News: THE LOST WEEKEND added to the National Film Registry

>> Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Greetings fellow inebriates,

Soused cinema enthusiasts received a late Christmas gift today when the Library of Congress announced the list of 2011 inductees in the National Film Registry. Under the terms of the National Film Preservation Act, each year the Librarian of Congress names 25 films to the National Film Registry that are "culturally, historically or aesthetically" significant. Amongst this year's list is The Lost Weekend, probably the most important booze movie ever produced.

Prior to Billy Wilder's film, drunkenness was generally depicted in the movies for comedic effect. Even serious dramas often employed booze as comedy relief. The Lost Weekend was the first film to depict alcoholism fairly accurately (with the exception of an uplifting ending that doesn't quite mesh with the rest). Here's how the Library of Congress described the film in today's press release:

A landmark social-problem film, "The Lost Weekend" provided audiences of 1945 with an uncompromising look at the devastating effects of alcoholism. Directed by Billy Wilder and co-written by Wilder and Charles Brackett, the film melded an expressionistic film-noir style with documentary realism to immerse viewers in the harrowing experiences of an aspiring New York writer willing to do almost anything for a drink. Despite opposition from his studio, the Hays Office and the liquor industry, Wilder created a film ranked as one of the best of the decade that won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Direction, Screenplay and Actor (Ray Milland), and established him as one of America’s leading filmmakers.
To read the full press release and to check out the other 24 inductees, click on the link below:
2011 National Film Registry

Have a safe and happy new year, and check out the excellent boozy dark comedy, Young Adult, if you get a chance. I'll post a full review of Young Adult when it's released on video, but consider it highly recommended.



Review: Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle (1994)

>> Monday, December 12, 2011

USA/C-B&W-126m./Dir: Alan Rudolph/Wr: Alan Rudolph & Randy Sue Coburn/Cast: Jennifer Jason Leigh (Dorothy Parker), Campbell Scott (Robert Benchley), Matthew Broderick (Charles MacArthur), Wallace Shawn (Horatio Byrd), Nick Cassavetes (Robert Sherwood), Gwyneth Paltrow (Paula Hunt), Tom McGowan (Alexander Woollcott), Martha Plimpton (Jane Grant), Sam Robards (Harold Ross), Chip Zien (Franklin P. Adams), David Thornton (George S. Kaufman), Matt Malloy (Marc Connelly), Peter Gallagher (Alan Campbell), Jennifer Beals (Gertrude Benchley), Andrew McCarthy (Eddie Parker)

Before the Rat Pack (Frank, Dean, Sammy, etc.) and the Bundy Drive Boys(W.C. Fields, John Barrymore, Errol Flynn, etc.) there was the Algonquin Round Table--a loose social club of playwrights, humorists, theater critics, and actors that gathered at the Algonquin hotel in the 1920’s and 30’s to lunch, toss off bon mots, play word games, gossip, flirt, and drink. Most of the group--Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, Robert Sherwood, George S. Kaufman, Charles MacArthur, Marc Connelly, Franklin R. Adams, and Alexander Woolcott among them--became more famous for their witticism-laden lunches and for their alcohol intake than they did for their writing.

The dizzy nights and hung-over mornings of the Round Table are captured sporadically in Alan Rudolph’s film, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle.This biopic focuses on Dorothy Parker (Jennifer Jason Leigh), one of the wittiest and most celebrated members of the Algonquin group. Rather than covering a lifetime, the film focuses on two important periods for Mrs. Parker--her later years as a Hollywood screenwriter, shot in black and white, and her Jazz Age heyday, shot in color (but leaning heavily on browns). More than anything else, the movie focuses on Dottie’s soulful friendship with fellow Algonquinite Robert Benchley (Campbell Scott) and her constant struggles with depression.

Unfortunately, Alan Rudolph’s film often comes across as warmed-over Robert Altman (a producer on the film). While Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle features a large canvas and a multitude of characters to fill it, the movie doesn’t have the sense of spontaneity or visual flair that buoys even the most middling of Altman’s output. The picture has its draggy sections, and the total effect of the film is to leave the viewer awfully depressed. To be fair, it is hard to imagine telling the story of a woman who tried to commit suicide multiple times without bringing the audience down a bit.

