November 28 – The Talking Monkey

A Glimpse Inside

Last week, we began looking at one of the most underrated elements to visual storytelling: narration. It’s amazing how essential the narration of a movie or TV show can be, sometimes making or breaking a project. This week, we move to the big screen. Let’s get things rolling!

#5: Sin City

As if coming from the pages of a comic book, viewers are taken on a journey through the voice of each focal character, learning their desires, motives, issues, fears, and discoveries. Narration comes from a variety of sources, including Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, and Clive Owen, each captivating the audience with their character’s story. Film noir is no stranger to the narrator storytelling device, but Sin City brought the style back to the mainstream.

sincity

#4: A Clockwork Orange

The ultra-violent Alex (played by Malcolm McDowell) is a drug-fueled sociopath who won’t hesitate in committing all kinds of horrible acts on innocent victims. As a result, many of Alex’s thoughts are quite disturbing and the way they are delivered by McDowell, in Alex’s teenage Cockney slang, will really have your skin crawling. Despite all efforts to reform Alex, the teen eventually returns to his old habits and more suffering is in the cards.

#3: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

It’s one thing to narrate a movie and it’s a whole other ball of yarn when you’re delivering the words of Dr. Seuss! I wonder how many retakes were needed to perfectly deliver some of the Seussian language? Regardless, Hannibal Lecter himself, Anthony Hopkins, nailed it, retelling the tale of The Grinch, who can’t stand the Whos down in Whoville, especially as the Christmas holiday approaches. While critics were less enthusiastic about the film, the Sip Advisor has always enjoyed it.

the grinch decorating

#2: Fight Club

The haunting narrations of this film will leave viewers chilled to the bone, as the protagonist (played by Edward Norton) turns his insomnia into attending support groups and later, starting a terrorist organization, bred out of a fighting club. While we never get the main character’s name, we certainly get all the thoughts that make him tick and lead to his mental breakdown… the problem is, he realizes too late exactly what he’s started and can’t stop.

#1: A Christmas Story

In a style that would go on to be the inspiration for The Wonder Years, we learn about the trials and tribulations little Ralphie goes through as he asks for a “Red Ryder Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle” for Christmas. This includes convincing his teacher, parents, and even the big guy himself, Santa, that the gun isn’t as dangerous as many fear. As if that’s not enough, Ralphie has to deal with schoolyard bullies, swearing in front of his parents, and ruined Christmas dinner.

Super Saturday Shot Day: The Talking Monkey

  • 0.5 oz Chocolate Liqueur
  • 0.5 oz Banana Liqueur
  • 0.25 oz Coffee Liqueur
  • 0.25 oz Milk
  • Garnish with a Banana Slice

Of course, there’s always the king of the narration, Morgan Freeman, with credits in the role including Shawshank Redemption, War of the Worlds, March of the Penguins, and Island of Lemurs: Madagascar. If a Hall of Fame, dedicated to the art, were to ever be built, Freeman would be its inaugural inductee!

Flavour Revolution – Grape

Grumpy Grapes

I try to be as optimistic and happy as I can in life. Sure, not everything has gone the way I’d want it to, but that’s no reason to become a bitter, miserable person… a person who can be defined as a ‘sour grapes’ type. Love them, or typically hate them, here are some of those folks:

Ebenezer Scrooge – A Christmas Carol

Before having his personality and therefore future changed for the better by three visiting Christmas spirits, Ebenezer Scrooge was one of the most miserly men you could ever come across. His cruelty knew no limit, driving even his closest family members away. Scrooge’s misery can be traced back to neglect from his own father, who left the young boy all alone at boarding school during the holiday season. With his trademark “Bah, humbug!”, Scrooge makes his gruff opinion quite clear to anyone around him.

Scrooge 1%

Gregory House – House

This incredibly talented doctor is a miserable prick with a bedside manner that leaves a lot to be desired… and that’s just the way he likes to be. Thanks to an aneurysm in his thigh, House loses the use of one of his legs and the operation that saved what is left of the limb, ruined his relationship with a long-time love. Add a drug addiction to deal with his chronic pain and you can kind of understand why the guy is so angry. Somehow, House has managed to maintain one friend, fellow doctor James Wilson, who manages to put up with the curmudgeonly diagnostic expert.

The Grinch – How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

Much like Scrooge, the Grinch has no interest in his fellow man (or in this case, Whovillians). He’s content to live inside an isolated cave and never have any contact with the outside world. The extent of The Grinch’s bitterness leads him to want to ruin Christmas for the Whos down in Whoville and he sets upon a devious plan to steal the holiday. The Whos, however, aren’t phased by this, leading to the Grinch’s heart growing three sizes (really it was a massive coronary episode) and a complete change in character.

Grumpy Cat

The Sip Advisor is a big Grumpy Cat fan (and an admirer of all kitties in general). The memes created using Grumpy Cat – real name Tardar Sauce, although Grumpy Cat is much better – are some of the best on the internet. Many don’t know that Grumpy Cat actually looks the way she does because of an underbite and a form of feline dwarfism. I love how the owner of this feline turned a negative into a positive, creating joy for many, while also amassing a fortune that will help this kitty live comfortably for all of her nine lives!

grumpy-cat-disappoints

Mr. Potter – It’s a Wonderful Life

At every twist and turn, George Bailey’s life seems to always hit some sort of snag, but none of these are more crippling then when George’s uncle Billy absent-mindedly loses the money he meant to deposit for their Building & Loan business. Mr. Potter, an adversary and competitor to the Bailey’s happens to come across the money-filled envelope and takes it for his own gains. We learn, when George wishes he never existed, that without him, the town of Bedford Falls would be known as Pottersville and would be inhabited with all the grime a slumlord could ever dream of.

Grumpy – Snow White

Perhaps it’s the years of wear and tear on his body from working in the mines. Perhaps it’s having to live with seven dudes (total sausage fest!). Perhaps it’s simply the fact that he’s a dwarf. Regardless, Grumpy is not a happy person (that’s reserved for Happy!) and can’t even be cheered up by the musical stylings of Snow White and his fellow mining brethren. Despite not initially welcoming Snow White to the fold, Grumpy is the first to rush into battle with the Evil Queen, after she poisons the fair princess with that dastardly poison apple. Healthy food, my ass!

Inspector Javert – Les Miserables

As the title implies, every character in this musical is miserable (and each has their own good reason to be so), but Javert really takes the cake. He’s obsessed with ruining the life of Jean Valjean, a former prisoner who has escaped from parole and managed to elude capture. Even in the end, Javert just can’t let go of his fixation on Valjean and it ends up costing him his life. The dude commits suicide because he was shown mercy from the very man he has hunted for so many years. You’d think with all the wine the French have access to, they’d be a little more relaxed.

Flavour Revolution: Arctic Summer

Arctic Summer Cocktail

  • Muddle Raspberries
  • 1.5 oz Bacardi Arctic Grape Rum
  • Splash of Lime Juice
  • Dash of Simple Syrup
  • Garnish with a Lime Wedge and Raspberry

It’s amazing how many of these characters have a connection to Christmas media. It’s the best time of the year (or so the song implies) so why are miserable people an enhanced version of themselves around the holidays? Speaking of the holidays, if you’re ever in Spain for New Year’s Eve, tradition dictates that when the clock strikes midnight, you should eat 12 grapes, one to go with each chime of the New Year.

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (2.5 Sips out of 5):
This is kind of a mint-less, soda-less version of a Raspberry Mojito, but what it lacked it could have used. I’m looking forward to trying more cocktails with the Arctic Grape Rum, as that was the best part of the drink.

December 5 – Grinch

Special Education

Every Christmas time, much like with movies, there’s certain TV specials you just have to watch. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve seen that knucklehead Charlie Brown ruin everybody’s Christmas or the picnic basket-stealing Yogi Bear become a thorn in Ranger Smith’s side because he refuses to hibernate, you just have to watch it again… because it’s tradition damnit! Now quit your moaning and let’s get to the viewing!

Merry Christmas, Mr. Bean

There is such a genius to Rowan Atkinson’s facial expressions and physical humour that you don’t even need Mr. Bean to speak a single line of dialogue to enjoy numerous laughs. This special sees the titular character enjoy all the aspects of Christmas, including shopping, picking out a tree, opening cards, celebrating Christmas Eve, opening presents, and preparing a Christmas feast. It’s quite the adventure from start to finish, much like everyone’s holiday season.

Merry Christmas Mr Bean

A Garfield Christmas

That sardonic little kitty is ready to wreak havoc on the Christmas holiday… or sleep right through it! Garfield, Odie, and Jon are off to the country for a “good ol’ fashioned Christmas, down on the farm” with Jon’s family. While Odie looks for the perfect present to give Garfield, Jon’s family goes through the normal Christmas routine and Garfield even gets a dose of the Christmas spirit, finding long lost letters from Jon’s late Grandpa to his Grandma, whom Garfield is quite fond of.

