Blame it on the alcohol

Great boozy moments in cinema

It’s hard to believe, but even in 2012, the film industry continually faces a villain more arch and stubborn than pirates, bored patrons or “sequel-itis”: teetotalers. Whether on the screen or in the seats, alcohol is an issue – at press time, battle lines have been drawn in regard to beer and wine in movie theaters all over the continent, from Vancouver to Levittown, N.Y., where one local official was quoted as saying, “If movies booze, families lose.” The movies do, indeed, booze: One of the buzziest films that came out of the Sundance Film Festival in January was a darkly comic hit called Smashed, about an elementary school teacher’s battle with alcohol addiction.

We say long live the potentially flammable (and always entertaining) mixture of celluloid and cocktails. From Pathés’ anti-drinking documentary Les victimes de l’alcoolisme (1902) to Sideways (2004) and beyond, the devil’s drink has been a frequent guest on the big screen with actors delivering some of the medium’s most memorable lines (and gags) when a bottle was nearby.

Best gag: The Idle Class (1921)

“I will occupy the other room until you stop drinking,” reads the note signed by Edna (Edna Purviance), the tortured wife in Charlie Chaplin’s classic short. After reading the note, Chaplin – playing the tramp as alcoholic husband – looks at a portrait of his wife, starts weeping, and turns his back to the camera as his crying apparently becomes inconsolable. But when he turns back to face the camera we meet the husband shaking not from grief but from mixing himself a drink.

Best unsolved vomit: This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

On the death of former drummer Stumpy Joe:

Derek Smalls: “The official explanation is that he choked on vomit.”

Nigel Tufnel: “It was actually someone else’s vomit.”

D.S.: “They can’t prove whose vomit it was. They don’t have facilities in Scotland Yard.”

N.T.: “You can’t really dust for vomit.”

Most accurate ETA: Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

Ben: “I came here to drink myself to death.”

Sera: “How long will it take you?”

Ben: “I’d say about three to four weeks.”

Best toast while falling off the wagon: The Shining (1980)

Jack Torrance: “Here’s to five miserable months on the wagon and all the irreparable harm it has caused me.”

Best discriminatory moment: Sideways (2004)

Miles Raymond: “If anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I am not drinking any fucking Merlot!”

Best tolerance: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

Martha: “Look, sweetheart, I can drink you under any goddamn table you want, so don’t worry about me.”

Best indication you should not date that guy: The Lost Weekend (1945)

Don Birnam: “What kind of party did you say that was?”

Helen St. James: “A cocktail party.”

D.B.: “In that case, I’ll join you.”

Best case for drinking: The Lost Weekend (1945)

Don Birnam: “It shrinks my liver, doesn’t it, Nat? It pickles my kidneys, yeah. But what it does to the mind? It tosses the sandbags overboard so the balloon can soar. Suddenly I’m above the ordinary. I’m competent. I’m walking a tightrope over Niagara Falls. I’m one of the great ones. I’m Michelangelo, molding the beard of Moses. I’m Van Gogh painting pure sunlight. I’m Horowitz, playing the Emperor Concerto. I’m John Barrymore before movies got him by the throat. I’m Jesse James and his two brothers, all three of them. I’m W. Shakespeare. And out there, it’s not Third Avenue any longer, it’s the Nile. Nat, it’s the Nile, and down it moves the barge of Cleopatra.”

Best case for not drinking: Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

Ben: “I don’t know if my wife left me because of my drinking, or I started drinking because my wife left me.”

Best case for drinking part 2: Barfly (1987)

Tully: “Why don’t you stop drinking? Anybody can be a drunk.”

Henry: “Anybody can be a non-drunk. It takes a special talent to be a drunk. It takes endurance. Endurance is more important than truth.”

Best Game To Play While Enduring a Bad Movie: “Canta Con Nada” (Sing With Nothing)

“I used to play this game in Brazil. We would sing old classic Spanish and Brazilian songs at the beach with a drink. When we got the song wrong or messed up, we would take a drink and take a piece of clothing off as well,” says Alejandra Roma, editor of Sucio Magazine. “Of course, you don’t need a beach for this.”

Try Roma’s formula while enduring the new Twilight offering. Anything that sparkles or bleeds: drink!


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