It may sound like I’m panning the picture, but in truth, I’m actually quite fond of it. Primarily, I love the Algonquin wit that is peppered throughout the script. The boozy bon mots help balance out the more downbeat sections of the story. It also doesn’t hurt that much of the humor is alcohol-related.

Secondly, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Campbell Scott’s performances are remarkable, perhaps their best on film. Leigh captures Parker’s savage wit and fragile spirit, as well as her rather unusual vocal tone (Dottie really did talk like that). Scott also does an uncanny job of capturing Benchley’s mannerisms, self-deprecating humor, and dry delivery.

I must admit that I am a sucker for period pieces set in the 20’s and 30’s, and I’ve had an interest in the Algonquin Round Table from the time I read Harpo Marx’s autobiography as a child. Consequently, I was predisposed to like the picture, despite the fact that it did not fully convey the humor, intelligence, camaraderie, and bitchiness of the group. All in all, Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle is a cocktail that tastes vaguely off. Still, it has enough good stuff in it that it is hard not to grudgingly recommend.

Drinks Consumed--Haig and Haig Scotch, gin, whiskey, Champagne, red wine, unnamed liquor in a flask, and unnamed cocktails

Intoxicating Effects--Sneaking sips, depression, soused sex, passing out, slurred speech, bickering, physical violence, and hangover

Potent Quotables-- DOROTHY PARKER: One more drink and I’ll be under the host.

Video Availability--DVD (Image)

Similarly Sauced Cinema--If you, like me, prefer docs to biopics, you may want to seek out the Academy Award-winning documentary, The Ten-Year Lunch: The Wit and Legend of the Algonquin Round Table (1987).


Booze News: 2012 Silent Movie Calendar

>> Sunday, November 13, 2011

Greetings fellow inebriates,

Every year at this time we interrupt the flow of soused cinema reviews with a brief commercial for silent film preservation. Fifty percent of the films made before 1950 (including a number of alky-centric titles) are lost forever, and resources are limited to save those that remain. You can make a small contribution to aid the restoration of silent films by purchasing the 2012 Silent Movies Calendar.

Rodney Sauer of the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra produces this calendar each year, featuring rare film stills and photographs of silent movie stars contributed by fans. In addition to a dozen beautiful photos in glorious black and white, the calendar also features birthdays of silent-era film stars and personalities, as well as notable marriages, deaths, film openings, and other significant dates. Best of all, the net proceeds made from the sale of the calendars (after printing expenses) are donated to support silent film restoration. This year the profits will go to the UCLA Film and Television Archive.

The theme of the 2012 calendar is silent film stars with animals, including Tony the Wonder Horse, Rin Tin Tin, and various other dogs, cows, and geese. The price is just $14.74 ($12.00 plus shipping), so click on the link below to order yours today!

Get it here-->2012 Silent Movies Calendar



Review: Part Time Pal (1947)

>> Saturday, November 5, 2011

USA/C-8m./Dir: William Hanna & Joseph Barbera/ /Cast: Tom (Himself)), Jerry (Himself), Mammy Two-Shoes (Lillian Randolph)

When one thinks of the great animation studios of the golden age of Hollywood, Disney and Warner Brothers immediately spring to mind. However, in the 1940’s the Best Animated Short Oscar was awarded to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer more than any other studio; and all but one of those awards were for cartoons starring a blue-gray cat and a brown mouse.

From 1940 to 1958, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera produced 114 Tom and Jerry shorts, earning seven Academy Awards in the process (tied with Walt Disney’s Silly Symphonies as the animated series with the most Oscar wins). Not only were the cat and mouse team award magnets; their comedy formula of chase and violence influenced animation of the time and forever after, from the Road Runner to Roger Rabbit to Itchy & Scratchy.

Being that the original Tom and Jerry series lasted 18 years, Hanna and Barbera employed numerous variations on the core idea of “cat chases mouse.” It was inevitable that alcohol would eventually be incorporated into the shenanigans; and in 1947 Tom got plastered in Part Time Pal,the team’s most booze-centric short.

The cartoon begins with the painfully stereotypical housekeeper, Mammy Two-Shoes (Lillian Randolph), threatening to throw Tom out of the house if he allows Jerry to once again sneak into the refrigerator. Despite Tom’s best efforts at guarding the ice box, the mouse outsmarts him and a chase ensues. Tom, of course, gets the worst of it, slipping on some bottles and tumbling down the cellar stairs into a barrel of hard cider. Under the influence of the fermented fluid, Tom sees Jerry as a pal and is more than happy to help the rodent to the contents of the fridge. Unfortunately for Jerry, all conviviality subsides when Tom is hit with the hangover.

Part Time Pal is a serviceable short with some clever inebriated gags. In terms of quality, it falls squarely in the middle of Tom and Jerry series. The animation and writing are not top quality, but there are also Hanna and Barbera shorts that are far worse. The main thing that distinguishes this particular short is the use of drunken behavior as the cartoon’s central theme. Fans of soused cinema will likely notice similarities between Tom and Jerry’s on-again-off-again relationship in this cartoon and the vacillating friendship of the tramp and millionaire in Charlie Chaplin’s masterpiece, City Lights (1931).

Drinks Consumed--Hard cider and Bay Rum cologne

Intoxicating Effects
--Staggering, hiccups, conviviality, slurred speech, destruction of property, and hangover

Potent Quotables--TOM: Hiccup!

Video Availability--The first 37 Tom and Jerry shorts, including Part Time Pal, have been remastered and released in the Tom and Jerry - Golden Collection, Vol. 1 on both Blu-Rayand DVD. The cartoons are presented uncut, preserving ethnic stereotypes that were a product of their time. This is one of the most beautiful animation packages presented on disc and is highly recommended.

Similarly Sauced Cinema--The original animated cat gets loopy on joy juice in the 1928 short Felix the Cat Woos Whoopee.

Tom and Jerry - Golden Collection, Vol. 1 (Blu-Ray) Tom and Jerry - Golden Collection, Vol. 1 (Blu-Ray)


Booze News: Happy Halloween!

>> Sunday, October 30, 2011

Greetings fellow inebriates,

All Hallow's Eve is nigh upon us, and so is the 150th soused cinema review. "Will it be The Shining?" I hear you ask. I'm afraid not. I was just looking for an image that was appropriately Halloween-y. I'll get to Jack Torrance, Wendy, Danny, Lloyd, and the rest at a later time.

Instead, the 150th review milestone will be marked with a title that most of you will not recognize. However, a good number of you will have likely seen the film associated with that title. Confusing? I hope so. But you'll see what I mean in a few days when the review is posted.

In the meantime, enjoy the holiday with a tasty beverage and a good movie. Let me suggest rye whiskey and The Abominable Dr. Phibes (1971). However, if campy horror isn't your bag, The Rum Diary is well worth a trek to the multiplex. I'll give it a full review when the video is released, but for now I'll say that its great to see Johnny Depp back in HST-mode and even better to see Bruce "Withnail & I" Robinson directing again.



Review: Everything Must Go (2010)

>> Sunday, October 16, 2011

USA/C-97m./Dir: Dan Rush/Wr: Dan Rush (based on the story “Why Don’t You Dance” by Raymond Carver)/Cast: Will Ferrell (Nick Halsey), Christopher Jordan Wallace (Kenny Loftus), Rebecca Hall (Samantha), Michael Peña (Frank Garcia), Stephan Root (Elliot), Laura Dern (Delilah), Glenn Howerton (Gary)

“Dying is easy. Comedy is hard,” goes the popular theatrical expression. The line has been attributed to everyone from Edmund Kean to Edmund Gwenn, but whatever the origin; there is truth behind the phrase. Comedic performance is a more difficult skill than dramatic acting. Still audiences and even some critics are surprised each time a comedian proves him or herself to be a capable dramatic actor.

Will Ferrell is the latest comic to stretch his dramatic muscles, playing a down-on-his-luck alcoholic in the indie dramedy Everything Must Go.His character, Nick Halsey, is fired from his high-paid sales position due to a history of alcoholism and an unsubstantiated charge of a drunken sexual encounter with a fellow employee. His day goes from bad to badder when he arrives home to find that his wife has left him. Not only that; she’s changed the locks on the house and scattered his possessions across the front lawn. Having nowhere else to go, Nick settles into his easy chair, amidst his other valuables, and begins to down a 12-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

When the cops arrive due to complaints from his neighbors, Nick is forced to hold a yard sale as an excuse for camping out on the lawn. Sitting amongst the clutter, Nick meets a new neighbor (Rebecca Hall) and a lonely kid (Christopher Jordan Wallace) with whom he forges tentative friendships. Together, they help him suffer through the stress of drying out.

As one would expect, Ferrell acquits himself well in the role, which spans from playing light comedy to simulating the sickness of alcohol withdrawal. He is the main reason to see the movie, and it is the comic’s second-best screen performance to date (his turn as Buddy in Elf being the first).

Unfortunately, the movie itself isn’t nearly as memorable as Ferrell’s performance. Everything Must Go isn’t a bad film. The supporting performances are all quite good, the direction from first-timer Dan Rush shows promise, and the cinematography by Michael Barrett is often surprisingly beautiful. The problem is the story, which screams earnest indie -- a middle aged man takes stock of his life, while dealing with an addiction, with the help of a lonely kid and through meaningful conversations with a new neighbor who just happens to be dealing with similar circumstances. On top of that, there is the yard sale, which serves as a ham-fisted metaphor for letting go. Blecch. It is a credit to the cast and crew that they make this stale pabulum palatable.

If you are a fan of Ferrell or a soused cinema completist, you may want to give Everything Must Go a spin on disc. The picture is a pleasant enough way to waste 97 minutes, but it adds nothing new to the booze movie subgenre of alcoholism films.

Drinks Consumed--Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and unnamed hard liquor in a flask

Intoxicating Effects--Sneaking sips, drunk driving, outdoor urination, destruction of property, and the shakes

Potent Quotables--COP: How much have you had to drink?
NICK: Uh… In my opinion, not enough.
COP: Ya know there’s a law about having open containers in public, right?
NICK: There’s a law that says I can’t drink a fuckin’ beer on my front lawn?
COP: Sir, you’re going to have to come with me.

Video Availability--DVDand Blu-Ray(Roadside Attractions)

Similarly Sauced Cinema--Dick Van Dyke played it straight as a public relations man battling alcoholism in the 1974 ABC Movie of the Week, The Morning After.


Booze News: PROHIBITION begins Sunday!

>> Friday, September 30, 2011

DVR Alert! Ken Burns' new, three-part, five-and-one-half-hour documentary on Prohibition begins airing Sunday October 2nd on PBS in prime time (check local listings). The remaining parts will air the following Monday and Tuesday.

Of course, this means that the true story of the Volstead Act will compete head-to-head against HBO's fantastic fictionalized account of the era, Boardwalk Empire. As much as I love the drunken violence that HBO has been serving up, I suggest that you adjust your viewing habits for a single week. Boardwalk Empire will receive multiple airings Sunday evening and throughout the week, so it should be easy to catch both programs.

If instead you choose to wait for the eventual DVDand Blu-rayrelease of the doc, your wait will be brief. Ken Burns' PROHIBITION is officially scheduled to hit stores on Tuesday, October 4th. Here's a link to a rave review of the Blu-ray release, courtesy of

Ken Burns' PROHIBITION Blu-ray

Whichever way you choose to experience what is sure to be the definitive film on the subject, drink it up!



