Guilty Pleasure Film Festival – Day 2

Guilty Pleasure Film Festival – Day 2

Friday, November 27th BLACK FRIDAY

Welcome back. Ignore your impulses to join the ‘Rona zombies fighting over the one discounted TV your local big box store has been advertising since Memorial Day and join us here on the couch. Let’s get started.

‘Yeah. I think that’s what enraged him’

12 p.m.   Archer – Pipeline Fever (2011, Season 2, Episode 4)
Starring H. Jon Benjamin, Aisha Tyler
Written by Adam Reed

With apologies to The Simpsons and South Park, the first four seasons of Archer probably contain the best animated television comedy ever made. As to my favorite episodes, it’s a toss-up between Pipeline Fever and Swiss Miss. Also, I guess if we were being really clever with this line-up, we would have picked Midnight Ron, which is not only excellent, but is also set here in the Catskills. Nonetheless, I’ve given the nod to Pipeline Fever because Sterling Archer’s character is at his peak ‘Archer-ness’ simultaneously displaying his Burt Reynolds-worshipping childish bravado and quietly revealing his three biggest fears. Meanwhile, it’s the first deep dive into Lana’s past and origin story. It’s also stupid funny and the episode I’ve watched more times than any other. So here it is.

Cocktail Pairing:  Hurricane or Bloody Mary

For this episode, the correct pairing should a classic New Orleans Hurricane, since that is the Archer beverage of choice on the flight down to the Big Easy.

  • 1 tablespoon lime juice (1/2 a lime)
  • 2 ounces light rum 
  • 2 ounces dark rum
  • 2 ounces passion fruit juice
  • 1 ounce orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon simple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon grenadine
  • Mix ingredients into a hurricane glass. Garnish with orange slice and a maraschino cherry.

Since we spent all day yesterday drinking, I’ll be choosing the Bloody Mary which, not surprisingly, is Archer’s go-to hangover cure. He has a pre-drink prayer to go with it:

“For I am a sinner in the hands of an angry God. Bloody Mary, full of vodka, blessed are you among cocktails. Pray for me now and at the hour of my death, which I hope is soon.”

There is no way I’m giving you my proprietary Bloody Mary recipe. You’ll just have to come over here and enjoy it.     

12:30 p.m.     Can’t Hardly Wait   (1998)
Starring: Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ethan Embry, Lauren Ambrose
Directed by Deborah Kaplan, Harry Elfont

We’ve arrived at the moment of my personal guiltiest pleasure, Can’t Hardly Wait. It’s fairly impossible for me to elucidate my love for this film, since it makes no sense why I should love it so. I was 27 when it came out, so I was beyond the target demo even at the time. I did actually see it in the theatre with my younger brother who was also perplexed why I wanted to see it.  Since then, I’ve probably seen CHW over 100 times.  The quick breakdown: it’s the final night of high school and a post-graduation party is taking place at the house of a senior girl whose parents are away. The King (Peter Facinelli) & Queen (Jennifer Love Hewitt) of high school have just broken up and the Vonnegut-wannabe from English class (Ethan Embry) is trying to screw up the courage to deliver a letter to his love the Queen that he has been working on, and holding onto, since freshman year. His reluctantly supportive, too-cool-for-this-school best friend, played perfectly by Lauren Ambrose, joins him in his quest at the party.  This A-story line, is woven through a series of secondary high school drama story lines, all instantly recognizable.

Here are some partial clues to my love of the film: I’m a sucker for films that take place in the course of a single night, e.g. After Hours, American Graffiti, Stretch. (* editor’s note – Stretch is a shoe-in for a future ‘Guilty Pleasure Film Festival’. I’ve only seen it maybe 8 times to date, but its stature improves with every viewing.)  I think after living in New York City for nearly 20 years and having many of these adventures myself, I can easily connect and see myself trapped in these nights. I’m also a fan of movies that have a super deep bench of early performances. Barry Levinson’s 1982 Diner is the yardstick for this genre. Here in CHW, there is an embarrassment of riches. Beyond the leads, you’ll see Donald Faison, Breckin Meyer, Freddy Rodriguez, Jaime Pressly, Jason Segal, Jenna Elfman, Melissa Joan Hart and Seth Green. The film is dripping with teen angst and an eclectic soundtrack that bounces from Barry Manilow to Guns & Roses. I just love it and I can’t hardly wait to ‘I Can’t Hardly Wait’ again.

Cocktail Pairing:  Anything, as long as it is consumed in a red Solo cup.

