Cable television entered our house in the early 1970′s. I remember vividly the day it happened because I kept getting punished by Mrs. Flynn in 1st Grade, I was too excited to sit still. Finally I could watch The Flintstones after school at 3:30 on Houston’s Channel 39. The Flintstones!! From the big city! And so high up the dial! This was a really good day.
Then, in the late 70′s, premium channels entered our house and my life truly changed. Showtime and HBO were just starting off. They were kind of weird, very cool and a little scary. The ads and interstitials still stick in my mind. They were so strange to me, conveying a sensibility I had not yet encountered. Along with a ton of movies I now had the chance to see, the world of Showtime and HBO after 10 PM was, um, eye opening. It wasn’t just the soft core porn that aired (Lady Chatterley’s Lover! Fellini’s Casanova! Oh my!) but the more adult films I’d not yet encountered by my early teens. One night I watched Annie Hall.
Though I’d never seen Annie Hall, I was certainly aware of it. Mostly because it won Best Picture in 1977, the year Star Wars was also nominated for Best Picture and lost, and Close Encounters should have been nominated but wasn’t. There was much grumbling among the male youth of America about Annie Hall’s win over Star Wars, myself included. We found it “wacked”. But then I saw the movie and fell in love. I was so turned on by the humor, by the outrageous narrative structure, by New York City. It remains in my top 5 of all time.
There was also Diane Keaton.
I love Diane Keaton. There. I’ve said it out loud. I’d say it again but I am trying to be slightly intelligent here. What is it about her? So many things! Her charm, her wit, her own innate intelligence. She has an incredible natural quality always present, even amidst all the lovely quirks she can evidence. Keaton has ‘that thing’ a few lucky people have that makes you think, “I want to spend time with her. It would be so enjoyable. And if we could have even a little time together, I bet she would like me. And call me tomorrow.” The woman is just so damn talented. Talent itself is extremely attractive and she has it in spades. I’ve followed her ever since and if you think she’s only a great comedic actress, check out some terrific dramatic performances in little seen films such as Mrs. Soffel, Marvin’s Room or Shoot the Moon. She is simply one of our best actresses.
Excuse me, I thought this was about martinis? Relax.
One of Keaton’s best performances is in Nancy Meyer’s wonderful Something’s Gotta Give. It’s a remarkable performance. She manages to be funny and smart, honest and vulnerable, capable of showing the deepest hurt emotion, sometimes all at the same time. There are expressions she has in the movie where we see an entire world go across the character’s face in just a quick moment, yet we understand not only the depth of what she is feeling but the lifetime of moments that led up to it. Rare is the actor who can convey so well the inner process of thought. Oh, and did I mention how incredibly hot Keaton is in the movie? When she comes through the door wearing the black dress and both Keanu Reeves and Jack Nicholson lose their breath, we can only do the same. At that moment we see the incredible combination of great actor AND movie star that only a few people combine.
One of my favorite moments in Something’s Gotta Give is when Diane Keaton takes a sip of a martini. Don’t remember? Probably not, unless you love martinis, for it is a brief transitional moment into a scene. Here it is (pardon the slight aspect ratio squish):
Fellow martini aficionados and I wistfully reference this moment all the time because it captures so perfectly the love of a good martini. There’s nothing quite like that first sip of a martini at the end of a long day to make everything seem right in the world. Whether at home after a tough day or relaxing with good friends in a favorite restaurant or sitting alone at a beautiful, long wooden bar, good book in hand for an hour of respite, nothing beats the martini. That first sip from the ice cold glass is a bit of delicious nirvana that seems completely undeserved yet somehow has found its way to your lips.
Keaton captures this perfectly. She even nails the illusive, momentary love you have for the person who delivers you this gift. Watch how she responds to the waiter. There is a flirting sexual quality but within the emotion is also a feeling of ‘thank you so much, my new best friend, for being so generous as to provide this for me. If only you could sit down with me and share this, who knows what interesting things could happen?’
Like many of the best things in life, this all happens for just a few dazzling moments, then it’s gone. Unlike a great glass of wine, which improves the further along you drink, nothing ever quite hits the high of that first sip of a martini. Each successive sip is terrific but not quite as marvelous. This makes the drink a bit of a tease, which only heightens its allure. If I order a second martini…as I’ve been known to do on occasion…I rarely finish the second one. The second one is pretty much over after that first sip. But that first sip is so good, ordering the second one can be worth it.
A great movie can be the same. I’ve watched certain movies over and over again, enjoying them again, certainly, and learning from the, but also hoping I might catch that wild, wonderful feeling I had the first time I was dazzled. Hope does spring eternal. Who knows, perhaps one of us might even be lucky enough to have a martini one day with Diane Keaton. Talk about a first sip.
BTW… Gin. Always gin. It’s really not a martini if you use anything else. Or have apple in it.. or… you get my drift.
If you are looking for a terrific vermouth, I highly recommend Dolin.
Oh and here is your host, enjoying said cocktail: