Thursday, August 14, 2014

Me Elsewhere: Drink Like The Stars

The new issue of Eat Drink Films features my latest Down The Hatch cocktail column. I turn a Klieg light on a pair of drinks named for storied nightspots of yesteryear, the Stork Club and the Brown Derby. Plus notes on chocolate hazelnut porter, Yul Brynner’s baked potatoes, and more. Go read it!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Words of Wisdom: That’s One Way to Look at It

Furthermore, practically all the Hollywood film-making of today is stooping to cheap salacious pornography in a crazy bastardization of a great art to compete for the ‘patronage’ of deviates and masturbators. If that isn’t a slide, it’ll do until a real avalanche hits our film Mecca.

- Frank Capra, The Name Above the Title (1971)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Words of Wisdom: ‘Twas Ever Thus

“Why shouldn’t we be able to do as well as any Hollywood hack?”

“Because what the producers want is an original but familiar, unusual but popular, moralistic but sexy, true but improbable, tender but violent, slick but highbrow masterpiece. When they have that, then they can ‘work on it’ and make it ‘commercial,’ to justify their high salaries.”

- A 1945 conversation between Bertolt Brecht and Salka Viertel, recounted in Viertel’s 1969 memoir The Kindness of Strangers

Monday, July 28, 2014

Words of Wisdom: Preston Sturges

A man in possession of many bolts of woolen cloth, quantities of lining and interlining, buttons, thread, needles, and padding is not, of necessity, a tailor. A man in possession of many characters, many situations, many startling and dramatic events, and many gags is not, of necessity, a storyteller.

The crafts of the tailor and the storyteller are not dissimilar, however, for out of a mass of unrelated material, each contrives to fashion a complete and well-balanced unit. Many stories are too heavy in the shoulders and too short in the pants, with the design of the material running upside-down …

The customer walking home in his new suit is razzed by small boys as he passes. I thought I knew how to put a story together, but it might turn out I was meant to be a tailor.

- From Preston Sturges by Preston Sturges (1990). Sturges’ first hit play Strictly Dishonorable is back on stage in New York City, revived by the Attic Theater.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Me Elsewhere: The United Artists Cocktails

This week’s issue of Eat Drink Films is out, featuring my latest Down The Hatch cocktail column. In it, I make the drinks named after three of the four founders of United Artists. Who’s the odd man (or woman) out? Read the column and see. While you’re there check out the rest of the issue, which includes Vincent Price’s recipe for blueberry muffins and a look at the festivities planned for the centenary year of Orson Welles’ birth.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Extra, Extra!: Noir City

It’s a big day, kids. The latest issue of the magazine of the Film Noir Foundation is out – and the first issue on which I’ve served as managing editor, alongside the estimable Steve Kronenberg and under the stewardship of the man himself, El Jefe, Eddie Muller. It is with all due modesty that I say we’ve delivered quite the feast. Among the courses for your delectation:

  • FNF advisory council member Dennis Lehane names his five favorite noirs
  • An interview with Barry Gifford, novelist and impresario behind Black Lizard Books
  • An extensive survey of “rubble noir,” the rarely-seen films made in Germany after the end of World War II
  • Duane Swierczynski’s sensational, highly personal appreciation of the neglected noir Cisco Pike
  • Bob Hoskins remembered by the Saturday Boy his-own-self, Ray Banks
And so much more. I’m not kidding. I’m only scratching the surface of what’s in this issue, all of it beautifully assembled by ace designer Michael Kronenberg working his usual magic.

As for me, I’m all over this one. I’ve got an overview of the mixed-media stage production Helen Lawrence, recently mounted in Vancouver, B.C. and currently touring the globe; reviews of the Blu-Ray of The Counselor, the festival favorite Blue Ruin and the extraordinary slice of Hollywood history Five Came Back by Mark Harris; plus the debut of my new column Cocktails & Crime, rat-a-tatting noir news and notes.

My primary contribution is a look back at season one of True Detective, featuring spectacular illustrations inspired by the HBO show from Eisner Award-winning graphic artist Francesco Francavilla. Honestly, you’re going to want to read this article for the pictures.

So how do you get the magazine? Simple. Swing by the Film Noir Foundation website, make a donation to help preserve one of America’s greatest artistic legacies, then tuck in. You won’t believe what we’ve got cooking for the next issue.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Cocktail of the Week: The Culross

First, some news. I’m pleased to report I’ve joined the merry band of writers at online magazine EatDrinkFilms as cocktail columnist. Food, booze, and movies? Those are three of my favorite things! “Down the Hatch” – hey, like my book! – will be a monthly feature. My maiden effort honors the magazine’s Northern California roots by looking at the Meyer Lemon Whiskey Sour and the Frisco. Go read it and the rest of the issue while you’re at it.

Whenever I encounter an unfamiliar drink recipe and realize I already have the required ingredients, it’s something of an effort not to cry out “To the bar!”. I stumbled across one the other day while paging through The Savoy Cocktail Book – yes, I do spend my valuable downtime paging through cocktail books, usually in front of a roaring fire with a (rented) dog at my feet, and what’s it to you? – and decided such a voyage of discovery would make the ideal subject for the one hundredth Cocktail of the Week post. Champion, the loaner Labrador nestled by my slippers, barked his assent.

I’m going to repeat that. The ONE HUNDREDTH post. Surely that calls for a drink.

Why not the Culross? I’m not saying this cocktail is unknown. If it’s in Savoy, it’s on a menu somewhere. I’m saying that up to now it’s managed to miss me.

Its Savoy appearance seems to be its debut. No one knows where the name came from, although the Scottish village on the Firth of Forth would be a safe bet. The original recipe called for one-third each Bacardi rum, Kina Lillet and apricot brandy, along with the “juice of ¼ lemon.” Bastardized versions turn up in a handful of later books, often with a heavier pour of rum.

The ratio that was good enough for Harry Craddock would suffice for me. I made my usual substitution of Cocchi Americano for Kina Lillet, the additional snap of cinchona in the Americano a better match for what Harry poured in his day.

As for the juice of one-fourth of a lemon, who has the time to make such calculations in our hectic modern age? A few contemporary recipes upped the lemon juice to full partner, so in went three-quarters of an ounce like the other ingredients.

Drinking the Culross raised another question: Why isn’t this cocktail a perennial favorite? It’s woefully underrated, offering a lovely balance of sweet (brandy), sour (lemon juice), and bitter (Americano), with the rum as stabilizer. Some experts endorse making the drink with apricot eau de vie and I have no doubt it’s splendid in its drier way, but I remain an unabashed brandy partisan. And a Culross convert.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to return this dog while I can still get my deposit back.

The Culross

¾ oz. light rum
¾ oz. Cocchi Americano
¾ oz. apricot brandy
¾ oz. lemon juice

Shake. Strain. No garnish.

Want more Cocktail of the Week? The first fifty-two essays are available in the Kindle bestseller DOWN THE HATCH: ONE MAN’S ONE YEAR ODYSSEY THROUGH CLASSIC COCKTAIL RECIPES AND LORE. Buy it now at