2:30 p.m. The Good Place – The Trolley Problem (2017, Season 2, Episode 6)
Starring Kristen Bell, Ted Danson, William Jackson Harper
Directed by Dean Holland

(Editor’s Note: Leigh and I couldn’t settle on a single Arrested Development episode to feature, so we have substituted our favorite episode from The Good Place). It’s my personal opinion that The Good Place is the best television show ever made, just edging out The Prisoner, though they both maintain a number of interesting parallels. The Good Place is one of those special Shakespearian forms of art where well-crafted contemporary pop culture entertainment ‘Trojan Horses’ very deep and complex existential questioning.  Trolley episode is hilarious but also catches the essence of what makes The Good Place Special. It’s hard to set this particular episode up without giving away a very major spoiler for the first season, but let’s try. The premise of the show is that four humans have died and found themselves together in the afterlife trying to make sense of their time on earth and how that has affected their infinite souls. One of the four humans, Chidi, had been a moral philosophy professor on Earth and has taken it upon himself to try and teach ethics to their immortal host, Michael, and the other three mortals. In an effort to try and make sense of the classic philosophical conundrum ‘the Trolley Problem’, Michael makes the exercise real. Existential hilarity ensues.  

Cocktail Pairing: Classic Margarita

The favorite tipple of the show’s heroine Eleanor Shellstrop who, quite literally, died for her margaritas. (Eleanor is struck by a ‘boner pill’ truck in a supermarket parking lot while chasing a bottle of ‘Lonely Gal Margarita Mix for One’ that had fallen out of her cart.) While Eleanor would simply toss a healthy amount of discount tequila into said mix, here is the classic recipe

60ml tequila
25ml triple sec
20ml lime juice

Pour all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a cocktail glass rimmed with salt.

3 p.m. Office Space (1999)
Starring: Ron Livingston, Ajay Naidu, Gary Cole, Stephen Root, Jennifer Aniston
Directed by Mike Judge

Full disclosure: For almost 35 years, I’ve never worked in an office. I’ve been freelancing and running my own small businesses since I was 16. The closest I’ve ever gotten was the year I spent perma-lancing on The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss, a Nickelodeon TV series produced by Jim Henson Productions in the mid-90s. That doesn’t make Office Space any less funny. I’m guessing part of my love for Office Space is the inherent smugness of avoiding such a scene. The movies ascent into the ‘cult film’ pantheon is well covered by this point. If you’ve somehow managed to miss it, the film follows the pursuit of cubicle jockey Peter Gibbons in his quest to ‘do nothing’. In this way, I guess there is a zen element to Office Space. The movie is littered with the bizarre office denizens whom in inhabit every fluorescent jungle of the American corporate park. After Caddyshack, this might be the most oft-quoted film in American pop culture.

Cocktail Pairing: The Red Stapler

This is a simple, original creation I came up with when we screened Office Space at Greenville’s Drive-in 32 in 2019 for its 20th Anniversary. The sour cherry syrup takes a little effort to source. You’ll usually find it at an Eastern European specialty store. Up here in the northern Catskills, I find it at the Alpine Pork Store.

50ml vodka
30ml triple sec
30ml sour cherry syrup

Pour the first three ingredients into a shaker. Shake vigorously. Strain into a highball glass over ice. Top with seltzer and garnish with a cherry.

4:45 p.m.  Sirens – Briandipity (2015, Season 2, Episode 3)
Starring Michael Mosley, Kevin Daniels, Kevin Bigley
Directed by Michael Blieden

Sirens is the funniest TV show you’ve never seen. It aired for two seasons on USA Network before being unceremoniously canceled. Produced by the same folks who gave us the critically acclaimed Denis Leary vehicle Rescue Me, it follows a crew of three Chicago EMTs. Though its creative origins are in Rescue Me, the better comparison point is Scrubs. In the same way that most hospital employees would consider Scrubs more industry accurate than ER or Grey’s Anatomy, I imagine Sirens is a more realistic depiction of the daily life and conversations of paramedics. In any event, the chemistry of the ensemble is pitch perfect, anchored by the excellent Michael Mosely and with stand-out performances by the late Bill Nunn, Josh Segarra and Kevin Bigley. It’s Bigley’s character Brian who drives our selected episode Briandipity. Throughout their workday, the crew keeps witnessing and participating in remarkable moments of fate working positive magic. Brian is convinced they are in a ‘Serendipity vortex’, describing and channeling John Cusack’s 2001 movie Serendipity throughout the episode. It’s very sweet and very funny. Just like Brian.

Cocktail pairing: Fuzzy Navel

I’ve personally never had a Fuzzy Navel in my life, nor do I ever plan to. However, it’s what Brian would drink.

