction (1994), and Johannson gives her second-best performance to date (the best being her turn in the exquisite Lost in Translation (2003)). Best of all is Gabriel Macht as Bobby’s hand-picked biographer. Macht gives a quiet, truthful performance as a man struggling with a guilty conscience and turning repeatedly to alcohol rather than facing his personal demons. Other factors in the “pro” column include good direction and cinematography, which soak up a lot of flavor from the picture’s Louisiana locations.

While the film is not as essential an entry in the alcoholism genre as The Lost Weekend (1945), Days of Wine and Roses (1962), or Leaving Las Vegas (1995), it does hold many pleasures for admirers of booze movies. Bobby and Lawton spend their days in an alcohol-stimulated stupor, greeting the morning with Orange Blossoms (gin topped with orange juice) and moving on to beer and whiskey in the afternoons. The characters also concoct a couple of the most disgusting cocktails in movie history. Bobby starts out one morning with a mixture of beer and tomato juice, and Lawton pours Seagram’s gin into a can of dill pickle brine when he runs out of orange juice. You can do worse than spend a couple of hours with these adventurous alcoholics.

Drinks Consumed--Beer, gin, bourbon, scotch, and vodka

Intoxicating Effects--bickering, destruction of property, unintentional urination, and withdrawal sweats

Potent Quotables--PURSY: Well, it’s no big deal. Ya know, Lorraine thinking I’d share this shithole with two alcoholic strangers. Well, you are alcoholics, aren’t you?
BOBBY: But we are not strangers. We were her friends. We took care of her. And this shithole is just fine for us. It’s not suited for a girl like you.

Video Availability--DVD (Sony)

Similarly Sauced Cinema--Scarlett Johannson learns that for relaxing times she should make it Suntory time in Lost in Translation (2003).

Off Magazine Street (Paperback)

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About Me

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I like to drink. I like to watch movies. I like to watch movies about drinking. I like to write about the movies I’ve watched, but only if I’ve had a drink first.

All text including the title "Booze Movies: The 100 Proof Film Guide" Copyright William T. Garver

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