A Charlie Brown Christmas

The Peanuts gang are out to celebrate Christmas and the only person in the entire world that can ruin their fun is Charlie Brown… he ruins everything, after all! This is an interesting special, in that it looks at Christmas as an over-commercialized and secular holiday, while examining the true meaning of Christmas. A difficult subject for a children’s cartoon. Still, the special is a classic with memorable music and images.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Before Jim Carrey and CGI, the Grinch was simply an animated Christmas hater, who reached his breaking point and ventured into Whoville to ruin the Whovillians Christmas celebration. His efforts, however, don’t result in the despair he expected and he realizes that Christmas is about more than presents, decorations, and food. The Seussian language is pretty special stuff and the show is wonderfully narrated by Boris Karloff and features a number of memorable songs.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

A Muppet Family Christmas

The best thing about The Muppets is that they provide entertainment children young and old alike. Here, the whole gang arrives at Fozzy’s mom’s place for the holiday and are later joined by the Sesame Street folk, making for one packed house. My favourite scene in this crossover is when Cookie Monster demolishes a freshly-baked tray of cookies, causing Animal to chime in: “That my kind of fella!”

Mickey’s Christmas Carol

I love it when the oft-used Scrooge McDuck gets his fair share of screen time! In the Disney rendition of A Christmas Carol, McDuck gets to play the big cheese, Ebenezer Scrooge – a perfect fit if there ever was one. The rest of the Disney gang fills in all the important roles of the tale. Not surprisingly, this special was released in 1983 (all the best things were!) and has gone on to become a treasured classic (much like the Sip Advisor!).

mickeys-christmas-carol

Yogi’s First Christmas

Yogi and Boo Boo usually sleep through the Christmas season thanks to their annual hibernation, but this year will be different, as the Hanna-Barbara gang (Snagglepuss, Huckleberry Hound, Augie Doggie, and Doggie Daddy) arrive at Jellystone Lodge to celebrate Christmas and in their merriment, awaken the bears. It’s a good thing, too, as Yogi saves the day from Herman the Hermit and Snively the brat child, earning the reward of a picnic basket he can enjoy in the spring.

Bugs Bunny’s Looney Christmas Tales/Bah, Humduck

It’s no surprise for you little sippers to learn that the Sip Advisor loves his Looney Tunes. Cartoon violence is among my favourite activities and I can’t wait for the day that I have my own animated special and I’m the one getting bopped with mallets and crushed with anvils. These two specials insert the Looney Tunes gang into the Christmas holiday, with Yosemite Sam and Daffy Duck as two different versions of Ebenezer Scrooge, Wile E. Coyote chasing the Roadrunner in frigid temperatures, and the Tasmanian Devil as Santa Claus.

Drink #239: Grinch

Grinch Drink Recipe

  • 2 oz Midori
  • Splash of Lemon Juice
  • Dash of Simple Syrup
  • Garnish with a Maraschino Cherry

Some honourable mentions include Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, A Chipmunk Christmas, Opus’ A Wish for Wings that Work, and the Rankin/Bass Specials (including Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town, and Frosty the Snowman). Have any suggestions for must-see Christmas specials? Help make my holiday season a little more merry!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4 Sips out of 5):
Instead of using the Lemon Juice and Simple Syrup, I simply topped the martini with Lemonade and killed two birds with one stone. It was a pretty tasty drink thanks to that little maneuvering. I like to think that the Maraschino Cherry I used for the garnish is like the Grinch’s heart which grew three sizes that fateful Christmas day!

December 3 – Chocolate Peppermintini

Christmas Classics

Especially given it’s the winter months and the weather outside is frightful, it’s nice to snuggle up and watch a bevy of classic Christmas films. What should you include in your movie marathon? Ask and you shall receive. Here are my favourite Christmas flicks!

It’s a Wonderful Life

I absolutely adore this classic. And when you think about it, many of us might have never viewed the tale that has been copied and parodied so many times. It was never intended to be a “Christmas movie”, but that’s what it became. Jimmy Stewart is amazing throughout the movie (no surprise there, as the dude is actually an American hero) and his portrayal of George Bailey, who is too often in the wrong place at the wrong time, is one of the most treasured characters in cinema history.