50ml of peach schnapps
120ml of orange juice

5:15 p.m. Serendipity (2001)
Starring John Cusack, Kate Beckinsale, Jeremy Piven, Molly Shannon
Directed by Peter Chelsom

It is only right to follow up Briandipity with its inspiration. This is the third and final John Cusack film of our Guilty Pleasure Film Festival and definitely the guiltiest. Cusack plays Jonathan Trager who accidentally spends a wonderful winter day with a stranger, Sara Thomas played by Kate Beckinsale, and at the end of the day they decide to let fate determine if they should find their way back to each other. Years pass, but they never stop thinking about that day…

Give Cusack his due. He brings manic, bitter balance to plates of sweet cheese, rendering such disposable fare as Serendipity should be, to a dish you can’t but help yourself to over and over again. Side note – having lived throughout my 20s and 30s in New York City, I am a sucker for films that are legitimately shot in the city (i.e. not in Toronto or a back lot in LA), where the city feels like it is an important supporting character in the film. This is one of those films and it does help elevate its timeless feel.

Cocktail pairing: The Serendipity

This cocktail is the creation of Colin Field, the bartender of Bar Hemingway at the Ritz in Paris.

Fresh mint
Ritz Champagne, ½ glass
Calvados 1/10th
Apple Juice

Put mint leaves in the bottom of the glass. Press the mint without crushing or muddling to release the oils. Pour in Calvados, champagne and then top with clarified apple juice.

7:15 p.m. NewsRadio – The Cane (1995, Season 2, Episode 9)
Starring: Dave Foley, Maura Tierney, Stephen Root, Phil Hartman
Directed by Alan Myerson

Another of the best TV shows you’ve never seen. Though it managed to last five seasons, it couldn’t survive the murder of its veteran star Phil Hartman and it ended just three episodes shy of the magic 100 necessary for syndication in the late 90s. While it was on the air, the ensemble-driven show had difficulty finding an audience, due in large part to the fact that NBC couldn’t figure out what to do with it and kept moving its time slot. The series is one of the best written of its era and it is slowly moving into ‘cult’ status. The show follows the daily chaos of an all-news radio station in New York City owned by an eccentric billionaire played by Stephen Root. Bill McNeil, the big dog of the on-air station talent, is played with relish by Phil Hartman. In The Cane episode, Bill decides to buy an antique cane as an affectation and it sends the station manager played by Dave Foley into a tizzy. While the series may not have yet received its due, its then young creator, Paul Simms, continues to have a remarkable career and is presently responsible for the current best comedy show on television, What We Do in the Shadows.

Cocktail pairing: Coco Batida

I figured we should have a cocktail for this episode made of … cane juice. Cachaça is the national spirit of Brazil and distilled from sugar cane juice. The most common cocktail made with Cachaça is the Caipirinha but let’s go with a gentler application. This is the Coco Batida.  

  • 2 ounces Leblon cachaça 
  • 2 ounces coconut cream 
  • 2 ounces condensed milk 
  • 1/2 ounces simple syrup 
  • Garnish: shredded toasted coconut

    Add all ingredients into a blender with 1 cup of cracked ice, and blend until smooth. Pour into a highball glass. Garnish with shredded toasted coconut.

7:45 p.m. Groundhog Day (1993)
Starring: Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell, Chris Elliott
Directed by Harold Ramis

We close out with the film that is the undisputed holder of our ‘Most Watched Film’ award. I’ve probably seen it 200+ times, with Leigh not far behind. I rank it as my second favorite film, only missing out on the top spot due to my lukewarm feelings for some of the supporting cast. The movie has now transcended the entertainment world and ‘Groundhog Day’ is now shorthand for being stuck living the same day over and over and over again. If by some miracle, you haven’t seen itthe premise is that Bill Murray’s character, Phil Connors, is a smarmy, self-involved television weatherman who, while on assignment in Punxsutawney, PA, gets trapped living the Groundhog Day celebrations over and over again. Like The Good Place, the film presents any number of existential questions to ponder, all while dressed up as a quirky Hollywood rom-com. To be honest, perhaps the only thing that makes me feel guilty about Groundhog Day is how many times I’ve seen it. However, given the context of the film, many repeat viewings are encouraged.

Cocktail Pairing: World Peace

Frankly, the World Peace isn’t really a cocktail, it is simply sweet vermouth with a twist. It gets its name from one of the many moments Phil is trying to learn everything he can about Rita. Her drink is sweet vermouth with a twist and she always toasts to world peace before imbibing.

Toasting to world peace seems a fitting place to end this Guilty Pleasure Film Festival. We hope you’ve enjoyed this line-up and we look forward to seeing you and toasting your health at Greenville’s Drive-In 32 in the spring of 2021.

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