Review: Her Majesty Love (1931)

>> Sunday, September 11, 2011

USA/B&W-75m./Dir: William Dieterle/Wr: Robert Lord & Arthur Caesar (based on a play by Rudolph Bernauer & Rudolph Oesterreicher)/Cast: Marilyn Miller (Lia Toerrek), Ben Lyon (Fred von Wellingen), W.C. Fields (Bela Toerrek), Leon Errol (Baron von Schwarzdorf), Ford Sterling (Otmar von Wellingen), Chester Conklin (Emil)

Around Hollywood in 1931, most people considered W.C. Fields’ movie career to be all but over. The popular stage comedian had made an attempt at big screen stardom during the mid-Twenties, but his silent features had failed to connect with audiences. While studio mishandling was partly to blame for Fields’ flicker flopperoo, the core of the problem was that silent film proved to be a poor medium for the Great Man’s style of comedy. Soundless cinema robbed W.C. of two of his greatest comedic gifts--his distinctive voice and his ability to improve upon scripted dialogue with copious verbal ad-libbing.

The advent of sound provided Fields with a chance to re-introduce himself to the viewing public, but studio heads were initially reluctant to hire an actor that had previously proved to be a box office dud. However, a chance meeting with Marilyn Miller, a Broadway actress with whom Fields had costarred in the Ziegfeld Follies, led to an offer to portray Miller’s father in her latest film, Her Majesty Love.

A remake of a German film produced the same year, Her Majesty Love retains the Berlin setting of the original. The film begins with champagne and cocktail-soaked revelry in the Berlin Café, where Lia Toerrek (Miller) is the bartender and the center of attention. A young businessman, Fred von Wellingen (Ben Lyon) offers Lia a wedding ring for a dance, and she accepts. Unfortunately, Fred’s nouveau riche family finds the idea of his coupling with a bartendress unacceptable, especially after her father (W.C. Fields) causes a disturbance at a family function with a display of drunken juggling. The family pays Fred off to dump Lia, and she responds by agreeing to marry a wealthy Baron (Leon Errol), who is a six-time divorcee. Of course, Fred eventually comes to his senses, but will he be able to win back Lia prior to her becoming the seventh baroness?

W.C. Fields’ first sound feature, Her Majesty Love, is a pretty anemic affair. It is a musical comedy that is thin on both music and comedy, with a nonsensical script and poor acting (with the exceptions of Fields and Errol). Viewed today, the film appears old-fashioned in the worst possible way. In short, it creaks.

However, once the Great Man appears--about a third of the way into the picture--he commands the screen and makes the most of every moment he is given. It is easy to see why Her Majesty Love jump-started Fields’ film career, while the rest of the cast drifted into bit parts or faded into obscurity. Fields’ talent for making music from scripted dialogue and his physical grace puts the rest of the cast to shame. Only fellow stage comedian Leon Errol holds his own in scenes opposite the Great Man.

For lovers of soused cinema, Her Majesty Love is an interesting museum piece. There is plentiful cocktail-swilling in this Prohibition-era picture (which is likely why Berlin was retained as the setting), and we are treated to one of Fields’ first filmed forays into utilizing alcohol-soaked humor. His juggling scene, while drunk on cognac, is a treasure for both his manual dexterity and the fact that it is one of the few times W.C. acted inebriated on film. Fields often drank in his movies, but he rarely displayed any ill effects. This scene is a notable exception.

Her Majesty Love is not a good film, and most modern audiences will understandably find it a chore to sit through. However, fans of W.C. Fields should seek out this antiquated curio for the hints of the Great Man’s comedic genius that are tantalizingly sprinkled throughout the second half of the film.

Drinks Consumed--Champagne, martinis (gin), Benedictine, cognac, wine, sherry with egg, and unnamed cocktails

Intoxicating Effects--Harmonizing, slurred speech, boasting, juggling, stumbling, public disturbance, and destruction of property

Potent Quotables--WAITER: A drink before dinner, sir?
BARON: Drink always. Before, with, and after… you teetotaler.

Video Availability
--Her Majesty Love has never been released on video in any format. However, Turner Classic Movies does air the film from time to time.

Similarly Sauced Cinema--W.C. Fields reunited with his pal Leon Errol for his swan song, Never Give a Sucker an Even Break (1941).

W.C. Fields: 6 Short Films [Criterion Collection] -
W.C. Fields: 6 Short Films [Criterion Collection] -

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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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