Elf

The story of Buddy the Elf (Will Ferrell at his usual level of crazy!) searching out his father and integrating into the fast-paced world of New York City is a fun movie to get into the swing of things during the holidays. Buddy has to work hard to get the hardened folks of New York City, as well as the rest of the world to find their Christmas spirit, which powers Santa’s sleigh, of course. The film, which has material both kids and parents alike can enjoy, has even led to a Broadway musical.

Bad Santa

If you’ve been following this site for any period of time, you knew that a raunchier film was going to come up at some point… here it is! Billy Bob Thornton plays Willie T. Stokes, an alcoholic womanizer who roams from town to town as a mall Santa, staking out his place of occupation in order to rob the store before moving on to the next score. Things are different this time when he falls for a woman and a loner kid and decides to eventually change his ways.

A Christmas Carol/Scrooge

It’s hard to pick a version that is best to view, but my favourites include The Muppet version (no surprise there) and probably the edition with Alastair Sim playing the cranky curmudgeon. Like It’s a Wonderful Life, this is another Christmas tale that has been parodied constantly, as Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, warning him that if he doesn’t change his ways, many will be affected and no one will care when his time on the earth is done.

Scrooge

Home Alone

While I’d caution folks who wish to view any of the movies past Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, the first two entries are cinematic gems. As a kid, you only wanted to see the last segments of the films, where plucky Kevin McCallister sends burglars Harry and Marv (The Wet Bandits) through his nightmarish house of horrors, but with age and wisdom, I’ve come to realize the movies are much more than that. They include a lot of wonderful Christmas imagery and are perfect holiday romps.

A Christmas Story

This movie is a family favourite around the Sip Advisor offices. The story sees young Ralphie embark on a quest to receive a Red Ryder BB Gun for Christmas. He runs into obstacles at every corner from his teacher giving him a poor grade on his essay on what he wants for Christmas to Santa Claus himself (a mall Santa that is) telling him he’ll shoot his eye out… and he nearly does in the end. TV network TBS has been known to broadcast the movie in a 24-hour cycle on Christmas day, so if you haven’t seen it yet, shame on you!

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

What a treasure this movie is. From Cousin Eddie’s antics to the misadventures of the hapless Clark Griswold, there are so many laughs in this film. Clark is looking to provide his family the perfect Christmas experience, much like the ones he enjoyed as a youngster. That all goes awry as the holiday becomes more of a nightmare with each incident, underscored by Clark’s uncertainty of whether his Christmas bonus will arrive and allow him to build a swimming pool for his clan.

shitter-was-full

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Some people crap on this flick, but I think it’s quite enjoyable. Thanks to the longer running time, not afforded to the cartoon special classic, we get a better understanding of why the Grinch hates Christmas and all the Who’s down in Whoville. Jim Carrey was the perfect choice to play the ‘mean one’ whose heart grew three times that day. This movie ushered in the chain of Dr. Suess stories to be adapted for feature films; some good, some bad… this is one of the good ones.

Die Hard & Die Hard 2: Die Harder

I’m a little disappointed that this series abandoned the Christmas time setting after the first two releases. This is for the action fan out there that wants only a sprinkle of the Christmas spirit in their movies. The first film begins with an office Christmas party that is invaded by terrorists while the sequel is set in an airport, as hero John McClane is waiting for his wife to arrive home for the holidays. Both movies are filled with shootouts, creative kills, and catchphrases galore!

Love, Actually

If you’re looking for a little more romance with your Christmas movie fare, give this film a try. It’s one of those “separate stories that all come together at the end” ensemble cast dealies, but it’s very good… even if Hugh Grant is a featured actor… a Prime Minister, no less. Set in Britain during the lead up to Christmas, the film sets out to prove that “Love, actually is all around us” and they hit the nail on the head through the interweaving narratives.

Drink #337: Chocolate Peppermintini

Chocolate Pepperminti Drink Recipe

  • Rim glass with Christmas Sprinkles
  • 1.5 oz Vodka (I used Smores)
  • 1 oz Peppermint Schnapps
  • 0.5 oz Crème de Cacao
  • 0.5 oz Chocolate Liqueur
  • Top with Milk

What are your favourite Christmas movie viewings? I’m always looking to add to my annual “To Watch” list, so send those ideas in!

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3 Sips out of 5):
While not a bad drink, Mrs. Sip didn’t like how sweet it was. I enjoyed its booziness and flavours (I mean, who doesn’t like chocolate and mint together!), although using the Smores Vodka might have altered the taste and a plain Vodka may have been bettered suited for the recipe.